Complex urban processes discovered in the Indus civilization

Ganweriwala settlement is located in the desert and was discovered about 40 years ago, but due to logistics and several other issues, only a few archaeologists have visited it. This thesis is the first systematic study of its size, topography, artefacts and environment. Credit: University of Gothenburg

Mesopotamia and the Indus Civilization were both urban civilizations with large, densely populated and planned cities, 6000–1990 BCE. A new dissertation in archeology points out that ancient Indus society exhibited complex patterns of urbanity that were rare in other ancient societies.

The objective of the thesis was to analyze the main differences between the settlements of the Indus Civilization and their urban infrastructures, around 4000 to 5000 years ago. The study included a survey of the process of urbanization in relation to population size, settlement area and geographical location of urban centers.

“The objective was to analyze the urban infrastructure of the Indus Civilization by comparing the archaeological data of its largest urban formations. The effects of urbanization on the regional environment were also treated in the thesis” , explains Sidra Gulzar, doctoral student in archeology at the University University of Gothenburg.

The study also compares the urban process and development of the Indus region with the Mesopotamian region at several levels. This was done using available archaeological material, focusing on a limited number of artefacts from Mohenjo Daro, Harappa and Ganweriwala, which were analyzed and compared using the SEM-EDX (Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-Ray Analysis).

“The results of the SEM-EDX analysis showed that the artifacts were produced locally.”

The least studied regulation

Sidra Gulzar particularly focused on Ganweriwala as it is the least studied settlement in the Indus region to date.

“The biggest problem in understanding the development of urban infrastructure in Indus society is the lack of knowledge surrounding the settlement of Ganweriwala.”

The results of the Ganweriwala surface and artefact survey indicate that the site was a major urban center during the period of the Indus cities from 2600 to 1900 BCE. The site shares similar cultural expressions with other major urban centers such as its site plan, types of artifacts, writing on clay tablets, and certain types of figurines.

“Using the Ganweriwala data as a case study, my thesis is that the urban infrastructure of the Indus is a complex phenomenon with greater similarities and fewer differences. There were five major urban centers at different urban scales and socio-economic,” explains Sidra Gulzar.

The study contributes to a deeper theoretical and empirical understanding of the Ganweriwala settlement in relation to its surrounding environment, which has never been studied or reported before.

Similarities and differences

The thesis also compares the settlements in the Diyala region of Mesopotamia with the Cholistan region in the Indus civilization in order to trace the similarities and differences in their respective urban processes and the impact of these processes on the environment.

“Comparison of data from different settlements shows that the settlements of Cholistan were more densely populated than in the Diyala region. The urban settlements of Cholistan were totally abandoned around 1900 BCE, while in the Diyala region there had continuity in the colony around 1900 BCE,” says Sidra Gulzar.

The Indus civilization experienced a greater expansion than that of Mesopotamia, but also a limited number of large urban centers. The large urban agglomerations of these two civilizations exhibited variability – different types of site plans, cities were built with different building materials, and the surrounding (natural) environment differed.

The thesis “Settlement Scaling and Urban Infrastructure. A Comparative Approach to Settlements from the Ancient Indus Society” was publicly defended on February 11 at the University of Gothenburg.

Fatty residue on ancient pottery reveals meat-rich diets of the Indus civilization

More information:
Settlement Scaling and Urban Infrastructure: A Comparative Approach to Ancient Indus Society Settlements,

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