Several periodisations are employed for the periodisation of the Indus Valley Civilisation. While the Indus Valley Civilisation was divided into Early, Mature and Late Harappan by archaeologists like Mortimer Wheeler, newer periodisations include the Neolithic early farming settlements, and use a Stage-Phase model, often combining terminology from various systems.


The most commonly used nomenclature classifies the Indus Valley Civilisation into Early, Mature and Late Harappan Phase. The Indus Civilisation was preceded by local agricultural villages, from where the river plains were populated when water-management became available, creating an integrated civilisation. This broader time range has also been called the Indus Age and the Indus Valley Tradition.

Early, Mature and Late Harappan

The Early, Mature and Late Harappan periodisation was introduced by archaeologists like Mortimer Wheeler, who "brought with them existing systems from elsewhere, such as the Three Age System," and further developed by M.R. Mughal, who "proposed the term Early Harappan to characterize the pre- or protourban phase." This classification is primarily based on Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, assuming an evolutionary sequence. According to Manuel, this division "places the Indus Valley within a tripartite evolutionary framework, of the birth, fluorescence, and death of a society in a fashion familiar to the social evolutionary concepts of Elmond Service (1971)." According to Coningham and Young, it was "cemented ..in common use" due to "the highly influential British archaeologists Raymond and Bridget Allchin housed similar subdivisions in their work." According to Coningham and Young, this approach is "limited" and "restricted," putting too much emphasis on the mature phase.

Shaffer: Indus Valley Tradition and Eras

Shaffer divided the broader Indus Valley Tradition into four eras, the pre-Harappan "Early Food Producing Era," and the Regionalisation, Integration, and Localisation eras, which correspond roughly with the Early Harappan, Mature Harappan, and Late Harappan phases. Each era can be divided into various phases. A phase is an archaeological unit possessing traits sufficiently characteristic to distinguish it from all other units similarly conceived. According to Shaffer, there was considerable regional variation, as well as differences in cultural sequences, and these eras and phases are not evolutionary sequences, and cannot uniformly be applied to every site. According to Coningham and Young, Coningham & Young raise theoretical concerns with Shaffer's periodisation, noting that


The Early Food Producing Era corresponds to ca. 7000-5500 BCE. It is also called the Neolithic period. The economy of this era was based on food production, and agriculture developed in the Indus Valley. Mehrgarh Period I belongs to this era. The Regionalisation Era corresponds to ca. 4000-2500/2300 BCE (Shaffer) or ca. 5000-2600 BCE (Coningham & Young). The Early Harappan phase belongs to this Era. According to Manuel, "the most significant development of this period was the shift in population from the uplands of Baluchistan to the floodplains of the Indus Valley." This era was very productive in arts, and new crafts were invented. The Regionalisation Era includes the Balakot, Amri, Hakra and Kot Diji Phases. The Integration Era refers to the period of the "Indus Valley Civilisation". It is a period of integration of various smaller cultures. The Localisation Era (1900-1300 BCE) is the fourth and final period of the Indus Valley Tradition. It refers to the fragmentation of the culture of the Integration Era. The Localisation Era comprises several phases: * Punjab Phase (Cemetery H, Late Harappan). The Punjab Phase includes the Cemetery H and other cultures. Punjab Phase sites are found in Harappa and in other places. * Jhukar Phase (Jhukar and Pirak) The Jhukar Phase refers to Mohenjo-daro and sites in Sindh. * Rangpur Phase (Late Harappan and Lustrous Red Ware). Rangpur Phase sites are in Kachchh, Saurashtra and mainland Gujarat. * The Pirak Phase is a phase of the Localisation Era of both the Indus Valley Tradition and the Baluchistan Tradition.

