Beads in the Ancient Indus Valley

I'm interested in the manufacture, sales and use of beads in the ancient Indus Valley, particularly during the mature Harappan Civilization.
Would beads have been manufactured predominantly by men or women at the time?
I'm referring primarily to Carnelian, Quartz and Stone beads, but I'd be happy to hear any information about any bead production at the time, or indeed broader jewellery production.

Were those beads sold in an ancient version of a jewellery store or would they have been sold on the streets?
Would the beads have been sold by men or women?
Were these sorts of beads and other jewellery worn mostly by women or would men have also worn them?
Were the beads mostly for jewellery or were they used as currency etc?

Early Indus Civilization and Its Trade Relations | India | History

Sumerian and Akkadian traders were active in the Gulf, there is no evidence that they ever reached farther south than the western coast of Magan. Harappan material, however, began to appear in Mesopotamia in the early days of the Indus civilization- Carnelian beads, for example, are known from some of the graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, dated between 2600 and 2450 BC. Initially such exotica may have reached the Sumerians indirectly either by trade through the Iranian plateau or via their trade with the people of Magan, with whom the Harappans were now in regular contact.

By the late twenty-fourth century, however, the Harappans were sailing through me Gulf right up to ports in southern Mesopotamia, for it was at this time that Sargon of Akkad boasted that ships from Dilmun, Magan, and Meluhha docked at the quays of his capital, Agade, which lay far up the Euphrates river.

Meluhha, it is now generally agreed, was the name by which the Indus civilization was known to the Mesopotamians- Meluhha was the most distant of the trio of foreign lands, and the imports from Meluhha mentioned in Sumerian and Akkadian texts, such as timbers, carnelian, and ivory, match the resources of the Harappan realms.

The Meluhhans were said to have had large boats, and indeed substantial, seaworthy craft would have been a prerequisite for trade over the distances involved. By the time of Sargon, therefore, if not before, the Indus people were plying the Gulf sea lanes and anchoring in Mesopotamian ports.

Harappans in Sumer and Akkad (Babylonia):

Harappan trade with Babylonia seems to have been established on a significant scale by Akkadian times. One Mesopotamian cylinder seal of this period identified its owner as a “Su-i-li-su, Meluhha interpreter.” Another text, probably of this period, recorded that a Meluhhan called Lu-Sunzida paid a certain Urur, son of Amar-Luku, 10 shekels of silver as compensation for a broken tooth.

It is probable that Harappan merchants were resident in Mesopotamia by this time, but one should not underestimate the difficulty of archaeologically identifying their presence- In a comparable situation in nineteenth-century BC Kanesh in Anatolia, the presence of a substantial Assyrian merchant quarter in the town was known only from the cuneiform tablets found in the merchants’ houses detailing their trading and other activities, while in other respects (architecture and artifacts) their remains were indistinguishable from those of their Anatolian neighbours.

Small objects that have been occasionally found, such as dice, frequently in a worn or broken condition, might have been the personal possessions of Indus merchants, as would be the Harappan seals that have been found.

The Akkadian levels in the city of Eshnunna yielded Harappan material, including a cylinder seal with a design of Harappan animals (an elephant, a rhino, and a gharial), camelian beads, and Harappan pottery. Possehl (1997) draws attention to a toilet of this period at Eshnunna, associated with Harappan-style drainage, suggestive of Harappan influence and probably of a Harappan presence in the city.

Mesopotamia’s Imports from the Indus:

Some indication of the range of materials that the Sumerians and Akkadians imported from Meluhha can be gleaned from Mesopotamian texts. These included various types of timber, stone, and metal, as well as ivory and animals.

Some of these were clearly of Indus origin others were not products of the Indus region itself but were materials that the Harappans imported and traded on to Mesopotamia. In addition, texts refer to some goods that the Mesopotamians imported from Dilmun and that were clearly not produced there many of these were originally from the Indus region.

Carnelian (red stone) was frequently mentioned in Mesopotamian texts, often as an import from Dilmun (which had no native carnelian), though in Gudea’s inscriptions it was said to come from Meluhha. Although it is also found in parts of Iran, carnelian must have come mainly from me Harappans, who mined and worked it in considerable quantities.

Their most distinctive carnelian products included exceptionally long beads and beads decorated with various so-called etched (actually bleached) designs, including eye patterns identical carnelian beads have been found at Mesopotamian sites such as Kish, Up, Nippur, Eshnunna, and even Assur in the north.

