The Indus Valley Civilization 1


The Indus Valley Civilization A Synthesis of Current Knowledge


Antilkumar Gandhi

The Origins of Western Culture Professor Stephen Carter Winter Quarter 2009

The Indus Valley Civilization 2

One of the world's first civilizations developed in the Indus River valley over 5,000 years ago. In terms of influence and importance, it is on par with the great civilizations of Egypt and Sumer. While there is much known about these latter two civilizations, almost next to nothing was known about the Indus Valley civilization until the 20th century. There is still much to be learned and the excavations of hundreds on Indus sites are ongoing. What has been discovered about this culture through their settlements and cities reveals a civilization based in trade and agriculture, ruled by a centralized governmental authority. But, much is yet to be discovered about this culture. The following discussion centers on what has been learned thus far and areas for further study of Indus Valley civilization.

The Indus Valley Civilization 3

The Indus Valley Civilization: A Synthesis of Current Knowledge
Almost five thousand years ago, an advanced civilization flourished in the Sind and the Punjab regions of the Indian subcontinent. At that time in the Indus River valley and beyond, there were well-planned towns and cities with elaborate drainage systems, paved streets, granaries and large private dwellings. All the houses were made of standardized bricks and all were strictly maintained by municipal authorities. There were also ports from which ships sailed as far away as Mesopotamia to trade various goods. The people who built these cities and these ships also constructed many steatite seals. These seals have images and script engraved upon them that provide evidence of the strong influence of these people and their civilization on the later peoples of the subcontinent. Considering the important place that is reserved for the Indus Valley civilization (or Harappan civilization) in Indian history and the fact that it is regarded as one of the birthplaces of civilization (along with Egypt and Sumer), (Jarrige and Meadow, 1980, p. 122), it is quite amazing how relatively little the world knows about it. No one even knew of the existence of this civilization until the twentieth century. The first Indus Valley artifacts were recovered from Harappa, one of the two Indus cities, in 1856 by a General Cunningham. He was a British soldier and amateur archaeologist who was fascinated by the artifacts he had picked up at the ruins of Harappa, but at that time, neither he nor anyone else was able to recognize their significance. The Archaeological Survey of India, run by the British, was aware that there were ancient ruins at Harappa, but the Survey assumed that these ruins belonged to the Vedic period of Indian history. The world already had extensive knowledge of this civilization, so the ruins were not considered to be of monumental importance. It was not until the year

The Indus Valley Civilization 4 1920 that the Survey was able to excavate Harappa and discover the existence of the Indus Valley civilization, (Piggott, 1950, p. 18). Unfortunately, not as much as possible could be learned about this civilization from the Harappan ruins because decades earlier it had been plundered for bricks by a railroad company. Fortunately, after this initial discovery, it did not take archaeologists very long to find other Indus ruins all over the Sind and the Punjab. In 1922, the other Indus city, Mohenjo-daro, was discovered and excavated. In the late 1920s and 1930s, many other Indus towns and settlements were found in the areas surrounding Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, (Piggott, 1950, pp. 18-19). The ruins are so extensive that even today, archaeologists are discovering Indus settlements. To date, more than 200 Indus sites have been recognized, (Bag, 1985, p. 8). The sites are spread out over a half million square miles in Pakistan and northwestern India. Harappa and Mohenjo-daro were the first Indus settlements to be excavated and, for a short time, were the only known Indus sites. During this time, archaeologists were understandably mystified by the ruins and had many questions about the origins of this civilization. But soon, the excavation of more ancient sites such as Mehrgarh provided scholars with many clues about the origins of the Harappan culture. The current belief among Indus experts is that this culture did develop over centuries, in ways similar to Egypt and Sumer. Walter A. Fairservis, Jr., an expert on the Harappan culture, has been able to describe the course of development of the Harappan civilization as occurring in four separate stages, (Bag, 1985, pp. 6-7). Stage I occurred before c. 3300 BCE, during which the first human settlements such as Mehrgarh began to appear. Stage 2 lasted from c. 3300 BCE to c. 2500 BCE and can be called the pre-Harappan phase. During this

The Indus Valley Civilization 5 stage, cultivation of crops and pastoralism were becoming widespread practices. Stage 3 can be called the Early Harappan phase, lasting from c. 2500 BCE to c. 2300 BCE. This stage is "characterized by sedentary village life and regionalization with inter-regional contacts," (Bag, 1985, p. 7). Stage 4 is the Mature Phase, which lasted from c. 2300 BCE to c. 1700 BCE. Most of the artifacts and ruins of this culture that have been discovered belong to this period. These years were marked by urbanization, the construction of monumental buildings, the use of copper, bronze and flake-blade tools, the making of steatite seals, beadwork, and sculpture and many other accomplishments, (Bag, 1985, p. 7). After roughly 1700 BCE, the Indus Valley civilization went through an extended period of decline in most areas and a transformation in some areas. Some of the main sites of Indus ruins from the Mature Phase are the two cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro and the towns of Chanhu-daro, Kot-diji, Kalibangan, Amri, Lothal, Rangpur and many others. This time period was believed to have been the height of the Indus culture, when their prosperity was greatest and the most significant achievements were made. Of course, the greatest examples of this prosperity were the two great cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. The very existence of cities in a culture implies the existence of prosperous rural areas, capable of supporting large urban populations that are not directly involved in food production, (Bag, 1985, pp. 8-9). This is why these cities play such a prominent role in the archaeological record of the Indus culture. The people living in these cities were not farmers, but traders, crafts workers and artists. The cities were the centers of Indus culture - where civilization was developed to its highest level. Therefore, it is not surprising that the ruins of these cities yielded many