Possehl: Indus Age

Gregory Possehl includes the Neolithic stage in his periodisation, using the term ''Indus Age'' for this broader timespan, Possehl arranged "archaeological phases into a seven stage sequence: # Beginnings of Village Farming Communities and Pastoral camps # Developed Village Farming Communities and Pastoral camps # Early Harappan # Transition from Early Harappan to Mature Harappan # Mature Harappan # Posturban Harappan # Early Iron Age of Northern India and Pakistan According to Coningham & Young,

Rita Wright

A "similar framework" as Shaffer's has been used by Rita Wright, looking at the Indus "through a prism influenced by the archaeology of Mesopotamia," using the terms Early Food Producing Phase, Pre-Urban Phase, Urban Phase and Post-Urban Phase.

Datings and alternative proposals

Early Food Producing Era

Rao, who excavated Bhirrana, claims to have found pre-Harappan Hakra Ware in its oldest layers, dated at the 8th-7th millennium BCE. He proposes older datings for Bhirrana compared to the conventional Harappan datings, yet sticks to the Harappan terminology. This proposal is supported by Sarkar et al. (2016), co-authored by Rao, who also refer to a proposal by Possehl, and various radiocarbon dates from other sites, though giving 800 BCE as the enddate for the Mature Harappan phase: , and as summarized by , compares as follows with the conventional datings, and Shaffer (Eras).

Regionalisation Era

While the Early Harappan Phase was proposed to start at ca. 3,300 BCE, the Regionalisation Era has been proposed to start earlier, at 4,000 BCE to ca. 5,000 years BCE. S. P. Gupta, taking into account new discoveries, periodised the Harappan Civilisation in a chronological framework that includes the Early, Mature and Late Harappan Phase, and starts with the same date as the Regionalisation Era:

Integration Era

The consensus on the dating of the Integration Era, or Urban or Mature Harappan Phase, is broadly accepted to be 2600-1900 BC.

Durée longue: Harappan Civilisation and Early Historic Period

Kenoyer, and Coningham & Young, provide an overview of developmental phases of India in which the Indus Valley Civilisation and the Early Historic Period are combined. The Post-Harappan Phase shows renewed regionalisation, culminating in the integration of the Second Urbanisation of the Early Historic Period, starting ca. 600 BC, c.q. the Mauryan Empire, ca. 300 BC. Coningham & Young note that most works on urbanisation in early Indian history focus on either the Indus Valley Civilisation or the Early Historic Period, "thus continuing the long-standing division between the Indus and Early Historic." According to Coningham & Young, this division was introduced in colonial times, with scholars who claimed that "a distinct cultural, linguistic and social transformation lay between the Indus Civilisation and the Early Historic," and perpetuated by "a number of post-Independence South Asian scholars." Coningham & Young adopt Shaffer's terminology "to better understand and explore the processes which led to the two main urban-focused developments in South Asia," and They also note that the term "Integration Era" may not be applicable to the whole of South Asia for the period of the Mature Harappan Civilisation, because "large swathes of northern and southern South Asia were unaffected by what was, on a subcontinental scale, a regional feature."

Concordance of periodisations

See also

*Bhirrana *Indo-Gangetic Tradition *History of India




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Further reading

*S.P. Gupta. The dawn of civilization, in G.C. Pande (ed.)(History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, ed., D.P. Chattophadhyaya, vol I Part 1) (New Delhi:Centre for Studies in Civilizations, 1999) *Kenoyer, J.M. 1998 Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Oxford University Press and American Institute of Pakistan Studies, Karachi. *Kenoyer, J. M. 1991a The Indus Valley Tradition of Pakistan and Western India. In Journal of World Prehistory 5(4): 331–385. *Kenoyer, J. M. 1995a Interaction Systems, Specialized Crafts and Culture Change: The Indus Valley Tradition and the Indo-Gangetic Tradition in South Asia. In The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity, edited by G. Erdosy, pp. 213–257. Berlin, W. DeGruyter. *Shaffer, J. G. 1992 The Indus Valley, Baluchistan and Helmand Traditions: Neolithic Through Bronze Age. In Chronologies in Old World Archaeology (3rd Edition), edited by R. Ehrich, pp. 441–464. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

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