Sometimes the Sumerians engraved these beads with cuneiform inscriptions, such as two that the Akkadian King Shulgi dedicated to the goddess Ningal as booty from his war against Susa. The Sumerians also imported unworked pieces of carnelian that were used by their own artisans. For example, there was a carnelian-working industry at Girsu its products were small and rough compared with those imported from the Indus.

One of the most prized materials imported into Mesopotamia was lapis lazuli, referred to as a suitable material for adorning temples and known in Mesopotamia by the Uruk period. It was used for decorating precious objects, including the lyres and gaming boards placed as grave offerings in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, as well as being widely employed for small pieces of jewelry, such as beads and the heads of pins.

Plants and Plant Products:

Linguistic evidence suggests that sesame oil was among the Indus exports to Mesopotamia. It was known in Sumerian as ilu/ili and in Akkadian as ellu/ulu, terms that are strikingly similar to an early Dravidian name for sesame, el or ellu.

The plant from which the oil came, however, was known by an unrelated name and was under cultivation in Mesopotamia by around 2250 BC it may have been introduced from the Indus or from Africa, to which it was also indigenous, via the Levant.

Timbers of various sorts were valued imports to southern Mesopotamia, which lacked substantial trees for construction. “Highland mesu wood,” from which the Sumerians made boats, chariots, and furniture, was probably sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo), which grew in the Punjab and in other parts of the Indus Basin, as well as in Baluchistan. Another wood used for construction and furniture was called kusabku—sea wood.

This might have been mangrove but this identification would be problematic, since mangrove, which grows in the saline waters of the Indus delta and other Indian river deltas and on the Pakistani Makran coast, is not suitable for fine use, such as the throne inlaid with lapis lazuli mentioned in one Sumerian text.

However, teak, native to the hills of Gujurat, is much used for boatbuilding because it is water- resistant, and it may therefore be a good alternative identification of sea wood. Teak is a very fine timber that would have been highly suitable for making decorative furniture.

Both Magan and Meluhha are referred to in the Mesopotamian texts as sources of copper. The Sumerians obtained some copper directly from Oman throughout the third millennium, but during the latter part Meluhha and Dilmun also acted as intermediaries and Sumer had no direct contact with Oman after about 2000 BC.

It is curious that the Harappans, who were conducting expedition to Magan to obtain copper, presumably to meet a shortfall in the supply of more local (Aravalli and perhaps Baluchi) copper for their own needs, should also have been trading it on to the Sumerians who were themselves obtaining Magan copper.

It is possible that the Harappans, who probably traded directly with the copper miners inland, may have obtained copper at a rate sufficiently favourable to allow them to make a profit by selling it to the Sumerians, who had only indirect access to Magan copper via coastal settlements.

Animals and Animal Products:

Ivory from Indian elephants was used in great quantities by the Indus people. Curiously, although the Mesopotamians used ivory their surviving texts record Meluhha as the source only of ivory birds. A number of Indian animals were brought to Mesopotamia as gifts or exotic goods. These may have included water buffaloes, vividly depicted on a few Akkadian cylinder seals and mentioned in a few texts.

In one, they were among the exotic animals invoked to give a flavour of the cosmopolitan nature of the Akkadian capital, Agade- the goddess Inanna ensured that monkeys, mighty elephants, water buffalo, exotic animals, as well as thoroughbred dogs, lions, mountain ibexes, and alum sheep with long wool would jostle each other in the public squares (Electronic Corpus of Sumerian Literature, “The Cursing of Agade,” lines 21-24).

Transporting animals of the size and ferocity of water buffaloes to Mesopotamia would reinforce the suggestion that the Harappans must have possessed large ships. An Ur III text describes a red dog originally from Meluhha, probably a dhole (Cuon alpinus), which was given to King Ibbi-Sin as tribute from Marhasi (inland southwestern Iran). Figurines of animals were also among the goods brought to Mesopotamia by the Harappans. These included ivory birds and carnelian monkeys, according to the texts, and model monkeys in several materials, including gold, have been found.

Jewellery of the Indus Valley Civilisation unveils stories of the past

Some may dismiss jewellery as mere knick-knacks for women. But ornaments, like art, architecture, coins or pottery, are historical and cultural artefacts too, telling stories about a society and a civilisation, its moral codes, design ethic and even technological prowess.