The Indus Valley Civilization 6 of the most important artifacts of this civilization and provided the best insights into its nature. One of the most striking characteristics of the mature Harappan civilization is its strong governmental authority and large bureaucracy. There are no surviving government records to support this conclusion, but there is an abundance of physical evidence that does. First and foremost are the neat, gridiron pattern layouts of the Indus settlements. Indus settlements were not like those of Egypt, Sumer or almost any other civilization. Usually, urban centers start out as small settlements, slowly growing larger over decades and even centuries. Streets and blocks are added when the need arises. As a result, urban centers have many crooked lanes and streets which have been built arbitrarily and do not fit any pattern. Indus urban centers had layouts which fit a pattern, which indicates that their towns and cities started out as towns and cities. They were each constructed according to a master plan in the space of a few years. These kinds of settlements could not have been constructed without a great deal of thought and a tremendous amount of resources. Thousands of people lived in each of these urban centers. The cities, Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, had a population of about 30,000 each (Bag, 1985, p. 40). Clearly, mapping out an urban center of this size would be no easy task. Also, all Indus settlements were made almost entirely of baked bricks. Building such a place would require an enormous supply of bricks. Only some sort of governmental authority would be able to undertake a project of this magnitude. Other evidence that points to government involvement is the fact that there are many features that are common to the more than two hundred known Indus sites. Besides all being built in a gridiron layout, all settlements consisted of three main areas - a

The Indus Valley Civilization 7 residential area, a citadel area and a cemetery. Also, the town plans of the two cities are so similar that they are believed to have been planned by the "same central board of imperial urban planners," (Wolpert, 1989, p. 15). Considering the massive effort required building an Indus town and taking into account all the similarities between these settlements, it is only reasonable to conclude that there existed a centralized governmental authority in the Indus civilization. Additional evidence also supports this conclusion. There was a standard system of weights that was used by the Indus people. Many living in the towns and cities were traders, and it was no doubt very important to have a standard system in place. In Mohenjo-daro, Chanhu-daro and Harappa, sets of stone weights have been found. The system is unlike the Egyptian or Sumerian systems, so the Indus system was not an import but an original Indus invention. This indicates the existence of some kind of bureau (probably governmental, due to the importance of trade in this culture), which determined and regulated this system of weights. The Indus people also had a standardized method of brick production. In Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Kalibangan and in all the other mature phase Indus sites, very nearly all the bricks were constructed following the standard ratio of 4:2:1 (length : width : thickness), (Bag, 1985, p. 62). They did vary in size, of course, from one settlement to another and depending on their intended uses, but the standard ratio of 4:2:1 was nearly always maintained. The primary significance of this evidence is the fact that there were standard ratios for brick sizes at all. These facts indicate that some type of organization existed which decided on and upheld standard ratios for brick dimensions. The likelihood that it was a governmental organization can be inferred from the fact that

The Indus Valley Civilization 8 standardized bricks were found at all Indus sites; some located hundreds of miles apart. Also, knowing the importance of bricks in the building of Indus settlements, which were most likely government projects, it is reasonable to conclude that a government agency set the standards for brick dimensions, (Bhattacharya, 1988, p. 10). All of this evidence, take together, points to "the existence of a functioning state system," governing the people of this civilization, (Bhattacharya, 1988, p. 10). The government also provided many other services to its citizens. One of these was an elaborate system of drains in each settlement that was maintained by civic authorities, and which was unlike both the Egyptian and Sumerian drainage systems. Each bathroom in each house of an Indus settlement was paved with special bricks that fit together perfectly to form a watertight floor. The drains which led from each bathroom emptied into large troughs or jars outside each home. Municipal authorities saw to it that each of these areas was cleared of refuse on a regular basis, (Bag, 1985, p. 57). There were also drains on each street which would clear away excess rainwater. They were located below the level of the street and were especially important during the rainy season to prevent flood and water damage, (Bag, 1985, p. 58). These street drains were made with meticulous care, allowing for no cracks between bricks. Details such as making the corners of the drains round instead of square (to reduce friction) were seen to by the Indus city planners. These systems of drains in the Indus settlements were so well-made and well-maintained by the Indus governmental authorities that even after three millennia of disuse, they are still completely intact in every settlement. The urban planners of the Indus towns and cities divided every Indus settlement into 3 areas - the citadel, the residential area and the cemetery. The citadel was the

The Indus Valley Civilization 9 religious, cultural and civic center of each town, (Wheeler, 1966, p. 18). It was always built on higher ground and overlooked the rest of the settlement like an acropolis. The citadel at Mohenjo-daro is relatively very large, second in size only to the citadel at Harappa. It is also the best excavated citadel. There are three principal structures located there - the Great Bath, the college and the collection of granaries. The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro (Figure 1) was a large brick pool and it was a public facility. It was located next to several small rooms which were probably private bathing rooms reserved for the college of priests that were believed to have been the spiritual leaders of the city, (Bag, 1985, p. 53). Every house did have private bathing facilities, but the Indus people did not bathe only for sanitary purposes, but for ritualistic purposes as well, (Kosambi, 1965, p. 66). By building a Great Bath, the municipal authorities were providing a service of great religious and cultural significance to their citizens. Other settlements also had bathing facilities in their citadel area, but they were less grand than the Great Bath.
Figure 1 The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro

