comparative study of the harappan and mesopotamian civilisation
At the dawn of civilization two distinct civilizations appeared in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley: theSumerians and the Harappans. The Sumerians settled in the valleys between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, aland known as Mesopotamia, the area known today as Kuwait and Iraq. One of the most important cities of thiscivilization was Ur. Ur is the city from which God called Abram a
s mentioned in Genesis 11:31(“Abram…setout from Ur”) and Nehemiah 9:7, “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of theChaldeans and named him Abraham”. Concurrently, in the area that is now Pakistan, part of Afghanistan and
Northern India the Harappan civilization appeared in the flood plain of the Indus and Hakra rivers. Its two mostimportant cities were Mojeno-doro and Harappa. The Sumerian and Harappan economies developed alongsimilar lines, and have comparable religious and social structures. Nevertheless their politics, art, treatment of women and intellectual advancements stand in sharp contrast to one another.
The Harappans and Sumerians are distinctly different politically. While the Sumerians developed the world’s
first monarchy, the Harappans may have developed the first democracy. Very little evidence has been found of a king in the Indus Valley, only one white priest-king idol and a silver crown; not enough to establish that the
“royalty” were the rulers. Instead the e
mpire was divided into regions with half a dozen cities functioning ascapitals and was governed by a group of people. Archeologist Jonathan Mark Kenoyed has speculated that theHarappan rulers were merchants, ritual specialists and individuals controlling important resources, instead of just one social group controlling the rest. From the construction of the cities however it does appear there weresome social classes, as the citadel is usually 20 feet higher than the middle and lower town. The Sumerians, onthe other hand, developed into city-states ruled by a priest-king. The king led the military, administered trade, judged disputes and performed certain important religious ceremonies. The king also had a bureaucracy, whichconsisted mostly of priests, who assisted him in governing. To justify the authority of the priest-kings theSumerians declared that the king was divinely selected, but later this changed and eventually they asserted thatthe king himself was divine and worthy of worship. So while the Sumerians worshiped their king the Harappanschose not to glorify any particular person and were instead ruled by ordinary people.The economies of the Harappan and Sumerian civilizations were very similar. Both civilizations relied heavilyon trade; in fact they appear to have traded extensively with one another. In records found in Mesopotamia thereis mentioned a civilization they traded with in the area of the Indus valley and many Indus seals, for which theyare well known, have been found in Mesopotamia. The Sumerians exported mostly textiles and crops, while theHarappans traded in lumber, copper, gold and ivory, which were bought by the Sumerian royalty. Bothcivilizations made great advances in transportation in order to carry their merchandise with greater ease. TheSumerians appear to have developed the wheel and possibly the sailboat and the Harappans developed ox-cartsand small flat-bottomed boats all of which were used commercially. Perhaps it is because of the extensive tradebetween the two civilizations that they developed similarly in many areas.In terms of religion, we know little about the Sumerian religion and even less about the Harappan religion. Wedo know that both civilizations were polytheistic. The Sumerians believed in many gods that were humanlikewith human emotions. They believed that the sun, moon and stars were gods and everything that happened wascontrolled by one of the gods. According to the Sumerian religion, humans were created to serve the gods, andthe gods controlled their destinies. Because they believed the gods controlled them, they sought ways todiscover what the gods held in store for them. By doing this they invented astrology that eventually led to theinvention of the lunar calendar. They also studied the inner organs of sacrificed animals to predict the future. Toworship their gods the Sumerians built the ziggurats, large temples, which are architectural wonders. One suchtemple is found in the ancient city of Ur where the moon god, Nanna, was said to have lived in a little house atthe top of the ziggurat. The lesser gods, who did not have enormous temples built for them, were idols andstatues, which were worshiped in homes. Since the Indus script has not been deciphered and apart from thebathhouse in Mohenjo-doro there are no religious structures there is very little evidence for the beliefs andpractices of the Harappans. What we know is from figurines and seals, many of which depict a horned goddesswith the sacred pipal tree.