Going by the jewellery they made and wore, the ancient people of the Indus Valley Civilisation were an extremely sophisticated lot with a finely-developed aesthetic sense, backed by intricate engineering skills. Take for instance the necklace excavated from Mohenjo-daro now on display at the newly re-opened jewellery gallery of the National Museum in Delhi.

The necklace, dating nearly 5,000 years ago, is lined with pendants of banded agate and jade beads suspended by a thick gold wire that passes through each bead. "These are very long beads, and when we examined them under the microscope, we found that they had been drilled perfectly to meet in the middle," says jewellery historian Usha Balakrishnan, who has curated the collection.

"India was the largest manufacturer and exporter of beads to the world at that time," she adds. The craftsmen of the Indus Valley used semi-precious material like carnelian, agate, turquoise, faience, steatite and feldspar, fashioning them into tubular or barrel shapes, decorating them with carvings, bands, dots and patterns, or setting them minutely with gold."They had the skill of tumbling beads, of cutting semi-precious hardstones, of shaping the beads. India was also home to the diamond and invented the diamond drill, which was then taught to the Romans," says Balakrishnan.

A brooch from Harappa, Bracelet from Mohenjo-daro, Gold earrings from Taxila & Gold bracelet, Sirkap

But it's not just technological prowess that one marvels at. What's also remarkable is the continuity of design. The sheet gold forehead ornament, for instance, is of a shape that you will find women still wearing in different parts of India. The Rajasthani borla is a close approximation, as is the ornament that Didarganj Yakshi, one of the finest examples of ancient Indian sculpture, wears prominently in the middle of her forehead.

Indus Valley ornaments are among the few specimens of jewellery that have survived in our times. Most others have either been recycled, melted for gold, or lost to the many invaders. This also explains the large gaps in the gallery collection &mdash the next specimens come from Sirkap, an Indo-Greek city near Taxila in present-day Pakistan, dating to about the first century AD.

In the 2,000 years from Mohenjo-daro to Sirkap, the craftsman had polished his skills immensely. So there's delicate filigree work on gold and embossing work. The microgranulations on the pendants of a pair of large earrings are so fine that each is about the size of a grain of sand.

Another interesting piece consists of two square amulets embossed with the image of the swastika &mdash "the earliest known representations of swastika in gold known to us," says Balakrishnan. But the swastika is not the only icon found among the Sirkap ornaments that we find repeated through the history of southeast Asia. There are also the lion and fish motifs, and the 'poorna ghat' or the vase of plenty that we even now place symbolically at the start of a puja.

Large parts of the history of ancient India, especially the Indus Valley Civilisation, are shrouded in obscurity. The jewellery of the era, by giving a sense of how women of the era adorned themselves and how society at the time was geared towards providing them those adornments, helps to lift the darkness a little.

Indus civilization

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Indus civilization, also called Indus valley civilization or Harappan civilization, the earliest known urban culture of the Indian subcontinent. The nuclear dates of the civilization appear to be about 2500–1700 bce , though the southern sites may have lasted later into the 2nd millennium bce .

What is the Indus civilization?

The Indus civilization was the earliest known urban culture of the Indian subcontinent—one of the world’s three earliest civilizations, along with Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.

Where did the Indus civilization begin?

The Indus civilization began in the Indus River valley, evolving from villages that used the Mesopotamian model of irrigated agriculture.

Where was the Harappan civilization located?

The Harappan civilization was located in the Indus River valley. Its two large cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, were located in present-day Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh provinces, respectively. Its extent reached as far south as the Gulf of Khambhat and as far east as the Yamuna (Jumna) River.

How did the Indus civilization end?

It remains unclear how the Indus civilization came to an end, and its decline was probably not uniform. By the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE, the city of Mohenjo-daro was already dying and was dealt a final blow by invaders from the north. The civilization’s southernmost parts, by contrast, may have continued until Iron Age civilization developed in India about 1000 BCE.

When did the Indus civilization develop?

The Indus civilization developed in the 3rd millennium BCE, making it one of the earliest of the world’s civilizations, and it lasted into the 2nd millennium BCE.

The civilization was first identified in 1921 at Harappa in the Punjab region and then in 1922 at Mohenjo-daro (Mohenjodaro), near the Indus River in the Sindh (Sind) region. Both sites are in present-day Pakistan, in Punjab and Sindh provinces, respectively. The ruins of Mohenjo-daro were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.