The Indus Valley Civilization 10 The college area of the citadel at Mohenjo-daro consisted of a square courtyard and several brick paved rooms off to the sides. Archaeologists have conjectured that these structures were the home of a college of priests. Part of the reason why the college is believed to be the home of some priests is because of its close proximity to the "Stupa Mound." This mound is a large, unexcavated section of the citadel located east of the college. It is unexcavated because a Buddhist stupa which has been built over this mound and Buddhist authorities refuse to let anyone disturb it. But archaeologists have been able to excavate all around it and have theorized that an Indus temple lies underneath the stupa, (Bag, 1985. p. 54). Another reason to assign the college as the home of the priests is because many Indus experts believe that the government of the Indus civilization, although secular in outlook, was theocratic in character. "We must assume that there was continuity of government throughout the life of the civilization," (Piggott, 1950, p.84). This unparalleled continuity suggests "the unchanging traditions of the temple," rather than the "secular instability of the court," (Moore and Eldredge, 1970, p. 18). Given the high status of religious leaders in Indus society, it is reasonable to think that the college, located at the citadel, was the home of a college of priests. The other major feature of the citadel at Mohenjo-daro was the collection of granaries located west of the Great Bath. These storehouses were too large to have been owned by one person. Indus experts have concluded that they must have been owned by the municipal government. First of all, they were located at the citadel, which is community property. Secondly, in those times, a granary that large would serve the same function as a bank or treasury, which would normally be controlled by a governmental authority, (Marlow, 1967, p. 604). Also, the granaries could be used as a reserve of food

The Indus Valley Civilization 11 for the urban population during a time of food shortage or famine - a use which would also indicate that it was under government control, (Wolpert, 1989, p. 15). All of these reasons make it reasonable to conclude that the granaries were owned by the municipal government. Granaries were usually located at other Indus sites as well and were no doubt run in the same way. The people of the Indus Valley civilization had an advanced urban culture that thrived in the extraordinary cities and towns that they built. The main occupation of the people who lived in these urban centers was trade - in all kinds of goods and with different peoples within and without the Indian subcontinent. The Indus people built ships to carry on this trade. At Lothal, which is one of the main Indus sites, a port has been found. Representations of ships have been found on square steatite seals discovered at Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Lothal and other settlements. Trade was probably conducted using overland routes as well. There is some evidence that Indus traders used bullock cart caravans to get their goods to foreign markets, (Bag, 1985, p. 10). Using ships and caravans, the Indus traders exported a great variety of goods, including cotton, grains, gold, silver, copper, lapis lazuli, ivory ornaments, stone beads and even pearls, (Wheeler, 1966, p. 64). There is a great deal of evidence to prove that Indus traders brought items such as these to Mesopotamian markets thousands of miles away. The distinctly Indus square steatite seals with the unique Indus script have been found at ruins in Mesopotamia, (Buchanan, 1967, p. 104). The script is still undeciphered but Indus experts believe that the seals were used as personal trademarks and were brought to Mesopotamia by Indus traders. Some unusual seals, which have been named the Persian Gulf seals, have also

The Indus Valley Civilization 12 been found in Mesopotamia and at Lothal. Persian Gulf seals are a combination of typical Mesopotamian and Indus seals. They are round like the former but bear the typical designs and script of the latter, (Wheeler, 1966, p. 37). The existence of these types of seals shows that there was contact between these two civilizations. There have also been objects of Indus origin found on the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, near Mesopotamia. Excavations at Bahrain have identified it as the place "Dilmun" mentioned in the Sumerian texts, (Bag, 1985, pp. 10-11). These texts say that there was trade between "Dilmun" and "Mesopotamia". Archeologists have also been able to identify the "Meluhha" mentioned in Sumerian texts as the coast of the Sind and Saurashtra, where the Indus port Lothal is located, (Bag, 1985, pp.10-11). The evidence of contact between these two civilizations is very pronounced. The Indus people did not trade only with Mesopotamia, though, and they did not only export goods. Numerous objects have been found in the Indus settlements which are made of materials that were not indigenous to that region. They could only have been imports - either from Mesopotamia or a number of other peoples that the Harappans traded with, (Bag, 1985, pp. 11-12). By all accounts, the Indus Valley civilization was an important and influential member of the international community in ancient times, at or near the same level of importance as Mesopotamia. In order to maintain the substantial trading that the Indus people were engaged in and also to meet the domestic demands of the urban areas, a large portion of the population must have been crafts workers. One of the largest classes of crafts workers must have been the brick makers, obviously, since the Harappans built their settlements out of brick. Another important class of crafts workers was the potters. In every Indus

The Indus Valley Civilization 13 settlement, an abundance of clay ware and potsherds have been found. Clay pots held a special significance for the Indus people. They were not just household items. In almost every grave found at Indus sites, clay pots have been found buried along with the dead. Almost all of these clay wares from the mature phase of the Harappan civilization were made on a pottery wheel, as opposed to hand-sculpted. Mature Harappan phase pottery was decorated with designs and pigments. But the pots were not pieces of art as they are in some other cultures. The representations of animals and people are very simplistic and evidence indicates that pots with designs were often mass-produced. The metallurgists of the Indus civilization worked mainly with gold, silver, copper and bronze. Copper was the most commonly used of these metals. It was found in abundance in this region. It was probably the first metal that the Harappans' ancestors worked with since it was the most easily malleable. At the Indus ruins, everything from copper jewelry to copper weaponry has been found - beads, arrowheads, needles, kitchen utensils, amulets, fish hooks, hairpins, etc. Copper was also an important export, with copper ingots found at the port city of Lothal, (Bag, 1985, p. 81). Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin and in the Indus valley; the ores of these two metals could often be found together. The Harappans' ancestors probably started using it not long after the discovery of copper. Bronze was also used for a broad variety of purposes in the Indus civilization. One of the most prominent Indus artifacts that have ever been discovered is the statuette of a dancing girl cast in bronze (Figure 2). It is one of the finest works of Harappan art. But the Indus people did prefer to use bronze to make weaponry and cutting utensils instead of art. Bronze was much more commonly

