Warfare ca. 1700 bc: The Indus valley

Sir John Marshall and Sir Mortimer Wheeler—both of whom directed excavations at Mohenjo-daro—concluded that warfare was rare, and perhaps altogether absent, in the earliest civilization of the Indus valley. The excavators and Stuart Piggott, whose Prehistoric India to 1000 B.C. presented what had been learned in the first half of the twentieth century, all found “a distinct lack of evidence for warfare. Where were the arms? Where was the enemy?”137 Archaeological discoveries in the seventy years since Wheeler’s time have hardly changed that perception. Recently an attempt has been made to identify weapons among the many bronze artifacts found at Harappan sites, but the results are not very impressive.138

The apparent peace of the Mature Harappan period (ca. 2500-1900 bc) is in sharp contrast to Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian Mesopotamia, with which the Indian cities seem to have been in contact. The Indian cities were not fortified. Even the two “citadels”—one within Harappa and the other within Mohenjo-daro—identi- fied by the early archaeologists are now thought to have been something other than citadels or fortresses.139 The abandoning of Mohenjo-daro and many other sites on the lower Indus ca. 1900 bc, and the transition to Late Harappan, were not the result of hostilities.140 It seems that in the Asian subcontinent warfare did not really begin until well into the Late Harappan period (1900-1400 bc).141

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