Subsequently, vestiges of the civilization were found as far apart as Sutkagen Dor in southwestern Balochistan province, Pakistan, near the shore of the Arabian Sea, about 300 miles (480 km) west of Karachi and at Ropar (or Rupar), in eastern Punjab state, northwestern India, at the foot of the Shimla Hills some 1,000 miles (1,600 km) northeast of Sutkagen Dor. Later exploration established its existence southward down the west coast of India as far as the Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay), 500 miles (800 km) southeast of Karachi, and as far east as the Yamuna (Jumna) River basin, 30 miles (50 km) north of Delhi. It is thus decidedly the most extensive of the world’s three earliest civilizations the other two are those of Mesopotamia and Egypt, both of which began somewhat before it.

The Indus civilization is known to have consisted of two large cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, and more than 100 towns and villages, often of relatively small size. The two cities were each perhaps originally about 1 mile (1.6 km) square in overall dimensions, and their outstanding magnitude suggests political centralization, either in two large states or in a single great empire with alternative capitals, a practice having analogies in Indian history. It is also possible that Harappa succeeded Mohenjo-daro, which is known to have been devastated more than once by exceptional floods. The southern region of the civilization, on the Kathiawar Peninsula and beyond, appears to be of later origin than the major Indus sites. The civilization was literate, and its script, with some 250 to 500 characters, has been partly and tentatively deciphered the language has been indefinitely identified as Dravidian.

The Indus civilization apparently evolved from the villages of neighbours or predecessors, using the Mesopotamian model of irrigated agriculture with sufficient skill to reap the advantages of the spacious and fertile Indus River valley while controlling the formidable annual flood that simultaneously fertilizes and destroys. Having obtained a secure foothold on the plain and mastered its more immediate problems, the new civilization, doubtless with a well-nourished and increasing population, would find expansion along the flanks of the great waterways an inevitable sequel. The civilization subsisted primarily by farming, supplemented by an appreciable but often elusive commerce. Wheat and six-row barley were grown field peas, mustard, sesame, and a few date stones have also been found, as well as some of the earliest known traces of cotton. Domesticated animals included dogs and cats, humped and shorthorn cattle, domestic fowl, and possibly pigs, camels, and buffalo. The Asian elephant probably was also domesticated, and its ivory tusks were freely used. Minerals, unavailable from the alluvial plain, were sometimes brought in from far afield. Gold was imported from southern India or Afghanistan, silver and copper from Afghanistan or northwestern India (present-day Rajasthan state), lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, turquoise from Iran (Persia), and a jadelike fuchsite from southern India.

Perhaps the best-known artifacts of the Indus civilization are a number of small seals, generally made of steatite (a form of talc), which are distinctive in kind and unique in quality, depicting a wide variety of animals, both real—such as elephants, tigers, rhinoceros, and antelopes—and fantastic, often composite creatures. Sometimes human forms are included. A few examples of Indus stone sculpture have also been found, usually small and representing humans or gods. There are great numbers of small terra-cotta figures of animals and humans.

How and when the civilization came to an end remains uncertain. In fact, no uniform ending need be postulated for a culture so widely distributed. But the end of Mohenjo-daro is known and was dramatic and sudden. Mohenjo-daro was attacked toward the middle of the 2nd millennium bce by raiders who swept over the city and then passed on, leaving the dead lying where they fell. Who the attackers were is matter for conjecture. The episode would appear to be consistent in time and place with the earlier invaders from the north (formerly called Aryans) into the Indus region as reflected in the older books of the Rigveda, in which the newcomers are represented as attacking the “walled cities” or “citadels” of the aboriginal peoples and the invaders’ war-god Indra as rending forts “as age consumes a garment.” However, one thing is clear: the city was already in an advanced stage of economic and social decline before it received the coup de grâce. Deep floods had more than once submerged large tracts of it. Houses had become increasingly shoddy in construction and showed signs of overcrowding. The final blow seems to have been sudden, but the city was already dying. As the evidence stands, the civilization was succeeded in the Indus valley by poverty-stricken cultures, deriving a little from a sub-Indus heritage but also drawing elements from the direction of Iran and the Caucasus—from the general direction, in fact, of the northern invasions. For many centuries urban civilization was dead in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent.

In the south, however, in Kathiawar and beyond, the situation appears to have been very different. There it would seem that there was a real cultural continuity between the late Indus phase and the Copper Age cultures that characterized central and western India between 1700 and the 1st millennium bce . Those cultures form a material bridge between the end of the Indus civilization proper and the developed Iron Age civilization that arose in India about 1000 bce .