The Indus Valley Civilization 14 used for these purposes than copper. It was and is a stronger metal than copper, better suited to their purposes, and the Harappans recognized that, (Bag, p. 1985, p. 79).
Figure 2 "Dancing Girl"

Gold has been found in the Indus region and experts believe it was the next metal that the Harappans utilized. Silver is not believed to have been located in this area, but is thought to have been an import from outside the subcontinent. The import business in silver must have been strong because Indus metallurgists often worked with silver. But these two metals, unlike copper and bronze, were not used for any other purpose than for ornamentation. The Indus people were believed to have worn a great deal of ornaments, though. Figurines found at Indus sites all "wear" necklaces, armbands and bangles, even the male figurines, (Marlow, 1967, [p. 603). The use of gold and silver was quite extensive and no doubt there were many metallurgists who specialized in gold or silver. Considering the extensive use of all four metals, it is reasonable to believe that metallurgists made up a significant percentage of the crafts worker population of Indus urban centers.

The Indus Valley Civilization 15 Textile workers were also included in the class of crafts workers. The Indus civilization was one of the first in the world to cultivate cotton and weave it into cloth (c. 3000 BCE). The Harappan textile workers wove cloth by hand by interlacing two or more sets of strands. There was no type of loom. Cotton thread was made by using terracotta spindles. Dye vats have also been found at some Indus sites and it has been determined that they were used to dye the cotton cloth red, (Bhattacharya, 1988, p. 11). Cotton cloth was also an important trade item. Sharp-edged tools were made by metallurgists, but also by stoneworkers. For example, a common household implement was a parallel-sided chert flake which served as a blade. Sculptors also used stone for statues. Three exquisite pieces have been found: a male torso, a female torso and the bust of a bearded "wise man," This last bust has been the subject of much debate among Indus experts. Most experts believe that this statue is a representation of an Indus priest-king or deity, (Figure 3).
Figure 3 "Wise Man"

The Indus Valley Civilization 16

Indus seal makers also worked in stone, creating seals that were miniature works of art. They worked mostly with steatite, occasionally with agate and chert and sometimes even with terracotta, faience and copper, (Bag, 1985, p. 74). Every seal is unique, but they do follow a general form. Most of the seals are square or rectangular, though there are some round seals e.g. the Persian Gulf seals. The typical Indus seal design is carved in a sunken pattern, so that the impression the seal makes appears in relief. Animals are usually depicted on the seals, both real and fantastical. They were carved on the seals with great skill and attention to detail. Seals have been found which feature an elephant, a rhinoceros, a tiger, an antelope and a crocodile. Bulls have also been found on the Indus seals. The bull, in particular, seems to have been a focal point of interest of the Indus people. Speculations about a link between a religious bull cult and the bull cult of the Minoans have been made, but "no direct link between their bull cult and that of the Minoans...has been established," (Cunningham and Reich, 2006, p. 173). Also creatures that are composites of many animals have been featured on several seals and one seal even shows an animal that appears to be a unicorn (Figure 4).
Figure 4 Unicorn Seal

The Indus Valley Civilization 17 Human figurines are only sometimes depicted on the seals but are usually much cruder renderings than the animal depictions. Sailors are depicted on a ship on some seals. One of the most elaborate Indus seals is the "Seal of the Seven Deities" (Figure 5), which has seven identical stick figures representing the deities. Three seals, including one nicknamed "The Lord of the Beasts" (Figure 6) appear to be a prototype of the later Hindu god Shiva. These seals show that there was an apparent continuity between the Indus age and the later Aryan age in Indian history. The Indus culture did have an influence on the development of later Indian cultures, (Wheeler, 1966, p.40).
Figure 5 Seal of the Seven Deities

Figure 6 "The Lord of the Beasts"

The Indus Valley Civilization 18

Most of the Indus seals also have writing on them, but the Indus script has not been deciphered as of yet. There is no equivalent of the Rosetta stone for the Indus valley language, (Moor and Eldredge, 1970, p.16), and the script is not at all similar to Egyptian or Sumerian. "The pictographs are as phenomenon that, within a short range of time and space, three great civilizations produced three utterly divergent systems of notation," (Wheeler, 1966, p. 40). Another impediment to deciphering this script is that there are no long Indus texts which scholars can work with. The Indus seals, along with some graffiti found on some clay pots, are the only examples of Indus writing that have been recognized in Indus script. This number of characters in a language rules out the possibility that this is either an alphabetic (one character-one letter), or a logographic language (one character-one word), (Fairservis, 1983, p.61). A logo-syllabic language is more complex than an alphabetic or logographic one, which makes deciphering it that much harder, (Bag, 1985, p.112). Some progress has been made, though. Indus experts have been able to analyze the graffiti on the clay pots, and have determined that the Indus script was read from right to left, (Bag, 1985, p.111). They were able to come this conclusion because the script on the pots was handwritten, not carved, and some of the characters that were written partially overlapped each other. Careful analysis of these overlapped areas revealed that the first character written on the pot was the rightmost one, (Bag, 1985, p.111). But the direction of the writing is the only characteristic of this language that Indus experts have been able to conclusively determine. These experts have been reduced to conjecture and educated guesses as to the translation of the script. The probable uses of the seals during

