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Valley Civilization is the earliest known culture of the Indian subcontinent of
the kind now called “urban” (or centered on large municipalities), and the largest
of the four ancient civilizations, which also included Egypt, Mesopotamia, and
China. The society of the Indus River Valley has been dated from the Bronze Age,
the time period from approximately 3300-1300 BCE. It was located in modern-day India and Pakistan, and covered an area as large as Western
Harappa and Mohenjo-daro were the two great cities of the Indus Valley
Civilization, emerging around 2600 BCE along the Indus River Valley in the
Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan. Their discovery and excavation in the
19th and 20th centuries provided important archaeological data regarding the
civilization’s technology, art, trade, transportation, writing, and
people of the Indus Valley, also known as Harappan (Harappa was the first
city in the region found by archaeologists), achieved many notable advances in technology,
including great accuracy in their systems and tools for measuring length and
were among the first to develop a system of uniform weights and measures that conformed
to a successive scale. The smallest division, approximately 1.6 mm, was marked
on an ivory scale found in Lothal, a prominent Indus Valley city in the modern Indian
state of Gujarat. It stands as the smallest division ever recorded on a Bronze
Age scale. Another indication of an advanced measurement system is the fact that
the bricks used to build Indus cities were uniform in size.
demonstrated advanced architecture with dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick
platforms, and protective walls. The ancient Indus systems of sewerage and
drainage developed and used in cities throughout the region were far more
advanced than any found in contemporary urban sites in the Middle East, and even
more efficient than those in many areas of Pakistan and India today.
were thought to have been proficient in seal carving, the cutting of patterns
into the bottom face of a seal, and used distinctive seals for the
identification of property and to stamp clay on trade goods. Seals have been
one of the most commonly discovered artifacts in Indus Valley cities, decorated
with animal figures, such as elephants, tigers, and water buffalos.
developed new techniques in metallurgy—the science of working with copper, bronze,
lead, and tin—and performed intricate handicraft using products made of the
semi-precious gemstone, Carnelian.
Valley excavation sites have revealed a number of distinct examples of the
culture’s art, including sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewelry, and
anatomically detailed figurines in terracotta, bronze, and steatite—more commonly known as Soapstone.
the various gold, terracotta, and stone figurines found, a figure of a “Priest-King” displayed
a beard and patterned robe. Another figurine in bronze, known as the “Dancing
Girl,” is only 11 cm. high and shows a female figure in a pose that suggests the
presence of some choreographed dance form enjoyed by members of the
civilization. Terracotta works also included cows, bears, monkeys, and dogs. In
addition to figurines, the Indus River Valley people are believed to have created
necklaces, bangles, and other ornaments.
civilization's economy appears to have depended significantly on trade, which
was facilitated by major advances in transport technology. The Harappan
Civilization may have been the first to use wheeled transport, in the form of
bullock carts that are identical to those seen throughout South Asia today. It
also appears they built boats and watercraft—a claim supported by
archaeological discoveries of a massive, dredged canal, and what is regarded as
a docking facility at the coastal city of Lothal.
focused on importing raw materials to be used in Harappan city workshops, including minerals from Iran and Afghanistan, lead and copper from other parts
of India, jade from China, and cedar wood floated down rivers from the
Himalayas and Kashmir. Other trade goods included terracotta pots, gold,
silver, metals, beads, flints for making tools, seashells, pearls, and colored gem
stones, such as lapis lazuli and turquoise.
was an extensive maritime trade network operating between the Harappan and Mesopotamian
civilizations. Harappan seals and jewelry have been found at archaeological sites
in regions of Mesopotamia, which includes most of modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, and
parts of Syria. Long-distance sea trade over bodies of water, such as the
Arabian Sea, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, may have become feasible with the
development of plank watercraft that was equipped with a single central mast supporting
a sail of woven rushes or cloth.
4300-3200 BCE of the Chalcolithic period,
also known as the Copper
Age, the Indus Valley Civilization area shows ceramic similarities with
southern Turkmenistan and northern Iran. During the Early Harappan period
(about 3200-2600 BCE), cultural similarities in pottery, seals, figurines, and
ornaments document caravan trade with Central Asia and the Iranian plateau.
are believed to have used Indus Script, a language consisting of symbols. A
collection of written texts on clay and stone tablets unearthed at Harappa,
which have been carbon dated 3300-3200 BCE, contain trident-shaped, plant-like markings. This Indus Script suggests that writing developed
independently in the Indus River Valley Civilization from the script employed
in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.
many as 600 distinct Indus symbols have been found on seals, small tablets,
ceramic pots, and more than a dozen other materials. Typical Indus inscriptions
are no more than four or five characters in length, most of which are very
small. The longest on a single surface, which is less than 1 inch (or 2.54 cm.) square, is 17 signs long. The characters are largely pictorial, but include
many abstract signs that do not appear to have changed over time.
The inscriptions are thought to have been primarily written from right
to left, but it is unclear whether this script constitutes a complete language.
Without a “Rosetta Stone” to use as a comparison with other writing systems, the
symbols have remained indecipherable to linguists and archaeologists.
Harappan religion remains a topic of speculation. It has been widely suggested
that the Harappans worshipped a mother goddess who symbolized fertility. In
contrast to Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, the Indus Valley
Civilization seems to have lacked any temples or palaces that would give clear
evidence of religious rites or specific deities. Some Indus Valley seals show a
swastika symbol, which was included in later Indian religions including
Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
Indus Valley seals also include the forms of animals, with some depicting them
being carried in processions, while others showing chimeric creations, leading
scholars to speculate about the role of animals in Indus Valley religions. One
seal from Mohenjo-daro shows a half-human, half-buffalo monster attacking a
tiger. This may be a reference to the Sumerian myth of a monster created by Aruru,
the Sumerian earth and fertility goddess, to fight Gilgamesh, the hero of an ancient Mesopotamian
epic poem. This is a further suggestion of international trade in