Periodisation of the Indus Valley Civilisation

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Bronze Age

Near East (c. 3300–1200 BC)

Anatolia, Caucasus, Elam, Egypt, Levant, Mesopotamia, Sistan, Canaan
Bronze Age collapse

South Asia (c. 3000– 1200 BC)

Ochre Coloured Pottery
Cemetery H

Europe (c. 3200–600 BC)

Aegean, Caucasus, Catacomb culture, Srubna culture, Beaker culture, Unetice culture, Tumulus culture, Urnfield culture, Hallstatt culture, Apennine culture, Canegrate culture, Golasecca culture,
Atlantic Bronze Age, Bronze Age Britain, Nordic Bronze Age

China (c. 2000–700 BC)

Erlitou, Erligang

arsenical bronze
writing, literature
sword, chariot

Iron Age

The Indus Valley Tradition is a term used to refer to the cultures of the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra rivers, stretching from the Neolithic Mehrgarh period down to the Iron Age or Indo-Gangetic Tradition.

While the Indus Valley Civilisation was divided into Early, Mature and Late Harappan by archaeologists like Mortimer Wheeler,[1] the broader Indus Valley Tradition has been divided by Shaffer into four eras.[1] Each era can be divided into various phases.


Older nomenclature, by archaeologuists like Mortimer Wheeler, classifies the Indus Valley Civilisation into Early, Mature and Late Harappan.[1] This classification is primarily based on Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, assuming an evolutionary sequence.[1]

Shaffer divided the Indus valley Tradition into four eras, including the pre-Harappan "Early Food Producing Era."[2][1] 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.[3] 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.[1]

According to Erdosy, the Indus Valley Tradition nomenclature "is much more informative than the traditional Early/Mature/Late Harappan classification which should now be discarded."[4]


Date range (BCE) Phase Era
7000-5500 Mehrgarh I (aceramic Neolithic) Early Food Producing Era
5500-3300 Mehrgarh II-VI (ceramic Neolithic) Regionalisation Era
c.4000-2500/2300 BCE (Shaffer)[5]
c.5000-3200 BCE (Coningham & Young)[6]
3300-2600 Early Harappan
3300-2800 Harappan 1 (Ravi Phase; Hakra Ware)
2800-2600 Harappan 2 (Kot Diji Phase, Nausharo I, Mehrgarh VII, Rakhigarhi)
2600-1900 Mature Harappan (Indus Valley Civilisation) Integration Era
2600-2450 Harappan 3A (Nausharo II)
2450-2200 Harappan 3B
2200-1900 Harappan 3C
1900-1300 Late Harappan (Cemetery H); Ochre Coloured Pottery Localisation Era
1900-1700 Harappan 4
1700-1300 Harappan 5
1300-300 Post-Harappan Iron Age India, Vedic period
Second urbanisation
1300-300 Painted Gray Ware, Northern Black Polished Ware (Iron Age)

Early Food Producing Era[edit]

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.

Regionalisation Era[edit]

The Regionalisation Era corresponds to ca. 4000-2500/2300 BCE (Shaffer)[5] or ca. 5000-2600 BCE (Coningham & Young).[6] 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."[5] This era was very productive in arts, and new crafts were invented. The Regionalisation Era includes the Balakot, Amri, Hakra and Kot Diji Phases.

1A/B Ravi aspect of the Hakra Phase ca. 3300-2800 BCE
2 Early Harappan/Kot Diji Phase ca. 2800-2600 BCE

Integration Era[edit]

The Integration Era refers to the period of the "Indus Valley Civilisation". It is a period of integration of various smaller cultures.

3A Harappan Phase ca. 2600-2450 BCE
3B Harappan Phase ca. 2450-2200 BCE
3C Harappan Phase ca. 2200-1900 BCE

Localisation Era[edit]

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:[2]

  • 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.

4 Harappan/Late Harappan Transitional ca. 1900-1700 BCE
5 Late Harappan Phase (Cemetery H) ca. 1700-1300 BCE

Other Periodisations[edit]

S. P. Gupta periodised the Harappan Civilisation in a chronological framework that spans the dates from 4000 BCE to 1400 BCE, taking into account new discoveries:[7]

Formative Phase e.g., Mehrgarh-IV-V ca. 4000 - 3500 BCE
Early Phase e.g., Kalibangan-I ca. 3500 - 2800 BCE
Period of Transition e.g., Dholavira-III ca. 2800 - 2600 BCE
Mature Phase e.g., Harappa-III, Kalibangan-II ca. 2600 - 1900 BCE
Late Phase e.g., Cemetery H, Jhukar ca. 1900 - 1500 BCE
Final Phase e.g., Dholavira ca. 1500 - 1400 BCE

Rao, who excavated Bhirrana, proposes older datings;[8] this proposal is supported by Sarkar et al. (2016), who also refer to a proposal by Possehl, and various radiocarbon dates from other sites:[9]

  • 7,500 - 6,00 BCE: Pre-Harappan Hakra Period (Neolithic)
  • 6,000 - 4,500 BCE: Transitional Period
  • 4,500 - 3,000 BCE: Early Harappan Period
  • 3,000 - 1.800 BCE: Mature Harappan Period
  • 1,800 - 1,600 BCE: Late Harappan Period

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Manuel 2010, p. 148.
  2. ^ a b Shaffer 1992.
  3. ^ Willey & Phillips 1958.
  4. ^ Erdosy 1995, p. 4.
  5. ^ a b c Manuel 2010, p. 149.
  6. ^ a b Coningham & Young 2015, p. 145.
  7. ^ Gupta 1999.
  8. ^ Dikshit 2013, p. 132.
  9. ^ Sarkar 2016, p. 2-3.


Further reading[edit]

  • 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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