River Sarasvati: Atomic scientists reconfirm location

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Mar 8 22:59:07 UTC 2000

Tarek Wani:
>An ancient river flowing through rajasthan and pakistan would definitely
>have influence on the people and wildlife of the region. Why should we
>overlook geographical features which would have had an impact on the
>ecosystem and the society.

who would, and who has denied that?

>Ground water I believe can be dated.

Unfortunately,it also travels. Especially, following gravity along slopes.
Such as the one from the Himaslayan foothills towards the Indus.
Ever heard of artesian wells?

>A scientist may choose names stemming from popular imagination, but that
>does not negate his finds or their relevance to the ancient people of the
>region. Should we ignore such finds because it may not have been called

Nobody neglects these findings. The question is, as always, their, eh,
'mushy' interpretation (and also; what is the reason for the renaming of
the Indus civilization, for whatever purpose...?)

In this context is must be underlined that a considerable segment of the
Harappan population shifted eastwards from the Indus and the Ghaggar-Hakra
the post-Harappan period and built smaller new settlements in the Eastern
Panjab/Haryana/UP. The outspoken, anti-immigrationist archaeologists
Shaffer and Lichtenstein (Erdosy Vol., 1995:138) attribute this in part to
the loss of waters of the Ghaggar-Hakra to the Yamuna and Sutlej (see in
detail Mughal, Cholistan  1997).

Indeed, the *dry* bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra is lined  with Harappan sites
(and *still* cluttered with millions of sherds (Mughal 1997). But, as I
said, many of these settlements are on the actual flood plain of the
Ghaggar-Hakra, which speaks against an enormous  river during the Harappan

In fact, the estimates of archaeologists on the exact date of the drying up
of much of the Gagghar-Hakra differ considerably. Mughal proposes that the
Hakra was a perennial river in the 4th and early 3rd millennium BC and that
it had dried up about the end of the second. Other dates range from
2500-2200 BCE to  2200-1700 BCE. It is now thought that the Sarasvati lost
the mass of its water volume to the nearby Yamuna and Satlej due to
tectonic upheaval (Yash Pal 1984; Radhakrishnan 1999).

The new evidence from Bahawalpur/Cholistan (Mughal 1997)  indicates that
the area along the lower Hakra was abandoned when its people moved
eastwards, after c.1400 BCE. The area was not settled again until well into
the iron age, with the introduction of some PGW settlements into the area
(800 BCE). At that time, indeed, we hear of sparse settlements in the west
and populous ones in the east (in the E. Panjab text, the Aitareya

Incidentally, it also must not be forgotten that the many hundred Indus
settlements in the Ghagghar-Hakra area do *not* indicate that this was
*the* center of the Indus civilization (there are about 5! From Harappa to
Dholavira in Cutch). Rather, the clustering is due to the fact that  the
lower 'Sarasvati' area is "fossile": it has not changed its geomorphology,
it has hardly been settled and, most importantly, it has neither received
new alluvium nor has it been subject to ploughing since the end of the
Indus period.

Such data are usually forgotten in the common one-track discussions
("atomic science / LANDSAT photos prove the existence... etc etc."

ity alam. A few science/archaeology monographs, (and, sorry, the 'mushy'
evidence from texts and linguistics) would have helped...


Michael Witzel                          Elect. Journ. of Vedic Studies
Harvard University                  www1.shore.net/~india/ejvs
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990
home page:     www.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/mwpage.htm

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