The Indus Valley Civilization 19 Indus times have provided some clues. Evidence suggests that the seals were a kind of marker, which could be stamped on certain objects. The impressions of one seal have been found on many clay pots, and Indus experts believe that this was the way potters or pot sellers branded their wares, (Bag, 1985, p 74). But the seals were not for trading purpose only. Experts speculate that people used them also as marks of social rank--they would identify the owner as the holder of a certain office or title, (Fairservis, 1983, p.66). The seals themselves also suggest that they were used as personalized markers--most of them have a perforated boss on the back, for handling and suspension, (Fairservis, 1983, p.59; Wheeler, 1966, p. 37). Based on this, it is reasonable to assume that the language on the seals refers to personal names, occupations, and family affiliations. This helps Indus script experts by allowing them to put the foreign writing into a specific context. The Indus script experts have also looked for clues in the modern languages of the Indian subcontinent. They believe that, based on archaeological evidence, the Harappan language cannot have completely died out--it was probably still spoken in some form after the civilization declined, and must have been transformed throughout the centuries into one of the languages or language groups of today, (Bag, 1985, p.115). Comparisons have been made between the pictographic Indus script and the Dravidian language group, spoken by the peoples of South India, and similarities have been found, (Fairservis, 1983, pp. 62-63). Many Indus script experts have tried to translate the Harappan language using a Dravidian language framework. "But the translations reached by this method are not always satisfactory"' (Bag, 1985, p.116). The Indus experts involved in this endeavor do believe, though, that they are using the correct approach. "The Dravidian solution is the most likely choice of many historical linguists, though other possibilities have not been

The Indus Valley Civilization 20 totally excluded," (Bag, 1985, p.119). The other possibilities are that the Harappan language was related to the Brahmi language (the script of the two languages is very similar), or to the Indo-European family of language, which are associated with the Aryans, (Bag, 1985, p. 113). The seal makers of the Indus valley civilization have left behind a legacy that will undoubtedly occupy the time and thoughts of many Indus scholars for a long time to come. The evidence left behind by the Indus traders and crafts-workers give the people of today tantalizing glimpses of a highly sophisticated urban civilization that flourished thousands of years ago. The urban centers are monuments to municipal and other governmental authority. The existence of a brisk Indus import and export business and a large and varied crafts industry are a testament to the prosperity and advanced nature of this civilization. However, none of the Indus urban centers would have existed, nor would there have been any traders or crafts workers if the Indus people had not been able to master the art of agriculture and food production, (Bag, 1985, pp.8-9). Because they did, not all people had to devote all of their time to these pursuits, and could become the crafts workers and merchants needed to develop an urban civilization. The Indus people came up with many innovations in food cultivation that helped them shift from a rural to an urban-based culture. The main crop that was cultivated was wheat, but many others were cultivated as well, such as field peas, dates, mustard seeds, sesamum, and possibly rice, (Wheeler, 1966, pp.63-64). No doubt the cultivation of a variety of crops created a better, more nutritious diet for the Indus people. Their diet was also greatly improved by the domestication of several animals, including, most importantly, the chicken. The domestication of this fowl was great advancement for the Indus people because it not

The Indus Valley Civilization 21 only enriched their diet, but greatly increased their food output. This step was also significant in the development of world civilization. The Indus people were the first ones to domesticate fowl for human consumption, and many cultures since have followed in their footsteps, (Wolpert, 1989, p.20). The Indus people also were able to develop a very complex irrigation-and-inundation system, which helped them greatly increase their grain supply. They were able to farm more land and raise crops on ground that would have been otherwise unarable because of this advance. Without this irrigation-and-inundation system, the Harappans would not have been capable of supporting a large surplus urban population, (Wolpert, 1989, p.20). There has also been much evidence that has been uncovered at the Indus ruins to provide insight into the type of society and culture the Indus people lived in. The theocratic nature of the Indus government was mentioned earlier, as were the religious rituals that the Harappans observed. The nature of the Harappan religion has been found by Indus experts to be fertility based - a combination of Mother Goddess and phallic worship, (Marlow, September 1967, p.605). Many crude clay figurines have been found at Indus sites which archaeologists have concluded are representations of the Indus Mother Goddess. A few stones have also been found at the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa sites that are in the shape of male and female genitalia, and Indus experts believe that they are religious artifact, (Bhattacharya, 1988, p.12). The prototype of the later Hindu God Shiva, which was found on three of the steatite seals, was also probably linked to this phallic worship. In the Hindu religion, Shiva is often represented by a phallic shaped idol, (Rai, 1992, p.22). Considering that the origins of Shiva were in the Harappan religion, and that the Harappans engaged in phallic worship, it seems probable that the

