The archaeological site of Harappa consists of a series of low archaeological mounds and cemeteries to the south of a dry bed of the Ravi river. Although covering a full extent of 150 hectares the property and its buffer zone comprises eight mounds and two cemeteries – the remainder being buried deep beneath the surrounding agricultural land or the modern village of Harappa. A modern sign posted network of concrete paths links most of these mounds. The site’s sequence stretches from the fourth to the second millennium BC and whilst there are a limited number of open sections, the only exposed structures, on mound AB and F, date to the third millennium. There are a number of historic structures scattered across the property including an un-conserved Gupta period temple, a partially conserved mosque, the recently excavated foundations of a Mughal serai and the ruins of a colonial police station. Modern purpose built structures are located close to mound E being adjacent to the access road. These include a museum (currently being enlarged), rest house, police house, public toilets, snack bar and children’s play area, store rooms in addition to the complex housing the Harappa Archaeological Research Project other modern features include a small cemetery to the east of mound AB. A modern reconstruction of a Bronze Age city wall and gate has been constructed on the southern edge of mounds E and ET alongside the access road.
The archaeological sequence at the site of Harappa is over 13 metres deep, spanning the period between the fourth and second millennium BC. Being located beside an old course of the Ravi River, its inhabitants had easy access to trade networks, aquatic food stuffs as well as water for drinking and cultivation, perhaps explaining why the site was occupied for so long. Indeed, the site represents a classic archaeological tell site, that is an artificial mound created by generations of superimposed mud brick structures. Its excavators have proposed the following chronology:
1.Ravi Aspect of the Hakra phase c.3300-2800 BC
2.Kot Dijian (Early Harappan) phase c.2800-2600 BC
3.Harappan Phase c.2600-1900 BC
4.Transitional Phase c.1900-1800 BC
5.Late Harappan Phase c.1800-1300 BC
The earliest evidence for occupation at the site, that of a small agricultural settlement, has been identified at the foot of the north-west corner of mound AB, but by third millennium BC all AB and much of E were also settled. The site continued to expand and reached its full extent of over 100 hectares during the mature of Harappan period between 2600 and 1900 BC. Harappa’s unique town plan is at its most obvious during this period with at least for self contained walled centres, each on its own raised mounds. Cemetery H represents the final transformation of this urbanised, literate civilisation into a mosaic of mobile cultures demonstrating little socio economic integration. Following its abandonment in the second millennium BC, the upper parts of its mud-brick structures eroded sufficiently to protect those below. Certainly the hoistoric occupation of parts of the site although frequently reusing Bronze Age bricks, had little impact. However, three more recent developments have greatly affected the property. The first, the removal of thousands of bricks for railway ballast in the 1850s, destroyed many of the late phases of occupation the second, the increasing use of irrigation agriculture, resulted in gross salination; whilst the third, archaeological excavations, exposed structures to the destructive nature of salination. As a result many of the structures exposed and conserved by Wheeler in the 1940s have been completely destroyed.