Rakhigarhi dig gives evidence of a planned Harappan-era city

Wide roads, a drainage network, multi-tier houses and possibly a jewellery-making unit — the latest excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India at Rakhigarhi village in Haryana’s Hisar has found enough evidence to suggest that a meticulously planned Harappan city thrived there.

A team of 40 archaeologists and research scholars has been excavating three of a total 11 mounds across 350 hectares in the village. The current round of excavation is likely to conclude by the end of this month. “The ASI and the Haryana government have undertaken this ambitious excavation project and will develop this village as an iconic site to promote the cultural history of the region. The state government is also constructing a museum here,” said Raghavendra Kumar Rai, the assistant director of the archaeology and museums department in Haryana.

“An MoU with the ASI is under way. Once that is done, experts from the ASI and government officials will decide on the modalities. Since this is a prestigious project for both the Centre and the state government, it is expected that the museum should be ready by 2024,” a senior government official said.

Over the past few weeks, archaeologists in Rakhigarhi have unearthed evidence of extensive town planning and engineering — straight roads, pucca walls, multi-storeyed houses, drains and even garbage collectors at street corners. “The level of sophistication and the construction of houses and cities is remarkable. From carving out streets and lanes to a well-planned drainage system, these reflect advanced engineering that many of our urban centres lack even today,” said a research scholar of the ASI.

A nondescript village in Hisar today, Rakhigarhi first appeared on archeologists' radar in 1998. A three-year-long excavation followed and ASI teams found a cluster of seven mounds that were marked RGR-1 to RGR-7. The second round of excavation began in 2013 and it was speculated that the Rakhigarhi site could well be the largest remnant of the Harappan civilisation. In 2021, the site once again caught the interest of archeologists and four more mounds were discovered — 11 in total — across an area of 350 hectares. Until then, Mohenjo Daro, which spans 300 hectares, was considered to be the largest Harappan city to have been unearthed in the country.

Most of the evidence and artefacts found so far date back to the mature Harappan period, which is nearly 5,000 years old. “We are still excavating and finding pieces of evidence to trace back the cultural and economic roots of the area. From the broken pottery and metal items, it can be said that there seems to be a continuity of the civilisation of the early Harappan period dating back to 7,000 years ago and the mature Harappan period around 2,600 BCE,” ASI director-general Sanjay Kumar Manjul said.

As of now, RGR-1, 3 and 7 are being examined. At RGR-1, a large quantity of waste of semi-precious stones like agate and carnelian, which were used to make objects like beads as part of extensive lapidary, have bee n found. While RGR-1 is said to have a mix of industrial clusters and housing units,RGR-3 possibly had a housing colony — possibly of an aristocratic community — with evidence of street planning, use of burn t brick and a neatly designed drainage system. RGR-7 is said to be the burial ground, where the skeletal remains of two women have been found.

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