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Meeting the Harappan

January 19, 2009

I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of the Harappan civilization before this weekend, but after my visit to the great National Museum of India, I will not forget them. This advanced Bronze Age society lived in the Indus Valley between 3300 BC and 1300 BC – and what a culture! Unlike the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations of the time, it was not just the top echelons of society that had fancy houses – ordinary people lived in brick houses with covered sewers and other comforts that are frankly scarce in modern day India. The sculptures of animals, children’s toys and games and hieroglyphic writings I saw, so beautifully preserved, gave me an insight into a living, functioning humanity that cooked, ate, played and worked in a way that seems recognisable to me in the 21st century.

It is thought that climate change brought their demise, altering the monsoon on which they depended for their complex irrigation and sanitation systems.

I only hope that the worsening droughts predicted for the same area by the Hadley Centre’s climate model will not lead to a similar loss of life and culture.

Tonight we leave Delhi for Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, on the edge of the desert.

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