The Indus Valley Civilization 22 link between Shiva and a phallus also originated in the Harappan religion, (Rai, 1992, p. 22). The social structure of this society seems to have included a large middle class, which makes it very unlike the Sumerian and Egyptian societies, which consisted of a few rich and many poor, (Wheeler, 1966, p.21). The remains of the houses found in the Indus cities indicate this. The thickness of the foundations of the walls of most Indus dwellings indicates that there were many two and three story houses. There was also a working class, which lived in smaller cottages in both cities and in barracks near the granaries, (Moore and Eldredge, 1970, p.19). Of course, there was the elite as well, which included the college of priests, who lived at the citadel of the settlement, and some of the wealthiest families. There have been no ruins of palatial building found as of yet, though, in either the residential areas or at the citadels of any Indus site. Indus experts have concluded from this lack of evidence that there was no "superrich" class in Indus society that was many, many times wealthier than other Harappans. This is also one of the reasons why Indus experts believe that this society was ruled by a theocracy, and not by a monarchy or oligarchy. The houses that the Indus people lived in were of different sizes, but all were constructed according to the same basic floor plan. All houses had a square interior courtyard, around which the rooms were located. There were no windows facing the streets, and the main entrance of every house was located on the side of the residence. It could only be reached by walking down a narrow side lane that intersected the main street, (Moore and Eldredge, 1970, p.18). It seems that the Harappans were not very creative when it came to architecture. Nor could they be characterized as quick to change

The Indus Valley Civilization 23 -- the excavations at Mohenjo-daro have revealed a total of ten cities so far, one built right on the top of the other, (Wolpert, 1989, p.16). The houses of one level are built exactly as they were on the level underneath, and the ten cities are believed to have been built over centuries, (Wolpert, 1989, p. 16). Conservatism, utilitarianism, and practicalmindedness seem to have been the distinguishing characteristics of the people of this civilization. Of course, as one can imagine, in a culture such as this one, art was not a primary concern. There have been only four really noteworthy pieces of Indus art that have been found--the male and female stone torsos, the bronze "dancing girl", and the stone bust of the bearded wise man. There are some well-made animal figurines that have been found, but most of the other pieces of art are crude representations, and are poorly made. Of course, there are the magnificent Indus seals, each a miniature work of art, but Indus artisans were not just creating art for art's sake when they constructed these seals. They had practical purpose. In addition, no evidence has been found of any other kind of art, such as music or literature. The cemeteries of the Indus sites, which are the third main feature of an Indus settlement, have been excavated also and dozens of bodies have been exhumed. The funerary customs of the Harappans included the burial of a number of clay pots that contained various human belongings, along with the dead body. The body was always inhumed on its back, with the head facing north, (wheeler, 1966, p.35). No "royal tombs" have ever been located, but wealthier citizens were interred in mud-brick graves or brick chambers, (Wheeler, 1966, p.35). The Harappans usually buried their dead singly, but three double graves, each containing a male and a female skeleton, have been found at

The Indus Valley Civilization 24 the cemetery at Lothal. This is interesting because it might possibly be the earliest known instance of the archaic Indian custom of "sati", whereby a widow killed herself upon the death of her husband--the idea being that a wife should follow her husband in death as well as in life, (Wolpert, 1989, p.21). The existence of these double graves might indicate that this Indian custom, which was widely practiced for many centuries, and was last practiced in the nineteenth century, had its origins in Harappan culture. The decline of the Indus civilization occurred slowly, over centuries, and was attributed to several causes. One of the major factors in the decline was the geomorphologic changes in the flood plain of the Indus River, which probably took place towards the end of the mature phase of Harappan civilization, (Raikes, 1964, p.290). The changes were believed to have been caused be tectonic shifts in the earth's crust, most likely manifested as an earthquake, which led to an uplift of the flood plain of the Indus River. These changes in the flood plain resulted in the massive flooding of several of the larger Indus settlements, including Mohenjo-daro. Evidence supporting this theory is abundant. Raikes points out that the amount of silt that accumulated over the duration of the Indus civilization and during the following centuries at Mohenjo-daro is much too great. It could not have occurred through the normal accumulation that would have taken place every year, (Raikes, 1964, pp.288-289). Only a series of catastrophic floods could have caused that level of accumulation, and that scenario is highly unlikely, according to Raikes, who is hydrologist, (Raikes, 1964, pp. 288-289). Furthermore, along the banks of the Indus River, prehistoric beaches can be found, which indicate that at one time, the flood plain was lower than it is today, (Raikes, 1964, p.292). Also relevant is the fact that the lowest levels of Mohenjo-daro have not been able to be fully excavated because they

The Indus Valley Civilization 25 are almost perpetually flooded. This indicates that the Indus River does not run the exact same course today as it did in Harappan times, (Raikes, 1964, p.290). The resultant damage from an uplift of the Indus River flood plain would have been great enough to send this part of the empire into a decline. An uplift of this kind, especially if caused by an earthquake, would have caused massive flooding, destroying smaller settlements and seriously damaging larger ones, such as Mohenjo-daro. The geomorphologic changes in the flood plain would have been permanent, changing not only the water level of the areas adjacent to the River, but also shifting slightly the course of the river itself, (Raikes, 1964, p.294). These changes would not only have disrupted trade and communications between Indus settlements, it would also have destroyed the carefully balanced irrigationand-inundation system in the rural areas along the river, (Raikes, 1964, p. 294). This was especially catastrophic because of the nature of the soil in this area, "...even in a brief phase of neglect, the land, with its heavy salt-content, readily turns sour," (Wheeler, 1966, p.77). Even a slight disruption of the irrigation-and-inundation system would have caused much damage, which the combined earthquake and flood would undoubtedly have done. These changes were a major disaster for the Indus citizen who lived here, in the heart of the empire. They also negatively affected Indus citizens in other parts of the empire, because this vital part of it never really recovered from this catastrophe. Raikes also suggested that the later drying up of the Ghaggar River, which is located near Harappa, might have had a negative impact on Harappa and the settlements in this area of the empire, (Raikes, 1964, pp. 294-295). If it did, this blow to the other major Harappan center would most certainly have contributed to the decline of this civilization.