A spiritual legacy

By Nayanjot Lahiri, Professor of History, University of Delhi

The Indus civilisation has a legacy which would resonate with any Indian who walks through the Harappan Gallery of the National Museum. There are so many objects there that you feel a complete affinity with.

For example you see a lot of shell bangles that are still worn by women, especially married women, in many parts of India. You see particular kinds of pictures inscribed on seals which show tree worship, and tree worship can be seen anywhere in India, including in urban Delhi. You can see figures in what appear to be in yogic postures, figures in meditation surrounded by animals, things you feel familiar with.

Similarly, in the Harappan gallery there is this extraordinary miniature terracotta phallic emblem which is actually set in what looks like to any Indian a Yoni. Somebody who is not politically correct as historians tend to be – just an ordinary Indian – he would tell you that this is a Shiva linga.

You think of the great bath of Mohenjodaro, you think of the extravagant use of water - there was a well for every 3/5 houses - then you think how finicky Indians are about their personal hygiene and how important water is to us. It doesn’t appear alien just because it belongs to the third millennium BC.

Now I am not trying to say that we can trace modern Hinduism from the Indus civilisation but there are things about the Indus civilisation which become a part of later Hinduism.

8a. Early Civilization in the Indus Valley

Aryans probably used the Khyber Pass to cross the mountains during their Indian invasion. Located in present day Pakistan, the pass is about 16 yards wide at its narrowest point.

The phrase "early civilizations" usually conjures up images of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and their pyramids, mummies, and golden tombs.

But in the 1920s, a huge discovery in South Asia proved that Egypt and Mesopotamia were not the only "early civilizations." In the vast Indus River plains (located in what is today Pakistan and western India), under layers of land and mounds of dirt, archaeologists discovered the remains of a 4,600 year-old city. A thriving, urban civilization had existed at the same time as Egyptian and Mesopotamian states &mdash in an area twice each of their sizes.

The people of this Indus Valley civilization did not build massive monuments like their contemporaries, nor did they bury riches among their dead in golden tombs. There were no mummies, no emperors, and no violent wars or bloody battles in their territory.

Remarkably, the lack of all these is what makes the Indus Valley civilization so exciting and unique. While others civilizations were devoting huge amounts of time and resources to the rich, the supernatural, and the dead, Indus Valley inhabitants were taking a practical approach to supporting the common, secular, living people. Sure, they believed in an afterlife and employed a system of social divisions. But they also believed resources were more valuable in circulation among the living than on display or buried underground.

Amazingly, the Indus Valley civilization appears to have been a peaceful one. Very few weapons have been found and no evidence of an army has been discovered.

Excavated human bones reveal no signs of violence, and building remains show no indication of battle. All evidence points to a preference for peace and success in achieving it.

So how did such a practical and peaceful civilization become so successful?

The Twin Cities

The ruins of two ancient cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (both in modern-day Pakistan), and the remnants of many other settlements, have revealed great clues to this mystery. Harappa was, in fact, such a rich discovery that the Indus Valley Civilization is also called the Harappan civilization.

The first artifact uncovered in Harappa was a unique stone seal carved with a unicorn and an inscription. Similar seals with different animal symbols and writings have since been found throughout the region. Although the writing has not yet been deciphered, the evidence suggests they belonged to the same language system. Apparently, Mesopotamia's cuneiform system had some competition in the race for the world's first script.

The discovery of the seals prompted archaeologists to dig further. Amazing urban architecture was soon uncovered across the valley and into the western plains. The findings clearly show that Harappan societies were well organized and very sanitary.

This copy of the Rig Veda was written after the Vedic Age. The Aryans had no form of writing at the time they invaded India. Instead, these religious scripts would have been memorized and passed down orally by Brahman priests.

For protection from seasonal floods and polluted waters, the settlements were built on giant platforms and elevated grounds. Upon these foundations, networks of streets were laid out in neat patterns of straight lines and right angles. The buildings along the roads were all constructed of bricks that were uniform in size.

The brick houses of all city dwellers were equipped with bathing areas supplied with water from neighborhood wells. Sophisticated drainage systems throughout the city carried dirty water and sewage outside of living spaces. Even the smallest houses on the edges of the towns were connected to the systems &mdash cleanliness was obviously of utmost importance.

