Harappan Civilization & Cotton cultivation

According to a paper published in Israel in 2022, records from the Tel Tsaf site shows cotton fibers originated in the Indian subcontinent around 5200 BCE.
  • However, in a recent update to the findings, mentioned that Cotton was used in India before the other countries even do not have any idea of its cultivation.
Key-highlights of the information:
  • Countries like Iraq, Greece, the Persian Gulf and North Africa all came to know about cotton thousands of years later its first use in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Archaeological records trace the beginning of India’s connection with cotton to around the 7th-6th millennium BCE.
  • This beginning around 8,000 years ago in Indian sub-continent paved the way for domesticating cotton, which was then spun and woven into designed textiles used domestically and exported to contemporary civilisations.
Tel Tsaf site:
  • Tel Tsaf, a Middle Chalcolithic site, is located in the central Jordan Valley.
  • Cotton fibres found at Tel Tsaf are younger than the cotton strings found at Mehrgarh copper beads.
  • Excavations unearthed have four architectural complexes where each consists of a closed courtyard with round or rectangular rooms and numerous rounded silos.
  • Burials were found within or adjacent to silos.
  • Common findings include- flints, pottery, animal bones, 150 clay sealings (bullae) and imported items like artifacts of basalt and obsidian, beads, sea shells, Nilotic shell and pottery items of Ubaid culture of north Syria.
Harappan Civilization:
  • The history of India begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), also known as Harappan Civilization.
  • It flourished around 2,500 BC, in the western part of South Asia, in contemporary Pakistan and Western India.
  • The Indus Valley was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China.
  • In 1920s, the Archaeological Department of India carried out excavations in the Indus valley wherein the ruins of the two old cities, viz. Mohenjodaro and Harappa were unearthed.
  • In 1924, John Marshall, Director-General of the ASI, announced the discovery of a new civilisation in the Indus valley to the world.
Harappan Civilisation and evidence of Cotton:
  • From the excavations of site near mountainous region of Balochistan at an archaeological site in Mehrgrah, found the first evidence of cotton during Harappan age.
  • However, the Cotton species used was unclear from that site.
  • It was estimated that, earlier there are four species of Gossypium (cotton) cultivated– G arboreum L, G herbaceum L, G hirsutum L, and G barbadense L – were domesticated in different regions across world at different times.
  • G arboreum was domesticated in the Indian subcontinent, eventually spreading to Africa and other parts of Asia, whereas G herbaceum was first cultivated in Arabia and Syria.
About Cotton Crop:
  • It is a Kharif crop that comes from the natural fibers of cotton plants, which are native to tropical and subtropical regions.
  • Being renewable and biodegradable, cotton is the most environmentally friendly raw material for the textile industry as compared to its synthetic alternatives.
  • Cotton plants have a large growing period which can extend up to 200 days.
  • Growing cotton starts between December and March.
  • These plants require a relatively high temperature (21-30°C) over a long growing season.
  • Cotton is a less water-intensive crop as it is a xerophyte, which can grow in dry, arid environments.
Types of Cotton used till present times:
  • India is the country to grow all four species of cultivated cotton;
    • oarboreum
    • oHerbaceum (Asian cotton)
    • obarbadense (Egyptian cotton)
    • ohirsutum (American Upland cotton)
Agriculture during Indus Valley Civilization:
  • The Harappan villages, mostly situated near the flood plains, produced sufficient foodgrains.
  • Wheat, barley, rai, peas, sesame, lentil, chickpea and mustard were produced. Millets are also found from sites in Gujarat. While rice uses were relatively rare.
  • The Indus people were the earliest people to produce cotton.
  • While the prevalence of agriculture is indicated by finds of grain, it is more difficult to reconstruct actual agricultural practices.
  • Representations on seals and terracotta sculpture indicate that the bull was known, and archaeologists extrapolate shows oxen were also used for ploughing.
  • Most Harappan sites are located in semi-arid lands, where irrigation was probably required for agriculture.
  • Traces of canals have been found at the Harappan site of Shortughai in Afghanistan, but not in Punjab or Sindh.
  • Although the Harappans practised agriculture, animals were also reared on a large scale.
  • Evidence of the horse comes from a superficial level of Mohenjodaro and from a doubtful terracotta figurine from Lothal.
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