Gregory L. Possehl

Professor of Archaeology
Department of Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania
Curator of the Asian Section
University of Pennsylvania Museum
of Archaeology and Anthropology

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I am an anthropological archaeologist with broad interests in the development and eclipse of urbanization in the Old World. These considerations begin with the establishment of village farming communities and the role of food production in the processes that lead to urban life. My specific research and writing have focused on the first phase of urbanization in South Asia as exemplified by the ancient cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. Since 1979 I have had an active program of field research in the state of Gujarat, in India, where I have undertaken excavation at three sites: Rojdi (six seasons of excavation); Oriyo Timbo (two seasons of excavation) and Babar Kot (one season of excavation). The excavations in Gujarat have focused on three interrelated problems: chronology, reconstruction of subsistence activities and culture processes in a frontier region of the Indus Civilization. These are archaeological problems which are as interesting and important to me today as they were fifteen years ago, when I first began to deal with them in the context of a field project.

Some Recent Publications

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1996 Indus Age: The Writing System Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press: edited.
A four-volume set of books explores the Harappan Civilization under the series title Indus Age. This first volume appeared in November 1996.

1996 Climate and the eclipse of the ancient cities of the Indus. In, H. Nuzhet Dalfes, George Kukla and Harvey Weiss, eds., Third Millennium BC Climate Change and Old World Collapse. NATO ASI, Series I: Global Environmental Change, Vol. Berlin: Springer: 193-244.
It appears that there was no significant climatic change in either the second or third millennium in the Subcontinent which might run counter to events in other parts of Asia. This long paper discusses the South Asian data, presents a large number of radiocarbon dates for the transition between the Mature Harappan and the Post-urban Phase, which is now dated to 1900 B.C.

1996 Meluhha. In, Julian E. Reade, ed., The Indian Ocean in Antiquity. London: Kegan Paul International in Association with the British Museum: 133-208.
I had never published on the third millennium maritime trade in the Arabian Gulf. This paper is my first attempt at documenting Mature Harappan contacts in this region, and Mesopotamia. With the deep involvement of my late colleague Herman Behrens, it presents an authoritative presentation of all of the cuneiform textual references to Meluhha prior to the reign of Hammurabi.

1993 Harappan Civilization: A recent perspective 2nd revised edition. Delhi: Oxford & IBH and the American Institute of Indian Studies: 595 pp., edited
The first edition of Harappan Civilization was the result of a conference sponsored by the American Institute of Indian Studies in 1979. I was joined by nearly 50 delegates for about a week of intensive interaction and discussion of the Harappan Civilization. The second edition incorporates a number of important new papers.

1993 The date of Indus urbanization: A proposed chronology for the Pre-urban and Urban Harappa Phases. In, A. Gail and G. Mevissen, eds., South Asian Archaeology 1991. Stuttgart: Franz Steriner Verlag: 231-49.
This paper presents all of the radiocarbon dates for the Early and Mature Harappan. By averaging these dates for each of these period an estimate for their chronological "center point" can be obtained. This turns out to be ca. 2280 BC for the Mature Harappan, ca. 2530 for the Early/Mature Harappan Transition and ca. 2650 for the very late Early Harappan.

1992 The chronology of prehistoric India: from earliest times to the Iron Age. In, Robert Ehrich, ed., Chronologies in Old World Archaeology, 3rd ed. 2 Vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 465-90 & 447-74., with Paul C. Rissman
This paper deals with the chronology of "India proper" as the editor Robert Ehrich noted. Jim Shaffer did Pakistan and Afghanistan, so the chronology for most of the Harappan Civilization is found in his contribution. The most innovative part of this paper is the attempt to handle the chronology of hunting and gathering "microlithic"within a dynamic framework of interaction with settled, agricultural peoples.

1992 South Asian Archaeology Studies. Delhi: Oxford & IBH, 266 pp., edited.
This is a festschrift for the friend, colleague and mentor, Professor Walter A. Fairservis Jr.

1990 Revolution in the urban revolution: the emergence of Indus urbanization. Annual Review of Anthropology, 19: 261-82.
The paper is an exploration of culture change. It proposes that the Harappan Civilization arose rapidly out of the four regional Early Harappan "cultures." The Transitional Period between the Early Harappan and Mature Harappan is thought to be 150 to 200 years, as is known from radiocarbon dates. These are presented in the 1993 paper noted above in South Asian Archaeology 1991. The model of punctuated equilibrium presented here is challenging the general principles of uniformitarianism, paralleled in many disciplines, especially geology, biological evolution and linguistics.

1989 Harappan Civilization and Rojdi Gregory L. Possehl and M. H. Raval. Delhi: Oxford & IBH and the American Institute of Indian Studies: 197 pp.
A monograph was published on the first four seasons of excavation at Rojdi and the projects archaeologist/palaeobotanist published his work in book form.

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