The Indus Valley Civilization 26 Another factor to consider in this discussion was the changing environmental conditions that the Harappans had to deal with. The landscape surrounding the great cities today is harsh and desert-like, with sparse vegetation, despite the proximity of the rivers. This, however, was not the case more than four thousand years ago, when the mature phase of the Harappan civilization was just beginning. Experts believe that, at the time, the landscape was lush and green, and, in place, it was marshy or jungle-like, (Wheeler, 1966, p.61). It was suitably fertile to support an urban culture. But over the course of centuries, the Indus settlements just wore out the landscape, (Wheeler, 1966, p.77). A tremendous amount of bricks were necessary to build just one Harappan settlement, and there were hundreds of them. Each site was also periodically rebuilt a number of bricks that the Harappans manufactured over the course of a few centuries all had to be baked. The baking of these bricks was done by using firewood. The Harappans must have cut down most of their forests and vegetation in order to manufacture these bricks, (Wheeler, 1966, p. 76). And what little wood they did not use to bake the bricks was probably used to build the fires and heat the kilns that they employed to manufacture the tremendous amount of ceramic pots that they created. Overgrazing of domesticated animals also could have contributed to the loss of vegetation, (Wheeler, 1966, pp. 76-77). The complete sapping of the wood resources of the region profoundly affected the landscape. Not only did it bare the land, but it reduced the transpiration of moisture, which resulted in a decreased amount of rainfall to the region, (Wheeler, 1966, p.76). Less rain, of course, would affect the Harappans' agricultural output. This had a great impact on the lives of the urban-dwelling Harappans, who depended on the agricultural surplus for food. Over the years, as the agricultural problems got worse, the lives of the Harappans

The Indus Valley Civilization 27 became harder and harder. "I have suggested that Mohenjo-daro was steadily wearing out its landscape; alternatively, Mohenjo-daro was being steadily worn out by its landscape", (Wheeler, 1966, p.77). This ecological crisis, combined with the catastrophic destruction caused by the tectonic shifts in the Indus River valley, touched off a period of decline from which the Harappan civilization was never able to recover. Most cities of the Harappan civilization continued to decline during the next few centuries. Many of the hallmarks of the Indus civilization began to be lost. International trade was becoming a thing of the past in the second millennium B.C.E. since it became more expensive to bring goods to market, and eventually profit margins disappeared, (Raikes, 1964, p.294). The characteristic gridiron pattern of the settlements began breaking down, and the drainage system was not maintained at most Indus sites. Apparently, the strong municipal authority was breaking down as well. Homes were also of shoddier construction. The homes of the uppermost level of Mohenjo-daro were not nearly as well made as the homes of lower levels. Pottery was also of poorer quality than in earlier times, (Wheeler, 1966, p.76). It is during this decline, at about the middle of the second millennium B.C.E. that the experts believe the Aryan invasion of the subcontinent occurred. The Aryans, a nomadic and less sophisticated people, invaded form the northwest and fought the indigenous population, according to the Rigveda, an early Aryan text. They had one great military advantage--the horse-drawn chariot. It is believed that they brought the first horses into the Indian subcontinent. The Rigveda goes on to describe how the Aryans attacked and conquered the walled cities of these non-Aryan aborigines. There is a great ongoing debate about whether the people the Aryans conquered were the Harappans or

The Indus Valley Civilization 28 not. There is evidence to indicate that they were. The only fortifications that have ever been found in that area are the massive brick structures which protected the Indus settlements. And, in Mohenjo-daro, the skeletal remains of dozens of people have been found that were not buried. Many of the remains belong to the highest (most recent) level of the city. With the other remains, it is not possible to assign them to a certain level of the city with absolute certainty, although, it is not unlikely that they do belong to the uppermost level, (Wheeler, 1966, p.80). It is apparent from the positioning of the bodies that these people meet a sudden and violent end. Axe or sword cuts have also been identified on some of the skulls, (Wheeler, 1966, p.80). It seems clear that Mohenjo-daro was attacked and invaded by some group of people. There is no conclusive evidence, though, to prove that the invaders were the Aryans--although circumstantial evidence does not seem to point in their direction. Based on this circumstantial evidence, some Indus experts believe that the Aryans might have been the final death below the Indus civilization, (Wheeler, 1966, p.78). However, remains like these have only been found at Mohenjo-daro, so the debate continues. One fact that is not in dispute is that the city of Mohenjo-Daro ceased to exist after this invasion and massacre. In the words of Wheeler, one of the foremost Indus experts, "I will merely add the comment that the end of Mohenjo-daro, if it was marked by a massacre as the evidence at present quite unquestionably indicates, was rooted in deeper causes of decline; which may well have included disastrous floods, salination of the soil, obstructed irrigation...," (Wheeler, 1966, p.83). As far as scholars have been able to tell, this statement is most likely true for many of the other Indus settlements as well.