The Fall of Harappan Culture

No doubt, these cities were engineering masterpieces of their time. The remains of their walls yield clues about the culture that thrived in the Indus Valley. Clay figurines of goddesses, for example, are proof that religion was important. Toys and games show that even in 3000 B.C.E., kids &mdash and maybe even adults &mdash liked to play. Pottery, textiles, and beads are evidence of skilled craftsmanship and thriving trade.

The swastika was a sacred symbol for the Aryans signifying prosperity. The word comes from the Sanskrit for "good fortune." Hitler borrowed the symbol, changed the angle and direction of the arms, and used it to represent the Nazis.

It was this intensive devotion to craftsmanship and trade that allowed the Harappan culture to spread widely and prosper greatly. Each time goods were traded or neighbors entered the gates of the cities to barter, Indus culture was spread.

Eventually, though, around 1900 B.C.E, this prosperity came to an end. The integrated cultural network collapsed, and the civilization became fragmented into smaller regional cultures. Trade, writing, and seals all but disappeared from the area.

Many believe that the decline of the Harappan civilization was a result of Aryan invasions from the north. This theory seems logical because the Aryans came to power in the Ganges Valley shortly after the Indus demise of the Indus Valley Civilization. Because there is little evidence of any type of invasion though, numerous historians claim that it was an environmental disaster that led to the civilization's demise. They argue that changing river patterns disrupted the farming and trading systems and eventually led to irreparable flooding.

Although the intricate details of the early Indus Valley culture might never be fully known, many pieces of the ancient puzzle have been discovered. The remains of the Indus Valley cities continue to be unearthed and interpreted today. With each new artifact, the history of early Indian civilization is strengthened and the legacy of this ingenious and diverse metropolis is made richer.

City of Mounds

Archaeologists first visited Mohenjo Daro in 1911. Several excavations occurred in the 1920s through 1931. Small probes took place in the 1930s, and subsequent digs occurred in 1950 and 1964.

The ancient city sits on elevated ground in the modern-day Larkana district of Sindh province in Pakistan.

During its heyday from about 2500 to 1900 B.C., the city was among the most important to the Indus civilization, Possehl says. It spread out over about 250 acres (100 hectares) on a series of mounds, and the Great Bath and an associated large building occupied the tallest mound.

According to University of Wisconsin, Madison, archaeologist Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, also a National Geographic grantee, the mounds grew organically over the centuries as people kept building platforms and walls for their houses.

"You have a high promontory on which people are living," he says.

With no evidence of kings or queens, Mohenjo Daro was likely governed as a city-state, perhaps by elected officials or elites from each of the mounds.

Beads in the Ancient Indus Valley - History

Named after Harappa the first site where the unique urban culture was discovered, a civilization existed that is dated between 2600 - 1900 BC.

There were earlier and later cultures known as Early Harappa and Late Harappa in the same region.

The Harappan phase characterised by the distinctive objects such as seals, beads, weights, stone blades and baked bricks is called Mature Harappan culture.

The transition from Early harappan to Mature harappan is best seen at Amri where at the beginning of the 3rd Millenium BC a distinctive culture complex to the south east of baluchistan appeared. Here people lived in stone houses or mud brick houses. They had constructed some kind of granary too. They painted such animal motifs such as humped bulls on thin pottery.

Extent of the Civilization

The civilization was spread over Baluchistan, Jammu, Sind, Punjab, North rajasthan and gujarat. The climate of these regions was moist and humid and not like the desert areas these have become today.

Although the Kalibangan Mohenjodaro axis is where the majority of the houses were present. The spread of the civilization is vast due to the wide trade network and the economic independence of each region.

Harappan civilization [since Harappa was the first place to be discovered] or Indus valley civilization [it is located on the banks of Indus River] is 5000 year old civilization. 80% of the settlements were on the banks of the now lost Saraswati River. The civilization was first discovered in 1920 while laying of the Lahore Multan railway line.

The capital cities: Harappa [banks of Ravi River] and Mohenjo-Daro [banks of Indus River].

Harappa was discovered by Dayaram Sahni and Mohenjo-Daro by Rakal das banerjee.

John Marshall the head of Archaeological survey of India played an important role.

Alexander Cunningham, the father of Indian archaeology was the first director of Archaeological survey of India.

Carbon dating uses C-14 isotope to find human bones age. Inventor is Libby.

Findings at the cities:

No cluster of settlements around Harappa.

A substantial section of the population was involved in activities other than food production.

The isolation of Harappa can be explained by the fact that it was located in the midst of some important trade routes which are still in use.

