Gregory L. Possehl, Ph.D †
Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Curator Emeritus, Asian Section, University of Pennsylvania Museum
Date appointed: 1999
Greg Possehl graduated from the University of Chicago with a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1974. He received his B.A. (1964) and M.A. (1967) in Anthropology from the University of Washington. He came to the University of Pennsylvania in 1973, joining the South Asian Regional Studies Department, and transferred in 1993 to the Anthropology Department. He served as chairman of the department from 1994 to 2001. Greg Possehl was also Curator of the Asian section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. In 2001–2002 he was an Overseas Fellow at Churchill College at Cambridge University in England. In 2004 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Archaeology Society in recognition of his life-long contribution to Indian archaeology, especially the study of the Harappan Civilization (2500–1900 B.C.E.). He retired in 2007, becoming Professor Emeritus and Curator Emeritus. He passed away in October 2011 at the age of 70.
Greg Possehl instigated his fieldwork in Indian archaeology in 1964. He spent his career participating and leading excavations in Pakastan and India, especially in the state of Gujarat, India, where he maintained an active program of field research that began in 1979. He characterized himself as an “anthropological archaeologist with broad interests in the development and eclipse of urbanization in the Old World.” His research focused on the first phase of urbanization in South Asia, exemplified by the ancient cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. His research projects included the exploration of the Ghelo and Kalubhar Valleys in the state of Gujarat, and he directed the excavations of the Sorath Harappan sites of Oriyo Timbo, Babar Kot, and Rojdi. The excavations in Gujarat focused on three interrelated problems: chronology, reconstruction of subsistence activities, and interpreting culture processes in this frontier region of the Indus Civilization. The excavations at Rojdi, which were conducted over seven seasons, resulted in the definition of the Sorath Harappan as a distinct regional manifestation of the Harappan Civilization and advanced understanding of civilization's transformation, or “collapse,” at the beginning of the second millennium B.C.E. In January 2007, he began an excavation at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bat in the Sultanate of Oman. The focus of the project is on remains from ca. 3200 to 1800 B.C.E. The site contains the largest and best preserved Bronze Age cemetery in the region as well as a series of 3rd millennium habitation areas featuring large, circular structures known as "towers."
Greg Possehl has authored numerous books and papers contributing to the understanding of the archaeology of the Indian Subcontinent. His books include: The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective (2003), which was a winner of the Choice Magazine Award for Outstanding Academic Book; Indus Age: The Beginnings (1999); Indus Age: The Writing System (1996); Harappan Civilization and Rojdi, written with M. H. Raval (1989); and Kulli: An Exploration of Ancient Civilization in South Asia (1986). In 1993 he edited the volume Harappan Civilization: A Recent Perspective, and in 1992, South Asian Archaeology Studies. A selection of his numerous articles contains: "Sociocultural Complexity without the State: The Indus Civilization," in Gary M. Feinman and Joyce Marcus, eds., The Archaic State, Santa Fe: School of American Research, 1998, 261–91; "The Transformation of the Indus Civilization," Journal of World Prehistory 11, No. 4 (1997): 425–71;“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. 49, Berlin: Springer, 1996, 193–244; “Meluhha,” in Julian E. Reade, ed., The Indian Ocean in Antiquity, London: Kegan Paul International in Association with the British Museum, 1996, 133–208;"The Indus Civilization," Man and Environment 19, 1-2 (1994): 103–13; “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, 1993, 231–49; “Revolution in the Urban Revolution: The Emergence of Indus Urbanization,” Annual Review of Anthropology 19 (1990): 261–82.