The Indus Valley Civilization 29 Even though the mature Harappan civilization eventually degenerated in most areas of the Indus Empire, the Harappan people did not completely disappear. The descendants of the urban dwellers regressed back into the village life of their preHarappan ancestors. "Whatever the reason, the decline did not mean the complete destruction of the entire population of the area, but only a reduction from urban culture to the village level. There are many clear archaeological and ethnological proofs, which testify that traditions survived and continued in the succeeding heliolithic cultures," (Bag 1985, p.138). These late Harappans eventually fused cultures with the Aryans newcomers, (Bag, 1985, p. 138), which is one of the ways many facets of the Harappan culture became a part of modern-day Indian culture. In some parts of the Indus Empire, though, the mature Harappan civilization survived intact longer than the other Indus settlements, and did not decline. In the southernmost settlements, such as Lothal, Rojdi, and Rangpur, there is evidence which indicates that these Indus towns flourished for possibly centuries longer than the other Indus towns. "It is becoming increasingly clear that the more southerly towns of the Indus civilization endured for an appreciable time after the fall of Mohenjo-daro," (Wheeler, 1959, p.117). These mature phase Harappan holdovers were all located in the modern Indian state of Gujarat, in the area known Saurashtra (or Kathiyawad), and have been named the Saurashtrian Indus culture by Wheeler. Many typical features of the Indus civilization were found there after the fall of Mohenjo-daro--the steatite seals with the Indus script, the Indus drainage system, the neat gridiron layout of the towns. What sets them apart from the more central Indus sites is the Black and Red ware pottery that was found at these sites. It is normally associated with a later time period in Indian history,

The Indus Valley Civilization 30 (Wheeler, 1959, p. 116). The black and Red ware pottery has been found at the highest levels of the Saurashtrian Indus site. Indus experts speculate that these sites probably escaped the general decline of the Indus civilization because they were not located on Indus River, and thus, did not have to go through the destruction that Mohenjo-daro and many other settlements went through. Also, located in the southern part of the Empire, they did not have to deal with any invaders, Aryan or otherwise, from outside the subcontinent until much later than the northern Indus sites (or perhaps not at all on the battlefield), (Wheeler, 1966, p.88). These towns began to develop their own distinct traits, also. Eventually, the Saurashtrian Indus cultures were transformed into other highly developed successor cultures that were some of the antecedents of modern-day Indian culture. They never went through a period of decline. " Kathiyawad, the Indus culture was not obliterated, but was transmuted into successor cultures which adapted Indus ceramic forms," (Wheeler, 1959, p.117).

The Indus Valley Civilization 31

The Indus valley civilization ranks among the most ancient civilizations in human history. But though we know a great deal about ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and ancient China, we have only started learning about this mysterious civilization. The Harappans did wield great influence over the course of Indian and of human history. They were the first to domesticate and use the chicken for human consumption. The Harappan religion was a major force in shaping Hinduism, one of the world's predominant religions. Many modern-day Indian customs can be traced back to the Harappans--for example, Indian Hindus still lay out dead bodies on their backs, with the head facing north. It is also possible that the Harappans were the ones who invented the windmill and the game of chess, (Fairservis, 1983, p.58). The Harappan civilization occupies an important place in Ancient World history and in Indian history. What we know about these people is very minimal at this time, but, hopefully, as excavations of known Indus sites proceed and new Indus ruins are discovered, evidence will be found that will shed more light on these enigmatic people and their advanced civilization.

The Indus Valley Civilization 32 References  Bag, A. K. - Science and Civilization in India: Harappan Period (c. 3000 B.C. 1500 B.C.) (New Delhi: Navrang, 1985)

 Bhattacharya, N. N. - Ancient Indian History and Civilization: Trends and perspectives (Delhi: South Asia Publications, 1988)  Buchanan, Briggs. - "A Dated Seal Impression Connecting Babylonia and Ancient India", Archaeology, April 1967, pp. 104 - 107  Cunningham, Lawrence S. and Reich, John J. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities, 6th ed. (Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2006)  Dales, George F. - "New investigations at Mohenjo-daro," Archaeology, June 1965, pp. 145-150  Dales, George F. - "A Review of the Chronology of Afghanistan, Baluchistan & the Indus Valley," American Journal of Archaeology, October 1968, pp.305-306  Fairservis, Walter A. Jr. - "The Script of the Indus Valley Civilization," March 1983, pp. 58-66  Jarrige, Jean-Francois, and Meadow, Richard H. - "The Antecedents of Civilization in the Indus Valley," Scientific American, August 1980, pp.122-133  Kosambi, D. D. - Ancient India: A History of Its Culture and Civilization (New York: Pantheon Books, 1965)  Marlow, A. N. - "The Cities of the Indus, Part I " History Today, August 1967, pp. 519-524  Marlow, A. N.- "The Cities of the Indus, Part II" History Today, September 1967, pp. 602 - 609

The Indus Valley Civilization 33  Masson-Oursel, Paul, and Willman-Grabowska, Helena de, and Stern, Philippe -"Ancient India and Indian Civilization" (New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc. 1967)  Moore, Clark D., and Eldredge, David - India Yesterday and Today (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970)  Naidis, Mark. - India: A Short Introductory History (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1966)  Naqvi, Syed A. - "The Indus Valley Civilization--cradle of democracy?", The Inesco Courier, February 1993, pp. 48-49  Rai, Kauleshwar - Ancient India (Allahabad, India: Kitab Mahal, 1992)  Piggott, Stuart - Prehistoric India to 1000 B.C. (New York: Barnes and Nobel, Inc. 1950)  Raikes, Robert L., and Dyson, Robert H., Jr. - "The prehistoric Climate of Baluchistan and the Indus Valley," "American Anthropologist, April 1961, pp. 265-280  Raikes, Robert L. - "The End of the Ancient Cities of the Indus," American Anthropologist, April 1964, pp. 284-299  Wheeler, Sir Mortimer. - Early India and Pakistan (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1959)  Wheeler, Sir Mortimer - Civilizations of the Indus Valley and Beyond (New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1966)  Wolpert, Stanley - A New History of India, Third Edition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989)

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful