Its earliest dig layers predates Indus Valley civilizations. From the 8th-7th millennium BCE. It is one of the many sites seen along the Ghaggar river.
The site is situated about 220 km (140 mi) to the northwest of New Delhi. It is on the New Delhi-Fazilka national highway. The site is one of the many along the paleo-channels of the river (Ghaggar river), which still flow in modern Haryana. From Nahan to Sirsa. The mound measures 190 m or 620 ft. From north to south. And 240 m (790 ft) from east to west. And, it rises to a height of 5.5 m (18 ft), from the surrounding area of flat alluvial sottar plain.
The Archaeological Survey of India excavated the site for three field seasons during 2003–04, 2004–05 and 2005–06. Several publications have been written on it by Rao (Shirkaripura Ranganatha Rao (LS or SR))et al. And, in the bibliography below.
Rao, who excavated Bhirrana, claims to have found pre-Harappan Hakra Ware. In its oldest layers, dated to 8th–7th millennium BC, or 10,000 and 9000 years ago respectively. The famous archaeologist proposes older datings for Bhirrana compared to the conventional Harappan datings, and than others from the area. It was founded approximately 8th-7th BC; and, abandoned approximately 2600 BCE
Hakra Wares Culture (7500-6000 BC)
Rao, who excavated Bhirrana, claims to have found pre-Harappan Hakra Ware in its oldest layers.
Prior to his excavation of Bhirrana, no Hakra Wares culture, pre-dating Harappan, had been exposed in any India archaeology site (ASI). Cultures are characterized by structures in the form of subterranean dwelling pits, cut into the natural soil. The walls and floor of these pits were plastered with the yellowish alluvium (materials deposited from rivers) of the Saraswati valley. The artifacts of this period comprised a copper bangle, a copper arrowhead, bangles of terracotta, beads of carnelian, lapis lazuli and steatite, bone
point, stone saddle and quern. Pottery is very rich. The diagnostic wares included mud applique wares, incised, tan/chocolate slipped, brown on buff wares and bichrome (paintings on the exterior with black and white pigments). It even had black on red ware. And, plain red wares.
Early Harappan Culture (6000-4500 BC)
During the early Harappan culture period. The site became more occupied. Houses were built of mud bricks. Pottery shows all the six fabrics of Kalibangan. Along with many earlier Hakra Wares. Artifacts include: a seal of quarter-foil shape, made of shell; arrowheads; bangles and rings of copper; beads of carnelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, steatite, shell; and, terracotta pendents. There are also bull figurines; rattles; wheels; gamesmen, and marbles of terracotta. Bangles of terracotta and faience; bone objects; sling balls; marbles and pounders of sandstone. It looks like they were into gaming. This culture knew how to have fun.
Early Mature Harappan Culture (4500-3000 BC)
During this period. Something must have happened though. The entire settlement was surrounded with a fortification wall. Mud brick structures were aligned with a slight deviation from the north. And, the streets, and lanes similarly. Artifacts of the period included: beads of semi-precious stones; bangles of copper, shell, terracotta and faience; fishhooks; chisels; arrowhead of copper; terracotta animal figurines and more.
Mature Harappan Culture (3000 to 800 BC)
By this period, the Mature Harappan period. Bhirrana had all the characteristic features of a well-developed Harappan city. The important artifacts consisted of: seals of steatite; bangles of copper, terracotta, faience and shell; inscribed celts of copper, bone objects; terracotta spoked wheels; animal figurines of terracotta; beads of lapis lazuli (deep blue metamophic rock from Egypt and afganistan), carnelian, agate, faience, steatite, terracotta; and, other stone objects.
The massive fortification wall of the town was made of mud bricks. Houses were also made of mud bricks (sun-baked). And, the wide linear roads can be seen separating the houses. They had a community kitchen. A circular structure of baked earth is probably a “tandoor” (large urn shaped oven) was found here. And, there was evidence of a drain system for sewage.
Dancing girl graffiti
Did you know pottery and graffiti at Bhirrana show mermaids and dancing girls? The latter have a posture similar to Mohenjo-daro’s bronze “dancing girls” (famous 4.1 inch bronze sculpture from Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan). Archaeologist Rao has said “it appears that the craftsman of Bhirrana had first-hand knowledge of the dancing girl.” It’s believed they may have represented apsaras, or water nymphs. And, had been associated with the great amount of water in the Indus Valley.
Other findings at Bhirrana included a multi-roomed houses. One had ten rooms. Some had kitchens, chullahs (a small oven or brick ware cook stove), and many had court yards.
According to Rao, all phases of Indus Valley Civilization are represented in this site. Check them out with some more neolithic architecture today!
Bibliography: Rao, L.S.; Sahu, N.B.; Sahu, Prabash; Shastry, U.A.; Diwan, Samir (2005), “New light on the excavation of Harappan settlement at Bhirrana” (https://www.academia.edu/download/52785714/Puratattva_2004-2005.pdf)
Ahmed, Mihktar (2014), Ancient Pakistan – an Archaeological History
Coningham; Young (2015), The Archaeology of South Asia: From the Indus to Asoka, c.6500 BCE–200 CE, Cambridge University Press
Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India : from the Stone Age to the 12th century (https://books.google.com/books?id=H3lUIIYxWkEC&q=upinder+singh). New Delhi: Pearson Education. pp. 109, 145, 153. ISBN 9788131711200.
Dikshit, K.N. (2012). “The Rise of Indian Civilization: Recent Archaeological Evidence from the Plains of ‘Lost’ River Saraswati and Radio-Metric Dates”. Bulletin of the Deccan College Research Institute. 72/73: 1–42. ISSN 0045-9801 JSTOR 43610686 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/43610686).
Dikshit, K.N. (2013), “Origin of Early Harappan Cultures in the Sarasvati Valley: Recent Archaeological Evidence and Radiometric Dates” (https://web.archive.org/web/20170118032736 /http://server2.docfoc.com/uploads/Z2015/11/21/vESLakMBYz/45a03572f94e7a873d7c350293c ca188.pdf)