(1) I don't understand why some sites are called early Harappan because these sites are pre-Harappan so why we use wrong name with that. Can any one explain?

From 'India's Ancient Past' by RS Sharma, Ch. 9: Chalcolithic Cultures, p67:

Chronologically, there are several series of Chalcolithic settlements in India. Some are pre-Harappan, others are contemporaneous with the Harappan culture, and yet others are post-Harappan.

Pre-Harappan strata on some sites in the Harappan zone are also called early Harappan in order to distinguish them from the mature urban Indus civilization.

Thus, the pre-Harappan phase at Kalibangan in Rajasthan and Banawali in Haryana is distinctly Chalcolithic. So too is the case with Kot Diji in Sindh in Pakistan. Pre-Harappan and post-Harappan Chalcolithic cultures and those coexisting with the Harappan have been found in northern, western, and central India.An example is the Kayatha culture c. 2000–1800 BC, which existed towards the end of the Harappan culture. It has some pre-Harappan elements in pottery, but also evidences Harappan influence. Several post-Harappan Chalcolithic cultures in these areas are influenced by the post-urban phase of the Harappan culture.

(2) Harappan civilization has the following phases:

(1) pre-Harappan

(2) Early Harappan
(3) Mature Harappan
(4) Late Harappan 

(5) post-Harappan  

So, when excavation begin, in the first soil layers we get post-Harappan culuture, and then Late, then pre, and so on.

But, if we combine pre-Harappan layers into Early Harappan (as above), we lose the distinction between the developing and the developed state of the civilization. Does this not lose information that would tell us about how the valley developed?

(3) and here, Harappan zone means area around the Harappan city, am I right??

(4) I have also provided diagram what I understand until now. Is this correct?

enter image description here

  • 2
    "strata" is the Latin plural of "stratum" (layer)
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 15:18
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    It doesn't seem that unclear. They are just warning you that some archeological sites use their own terminology (for their own convenience) that doesn't necessarily match the terminology used by people who study the Indus Valley Civilization as a whole (aka: Historians).
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 15:38
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    Welcome to History:Stack Exchange. Thank you for your question; please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like many other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions.
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 17:11
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    I don't agree with the close votes or downvotes: it does seem worthy to investigate whether there is a material difference between pre-Harappan and early Harappan which the authors of that paragraph dismiss. But, appropriate citations should be provided before that can be investigated in proper detail.
    – gktscrk
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 19:51
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    @gktscrk I agree with your complaint. As MarkCWallace observes, TED's answering the question(s), ThomasBy is as well — in comments. The Q might benefit of course from further refinements, but nevertheless i miss the RO votes from 3 commentators that show an answer is in the 'pipelines of possible'. This is a specific question about better understanding a scholarly source with prior research, prior attempts to self-solve. Result: I vote RO now, and I probably will upvote as soon as OP makes further refinements. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


The confusion here seems to stem from the use of a combined pre-Harappan/early Harappan terminology. We can see this usage repeated in the Wikipedia article for the Indus valley Civilization, in the table on Chronology. If we look at the meaning and locations of these terms it might be more clear.

The pre-Harappan era is the oldest, and seems to mainly occur at the Mehrgarh site. One of the distinctions of this culture would be that it is aceramic Neolithic, before pottery was in use here.

The next step, also found at the Mehrgarh site, but at different levels, is Early Harappan. One distinction here is that pottery is now in use.

The distinction between these two eras being the lack of pottery would imply a certain uncertainty when excavating a site such as Mehrgarh. The layers you draw are not quite that clear-cut, and if you find no pottery when digging, is it pre-Harappan (pre-pottery) or just an area where you were unlucky and didn't find any pottery samples.

A safer label therefore would be the combined term of pre-Harappan/Early Harappan. Some regions with pottery represented, some without, but age indications placing the site definitely before the more developed culture labeled as the Mature Harappan.

Sometimes it is more accurate when describing something to use a 'fuzzy' definition then a more specific one which can't be supported by the evidence. (In genealogy, for instance, we often describe something undocumented as Before this date, or After another date-expressing uncertainty but giving information concerning what we may be sure of.)

  • Can you also explain that At the sites of kalibangan, banawali, kotdiji we find both layers pre and (early,mature), so why would we rename pre into early, in order to do this how can we say that kalibangan and banawali is distinctly chalcolithic. and how we distinguished from urban indus civilization ? Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 5:16
  • Each site is characterized according to the archeological finds made there, and where interpretation of those discoveries places these sites within these chronological categories. To understand why each site is evaluated like it is would probably require more then a simple answer on a q & A forum. Look at the descriptions for each site and you will usually see an explanation to some degree.
    – justCal
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 13:55
  • but just Renaming the strata, how they distinguished them from urban, and also proved some sites are chalcolithic Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 14:08
  • If you want clarification, you need to make those changes to your question, or ask a new question. But as I stated above, in depth research into each site is necessary to try to grasp why things get classified as they do. I would recommend looking for some lectures by researchers in this region posted on Youtube or at educational institutes You can get a better understanding by watching an actual archeologist discussing his work or theories.
    – justCal
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 14:48

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