A Day in the Life of a Harrapan Trader

The city of Harappa was part of the ancient Indus River Civilization, which was at its peak at around 2500 BC. This story is written from the perspective of a merchant who is about to return to Harappa from a month long journey to the cities of the Mesopotamian civilization, which flourished in the area of modern day Iran.

And there he saw it, finally, after all those months. The legendary, brilliant, and prosperous city of Harappa once again lay before him. As the boat had just passed around the hill, he was now able to get a glimpse of this golden city, which he proudly called his home. He tried to imagine the look on his wife and children’s faces, when he’d enter the house for the first time after this month long journey. The sail was now completely rolled-up and his servants, encouraged by the sight of Harappa, found new energy and their paddling speeded them up drastically. As they were getting closer to the city, he kept wondering whether that entire struggle, this endless journey through those long rivers, coasts and the seemingly never-ending sea, was worth it. However, he just had to imagine the amount of goods sealed in the storage below him to escape any kind of doubt. When he departed a few months ago, his storage was full of copper, which he bought from a central Indian trader, gold, which he acquired from several local goldsmiths, and cotton, produced by local farmers. Now he came back with his boat full of silver and precious stones from Mesopotamia, which were worth a fortune.

After transferring his goods from his ship onto several oxen, he and his servants slowly proceeded towards the big city gate of Harappa. It still looked as big as he remembered it. Many hundreds of tax collectors, traders and their oxen filled the main road that went straight into the city. After paying all city taxes, his goods were sealed with different tags made of soft clay, so that it was visible to other merchants and authorities that his imports were properly paid for. Then the group passed the gate and started to make their way towards the central city market. The streets of Harappa were drawn in a north-south, east-west grid system and in the far distance he could see the big citadel rise above the lower houses. On the central market, many farmers and craftsmen were selling their goods to city merchants, who, in turn, sold their goods to other traders like him. After helping his servants to unload the oxen, he went on to several merchants offices he’d sell his goods to, in exchange for land, grain or minerals and luxuries.

A few trades and exchanges later, he and his servants loaded the oxen again and started to make their way uphill towards the citadel. Since he was one of the most successful and richest merchants in Harappa, he and his family were one of the privileged few being able to live in a big house closer to the citadel. Most of Harappa’s people weren’t as lucky as him though. They definitely had a better life than the population on the countryside, being able to live with a fully functioning water and waste system as well as a fully developed infrastructure, however, they weren’t as fortunate as him. Most houses were single roomed, had a bathroom containing a shower cabin, which was used by tipping water out of jar, which, in turn, went out through a draining system installed below them. Bathrooms also had a wooden toilet, which was flushed using water from jars. All houses had a roof, which their owners were able to walk and store things on. This caused most people to use it as additional space to sleep in during hot nights, store goods or maintain a place for their children to play at.

After a long way up the hill towards the citadel, he finally saw his house at the end of the road. It was big. It contained a central courtyard as well as several rooms around it providing enough space and comfort for his family to live and his servants to sleep and work there. The courtyard even contained their own private well, as well as more than enough space for his children to play at and for his wife and him to relax after a long working day or journey. Finally, as they were coming closer, the door suddenly opened and two young boys and three even smaller girls started to run towards him, happily screaming.

Thank you very much for your attention. If you are interested in finding out more about the Indus River civilization, you can find more, very interesting and easily comprehensible information on the following webpages:





Paul Hendrik Schmidt-Engelbertz



One response to “A Day in the Life of a Harrapan Trader

  1. That was a really good story. It had a lot of detail and it explained the feelings and ideas of the character well. I also loved the description of the city. Good job.

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