The region of Pakistan was one of the cradles of civilisation. Stone-age hunter-gatherers lived on the Potohar plateau and in the Soan Valley in northern Punjab 300,000 or more years ago. Excavations on the Balochistan plateau show a more advanced culture which flourished from 4000 to 2000 BCE. At Kot Diji in the Khairpur district, an early bronze age culture developed in this period. These early civilisations reached their peak in the Indus valley cities, of which Harappa is the most notable. These societies had mastered town planning and pictographic writing.
In 327 BCE Alexander the Great invaded with his Macedonian army. Later, Mauryans from India ruled the northern Punjab area, to be replaced by Bactrian Greeks from Afghanistan and central Asian tribes. Different religions prevailed in turn: Buddhism (under the Mauryans), Hinduism and, with Arab conquest in the eighth century, Islam.
Two main principalities emerged under Arab rule, that of al- Mansurah and that of Multan. The Ghaznarid sultans gained ascendancy in Punjab in the 11th century. The subsequent ascendancy of the Moghuls, who originated in Central Asia, lasted from 1536 to 1707; their rule lingered nominally until 1857. They established a sophisticated imperial administration and left a rich legacy of forts and walled cities, gardens and gateways, mosques and tombs.