Harappas pre-eminent position was therefore linked to its ability to procure exotic items from faraway lands.

2. Mohenjo-Daro – Largest city of the civilization spread over 200 hectares.

Excavations show that people lived here for a very long time and went on building and rebuilding houses in the same location.

As a result the height of the remains of the buildings and debris is about 75 feet.

Ever since its occupation there are regular foods here which causes deposition of soil.

At the time of its decline, garbage was seen piled upon its streets, the drainage system broken down and new less impressive houses built even over the streets.

In Gujarat, settlements such as Rangapur, Surkotada and Lothal have been discovered.

Lothal located in the coastal flats of the Gulf of Cambay stood beside a tributary of sabarmati.

It was an important center for making objects out of stones, shells and metals.

This place seems to have been an outpost for sea trade with contemporary west Asian societies like Oman.

4. Kalibangan – elaborate town planning and urban features

Kalibangan located on the dried up bed of river Ghaggar was excavated in 1960 under the guidance of B K Thapar.

This area had the largest concentration of harappan settlement. It has yielded evidence of early harappan period.

· Water and drainage system
· Stadium

Located on khadir beyt in Rann of Kutchh was divided unlike other cities in three parts and each part was surrounded with massive stone walls with entrances through gateways.

There was also a large open area in the settlement where public ceremonies can be held.

Another important find is a sort of a public inscription comprising ten large sized signs of the Harappan scripts besides water reservoir.

It is located near the Makran coast which is close to the Pakistan Iran border.

At present, the settlement is landlocked and is located in dry inhospitable plains.

The towns had a citadel surrounded by a stone wall built for defence.

It probably to fill the need for a sea port for trading purpose.

System of Harappan civilisation:

  1. Progress in agriculture, industry, crafts and trade.
  2. System of grid shaped roads – streets and lanes cut at right angles, citadels – political authority was present, walled cities, burned bricks – absence of stone bricks.
  3. Houses with no windows Made of stone and wood, every house had a bathroom.
  4. Citadel areas for upper classes and non citadel areas for lower classes.
  5. Drains adjacent to the house covered with stone slabs or bricks.
  6. Seals, script [not yet been deciphered] written from right to left and left to right in alternate lines, standard weights and measures.
  7. Wheel based pottery, practice of burying the dead in north south direction.
  8. Cotton and woolen clothes.
  9. Male and female goddesses. Tree worship. Snake worship. No temples found, religion and castes did not exist in this civilization hence it was predominantly secular civilization.
  10. Vegetarian and non Vegetarian eaters.
  11. Cosmetics and weapons were used.
  12. Horses were not known but domesticated animals were cows, bulls, dogs, elephants.
  13. Iron was not known but bronze was used.
  14. Knowledge of tides and medicines.
  15. No currency so barter based exchange. Trade with other civilizations both internal and foreign.
  16. Agriculture based on wheat and barley.
  17. Fishing, hunting and bull fighting, music were common pass times.
  18. Bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures.
  19. Granaries show organized collection and distribution. Great bath show importance to ritualistic bathing, cleanliness.

Causes of decline:

Climate change led to change in river course.

By 1500 BC the civilization began to decline. The Sanskrit speaking Indo – Aryans entered the subcontinent in this period.

Major Characteristics

The most remarkable feature of the Harappan civilisation was its urbanisation. The harappan settlements which were small towns show a remarkable unity of conception and an advanced sense of planning and organization.

Each city was divided into a cidatel area where the essential institutions of civil and religious life were located and the lower residential area where the urban population lived.

In Mohenjodaro and harappa the citadel was surrounded by a brick wall. At kalibangan, both the citadel and the lower city are surrounded by a brick wall. Usually towns and cities are laid out in parallelogramic fashion. Bricks of both baked and unbaked category were used of standard size showing the presence of a large scale industry for the harappans.

Lower towns were divided into wards like a chess board by north south, east west roads and smaller lanes cutting each other at right angles as in a grid system.

Houses of varying sizes were an indication of economic groups in the settlement. The parallel rows of two rooms cottages unearthed at mohenjodaro and harappa were used by the poorer sections of the society. Houses were equipped with priate toilets and wells. The bathrooms were connected to a drains under sewers under the main street. The drainage system was one of the main impressive features of the harappan civilization. It is also an indicator of a presence of a municipal authority.

Wheat and barley were cultivated. Sesame and mustard were used for oil.

There are indications of the use of a wooden plough and toothed barrow.

