Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

What a Harappan grave says about marriage


Mains Paper 1: Arts & Culture | All syllabus

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Indus Valley civilization sites

Mains level: Important historical findings related to IVC


  • A team of Indian and South Korean researchers have excavated the skeletal remains of the couple from a site where nine graves were unearthed in one trench.

What’s So Special?

  1. Except for the foot bones, the two skeletons have been found almost entirely intact.
  2. Of the 62 graves discovered in Rakhigarhi, only this one had more than one skeleton — and of individuals of the opposite sex, together.
  3. The researchers believe the couple was buried at almost the same time, perhaps even together, following their deaths which could have occurred about 4,700 years ago.
  4. They believe the male was around 38 years old at the time of his death, while the female was around 25.
  5. Most archaeological recoveries show individuals were buried separately in Harappan times.
  6. Joint graves have been very rare, and almost none have been found containing a couple.

Deductions made

Relationship Status

  1. In the present case the skeletal remains were found in a supine position (lying face upwards) with arms and legs extended.
  2. The head of the male was found facing towards the female’s, possibly indicating an intimate relationship.

Economic Status

  1. Remains of pots and stone-bead jewellery found close to the burial site of the couple point to the possibility of a ceremonial burial with rituals.
  2. These remains also suggest they belonged to a middle-class family.

Legal Acceptance of Marriage

  1. The Harappan people were generally known to strictly adhere to only legal relations, and the fact that the couple were buried in the same pit together could be an indication of societal acceptance of their relationship.
  2. The researchers were inclined to believe that they could have been married which would in turn suggest the possibility that the institution of marriage originated in the Harappan civilization.
  3. Excavations of cemeteries so far have found that graves of women were positioned in the centre of the cemetery, and surrounded with bangles, jewellery, and other ornaments.
  4. This could mean that the Harappan society gave a higher status to women.
  5. No lesions have been found on the bones the couple, leading researchers to rule out the possibility of their having been murdered.
  6. It is possible a heart ailment of some kind led to the deaths.

Most graves are of Men

  1. So far at Harappan sites, most graves have been that of men.
  2. Only 20% of graves are of women, while fewer than 1% are of children.
  3. This implies that the most men died during war.

Burial Patterns

  1. Broadly, three types of graves have been discovered at Harappan sites.
  2. In the most common type, known as the primary grave, archaeologists have found full-body remains of the person placed inside a pit.
  3. Secondary pits were those that contained partial remains of a few bones placed in the pit.
  4. In the third type of the grave, skeletal remains were completely missing in the burial pit.
  5. Instead, there were some accessories, presumably the belongings of the deceased person.
  6. Perhaps the body could not be ever retrieved, possibly in cases of deaths caused by wild animals or during wars.
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