It is located in the Ghaggar-Hakra river plain, some 27 km from the seasonal Ghaggar river.
There are many other important archaeological sites in this area, in the old river valley to the east of the Ghaggar Plain. Among them are Kalibangan, Kunal, Haryana, Balu, Haryana, Bhirrana, and Banawali.
According to Jane McIntosh, Rakhigarhi is located in the valley of the prehistoric Drishadvati River. This is also known as Chautang River.
Lohari Ragho is a smaller site nearby.
In 1963, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began excavations at this site, and, though little has been published about the excavations. Further excavations were conducted the ASI headed by the archaeologist, Amarendra Nath, between 1997 and 2000. The more recent excavations have been performed by Vasant Shinde, an archaeologist from the Deccan College.
The ASI's detailed excavation of the site revealed the size of the lost city and recovered numerous artefacts, some over 5,000 years old. Rakhigarhi was occupied at Early Harappan times. Evidence of paved roads, drainage system, large rainwater collection, storage system, terracotta bricks, statue production, and skilled working of bronze and precious metals have been uncovered. Jewellery, including bangles made from terracotta, conch shells, gold, and semi-precious stones, have also been found.
There are nine mounds in Rakhigarhi which are named RGR-1 to RGR-9, of which RGR-5 is thickly populated by establishment of Rakhishahpur village and is not available for excavations. RGR-1 to RGR-3, RGR6 to RGR9 and some part of RGR-4 are available for excavations.
In 2014 six radiocarbon datings from excavations al Rakhigarhi between 1997 and 2000 were published, corresponding to the three periods at the site as per archaeologist Amarendra Nath (Pre-formative, Early Harappan, and Mature Harappan). Mound RGR-6 revealed a Pre-formative stage designated as Sothi Phase with the following two datings: 6420 +/- 110 and 6230 +/- 320 years Before Present, converted to 4470 +/- 110 BCE and 4280 +/- 320 BCE.
Most scholars, including Gregory Possehl, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Raymond Allchin and Rita P. Wright believe it to be between 80 hectares and 100+ hectares in area. Furthermore, Possehl did not believe that all mounds in Rakhigarhi belong to the same Indus Valley settlement, stating, "RGR-6, a Sothi-Siswal site known as Arda, was probably a separate settlement."
Amarendra Nath's who did excavations between 1997 and 2000, reported that the site covers more than 300 hectares (3.0 km2) in size with 7 mounds, five of which are integrated. With new find of two additional mounds of 25 hectares each in 2014-15 during joint excavations conducted by the Haryana Archaeological Department, Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute and Seoul National University, the site has now been found much larger to be over 350 hectares (3.5 km2), making it the largest Indus Valley Civilization site and town in the world.
Digging so far reveals a well planned city with 1.92 m wide roads, a bit wider than in Kalibangan. The pottery is similar to Kalibangan and Banawali. Pits surrounded by walls have been found, which are thought to be for sacrificial or some religious ceremonies. Fire was used extensively in their religious ceremonies. There are brick lined drains to handle sewage from the houses. Terracotta statues, weights, bronze artefacts, comb, copper fish hooks, needles and terracotta seals have also been found. A bronze vessel has been found which is decorated with gold and silver. A gold foundry with about 3000 unpolished semi-precious stones has been found. Many tools used for polishing these stones and a furnace were found there. A burial site has been found with 11 skeletons, with their heads in the north direction. Near the heads of these skeletons, utensils for everyday use were kept. The three female skeletons have shell bangles on their left wrists. Near one female skeleton, a gold armlet has been found. In addition semi precious stones have been found lying near the head, suggesting that they were part of some sort of necklace.
In April 2015, four complete human skeletons were excavated from mound RGR-7. These skeletons belonged to two male adults, one female adult and one child. Pottery with grains of food as well as shell bangles were found around these skeletons.
As the skeletons were excavated scientifically without any contamination, archaeologists think that with the help of latest technology on these skeletons and DNA obtained, it is possible to determine how Harappans looked like 4500 years ago.
Fire altars and apsidal structures were revealed in Rakhigarhi.
Hunting tools like copper hafts and fish hooks have been found here. Presence of various toys like mini wheels, miniature lids, sling balls, animal figurines indicates a prevalence of toy culture. Signs of flourishing trade can be seen by the excavation of stamps, jewellery and 'chert' weights. Weights found here are similar to weights found at many other IVC sites confirming presence of standardized weight systems.
Cotton cloth traces preserved on silver or bronze objects were known from Rakhigarhi, Chanhudaro and Harappa. An impressive number of stamps seals were also found at this site.
The site has thick deposits of ‘Hakra Ware’ (typical of settlements dating back before the early phases of Indus Valley and dried up Sarasvati river valley). It also has ‘Early and ‘Mature’ Harappan artefacts. The solid presence of the Hakra Ware culture raises the important question: "Did the Indus civilization come later than it is recorded?" The Hakra and the Early phases are separated by more than 500–600 years and the Hakra people are considered to be the earliest Indus inhabitants. Although the carbon-14 dating results are awaited, based on the thick layers of Hakra Ware at Rakhigarhi, it is said that the site may date back to about 2500 BC to 3000 BC.
A granary belonging to mature Harappan phase (2600 BCE to 2000 BCE) has been found here. Granary is made up of mud-bricks with a floor of ramped earth plastered with mud. It has 7 rectangular or square chambers. Significant traces of lime & decomposed grass are found on the lower portion of the granary wall indicating that it can also be the storehouse of grains with lime used as insecticide & grass used to prevent entry of moisture. Looking at the size, it appears to be a public granary or a private granary of elites.
A cemetery of Mature Harappan period is discovered at Rakhigarhi, with eight graves found. Often brick covered grave pits had wooden coffin in one case. Different type of grave pits were undercut to form an earthen overhang and body was placed below this; and then top of grave was filled with bricks to form a roof structure over the grave.
Parasite eggs which were once existed in the stomach of those buried were found in the burial sites along with human skeletans. Analysis of Human aDNA obtained from human bones as well as analysis of parasite & animal DNA will be done to assert origins of these people.
Rakhigarhi, which is an Indus Valley Civilisation site, also has a museum developed by the state government.
There is also Haryana Rural Antique Museum 60 km away, which is maintained by CCS HAU in its Gandhi Bhawan, exhibits evolution of agriculture and vanishing antiques. Jahaj Kothi Museum, named after George Thomas, is located inside Firoz Shah Palace Complex and maintained by Archaeological Survey of India.
Today, Rakhigarhi is a small village in Haryana State, India. The ASI excavated the place for three winters, starting from 1997. The excavation has been stopped for years because of a CBI investigation on the misuse of funds. Much of the findings are donated to the National Museum.
In May 2012, the Global Heritage Fund, declared Rakhigarhi one of the 10 most endangered heritage sites in Asia. A study by the Sunday Times, found that the site is not being looked after, the iron boundary wall is broken, and villagers sell the artefacts they dig out of the site and parts of site are now being encroached by private houses.
The size and uniqueness of Rakhigarhi has drawn much attention of archaeologists all over the world. It is nearer to Delhi, indicating the spread of Indus Valley Civilization up to this distance of North India. Much of the area is yet to be excavated and details to be published from this site. Another related site in the area is Mitathal, which is still awaiting excavation.