Lothal people cultivated rice and harappans also grew cotton.

Though canal irrigation was absent but irrigation depended on the irregular flooding of the rivers of Punjab or Sind.

Sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo, pigs and elephants were domesticated. Camels were rare and horses were unknown.

Wild animals were hunted for food and game.

Trade routes were through land and sea both. Inland as well as foreign trade was carried out. This is proved by the occurrence of small terracotta boats and by a vast brick dock built at Lothal.

Barter system was the medium of exchange.

Well created system of weights and measures was present. The eights were in order of 2 as 1,2,4,8,16,32,64 till 160. The lengths were measured using strip of shells which were unshrinkable in heat and cold.

Harappan seals and small objects used by traders to stamp their goods were found in Mesopotamia.

People were involved in pottery making, bead making, seal making, spinning and weaving both cotton and wool. Terracotta toys were made, handicrafts were glazed and carved with beautiful motifs of animals and birds.

Metal working were highly skilled. They made fine jewellery in gold, bronze,copper, saws, chisels and knives.

Stone sculptures were rare and undeveloped.

Harappans knew mining, metal working, art of constructing well planned buildings.

they were adept at manufacturing gypsum cement which was used to join stones and even metals.

Scripts, Political organization and Religion :

The evidence of political organization isnt found and hence it cant be concluded which kind of political organization was followed in harappa.

However uniformity in tools, weapons, bricks, seals show a presence of a political authority.

There could have been a class of merchant ruling the civilization unlike in Egypt and Mesopotamia which were ruled by the priestly class.

This conclusion stems from the absence of temples in Harappa.

Script has too many symbols and is written from right to left and left to right in alternate lines.

The harappan worshipped both male and female deities. Worship of female sex organs, trees and bull is also seen at sites. The harappan belived in life after death as their dead were buried along with household items and jewellery. The head of the dead body was pointed north. The evidence of urn burial is also seen at sites.

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What do these things look like?

These seem to be toys and games found in the Indus Valley by archaeologists. Do you recognize any of them?

There certainly seem to be dice and chess. These are two legacies of the Indus Valley, things that were passed down from them to us today, thousands of years later!

Archaeologists have even found moving toys, where you pull a string and a part on the toy moves. One toy that was found was monkeys that could slide down ropes. Other toys with moving parts were toys with wheels that could be pulled as well as baby rattles. Their toys would have reflected their culture, with a lot to do with animals, especially farm animals.

Children probably had lots of chores, as many tasks were required just to survive. Children would have been taught to work alongside their parents and to learn the things they did — cooking, hunting, farming, and making things.

We have to guess about a lot when it comes to their civilization. We know from other ancient civilizations that it would have been typical for most children to not go to school. This makes sense when you think about children working alongside their parents. The children of bead-makers wouldn’t have needed the reading skills of a scribe. A scribe was a recorder, they wrote down records.

Where are some places the children would have played? It looks like they could play in the courtyards of the homes and on the roofs!


The Aryan Invasion Theory, though still cited and advanced by those with a racialist agenda, lost credence in the 1960s CE through the work, primarily, of the American archaeologist George F. Dales who reviewed Wheeler’s interpretations, visited the sites, and found no evidence to support it. The skeletons Wheeler had interpreted as dying a violent death in battle showed no such signs nor did the cities exhibit any damage associated with war.

Further, there was no evidence of any kind of mobilization of a great army of the north nor of any conquest c. 1900 BCE in India. The Persians – the only ethnicity self-identifying as Aryan – were themselves a minority on the Iranian Plateau between c. 1900 – c. 1500 BCE and in no position to mount an invasion of any kind. It was therefore suggested that the “Aryan Invasion” was actually most likely a migration of Indo-Iranians who merged peacefully with the indigenous people of India, intermarried, and were assimilated into the culture.

As excavations of the sites of the Indus Valley Civilization continue, more information will no doubt contribute to a better understanding of its history and development. Recognition of the culture’s vast accomplishments and high level of technology and sophistication has been increasingly coming to light and gaining greater attention. Scholar Jeffrey D. Long expresses the general sentiment, writing, “there is much fascination with this civilization because of its high level of technological advancement” (198). Already, the Indus Valley Civilization is referenced as one of the three greatest of antiquity alongside Egypt and Mesopotamia, and future excavations will almost surely elevate its standing even higher.

Watch the video: Ornaments, Trade and Urbanism of the Indus Tradition, 7000-1300 BCE (January 2022).