Pattern of International Trade Though much is already known to us
about the Harappan overseas trade to the Gulf and Mesopotamia, the picture
has become clearer with recent discoveries in the last few years. In the third
millennium BC, there was a kind of international economy, with metals,
stones, timbers and craft items moving between South Asia, Makran,
southern Iran, the Oman peninsula, Bahrain, Kuwait and Sumer. A network
of several interaction spheres encompassed these regions in the mid-third
millennium BC. But in earlier centuries, there were more marked interactions
between Central Asia, Afghanistan, Seistan and north Baluchistan and the
Indus plains. The chronological coincidence of the shift of interaction spheres
and the rise of the Harappan civilisation cannot have been accidental.
Relationship between Trade and Social Changes Was there a connection
between a flourishing external trade and the emergence of a ruling class and
urban centers in South Asia? We must examine whether external trade led to
increased acquisition of status items on the part of aristocracies, or whether
trade led to increased productivity. It is possible that external trade induced
some changes in labour allocation. The emergence of craft workshops to
produce export items, for instance, may in turn have induced changes in the
geographic location of certain production activities so that a regional
economy came into being. That is why, chert blades and shell items were
produced at only a few Harappan sites, but are found at several sites; shells
were exported westwards; craft quarters at Chanhudaro and Lothal seem to
reveal ‘workshop’-type situations. To a certain extent atleast, these
developments may be seen as responses to the growing demand for Harappan
goods in Mesopotamia.
Harappan Influence on the Gulf Region Recent excavations show a
Harappan presence in copper-rich Oman (pottery, beads, inscribed sherds,
weights and so on) in post-2000 BC contexts. When the Mesopotamian–
Harappan trade began, societies in the Gulf were said to be under
Mesopotamian cultural influence, but after 2000 BC, they supposedly came
increasingly under Harappan influence. The chronology of some Gulf sites is
being reworked and it may be that Bahrain (Dilmun) saw the peak of its
settlement and prosperity—and Harappan influence—around this period of
transition. In trying to explain this change, we may derive more clues to the