The Indus Valley Civilisation

17 May 2011
Archaeology

At www.suite101.com/content/indias-harappan-and-aryan-ancient-civilisation-… there is a history of the Indus Valley civilisation with a timescale I find somewhat odd – but it might be just my imagination. I've noticed on several past occasions that dates for the Indus Valley civilisation seem to have shifted – forwards in time. In the Claude Schaeffer catalogue of disasters they are somewhat different, which may indicate the French archaeologist is wrong – or independent C14 dates from India differ from the nearby regions such as the Near and Middle East, western Iran, the Aegean and Egypt – the latter being the rat in the box as the historical framework is based around texts and reign lengths of the pharaohs. It claims the Indus Valley thrived between 2300 and 1700BC. It may well have but the period 2300-2000BC appears to have been pretty disastrous in the Aegean, witnessed the collapse of the Early Bronze Age in Syria and Palestine, the collapse of dynastic Sumeria and the equally successful Elamite kingdom in SW Iran. According to current wisdom the Indus Valley civilisation thrived when Egypt, for example, was experiencing famine and hardship during the First Intermediate Period, almost certainly involving low Nile levels as a result of poor monsoon rains in the Ethiopian highlands and east/central Africa. Generally this would imply poor monsoons over the Indian subcontinent – and then we have the paradox that if the Indus region was thriving who was it trading with? If the Near and Middle East were in deep recession in which direction did the trade and munificence come from? In Schaeffer's view an earthquake swarm broke out along the plate boundary from the Aegean into what is now modern Pakistan – not necessarily at the same time but within the 300 years at the end of the third millennium BC (following the low growth tree ring event at 2345BC).

Now, if the Indus dates are derived from C14 and remain hitched to where they are does this imply the dates for the other regions are based on an error – and at the heart of this might be the Egyptian text based chronology. However, if the Indus Valley dates are raised to earlier within the third millennium, contemporary Dynastic Sumeria, Dilmun and Elam as well as Early Bronze Levant and Old Kingdom Egypt the aryan horse nomads of the article would have arrived after 2300BC when some of the cities were in ruins or left stranded by changing courses of the river as a result of tectonic activity. In addition, another factor muddies the Indus Valley waters as its origins lay in Baluchistan and Iran during the Chalcolithic and early Neolithic periods and it is quite possible that an aryan language, hereditary to Sanskrit, was the language of these first farmers expanding out of Iran and northern Mesopotamia. The people of central Asia, descended from farmers that had colonised the lower Caspian and Aral regions, may have adopted the horse and a lifestyle based around herding animals – moving down the Caucasus and through Afghanistan after 2300BC.  Clarification of the dating systems used at Indus Valley sites might shed a little light on what appears to be a mystery – but of course the current dating ethos may be correct and Indus Valley may have thrived independently of its neighbours. 

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