Indus Valley – Cradle of Civilisation

from 3300 - 1300 BCE

One of the three early cradles of civilization, was mainly located on northwest regions of South Asia today known as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northwest India.

Indus Valley Civilisation or the Harappan Civilisation has a population of around 5 million at its peak. Indus cities were known were urban planning, baked brick houses, drainage systems, water supply and clusters of large non-residential buildings.

The first sites of this civilization were excavated in the 1920s in the Punjab province of the British India. This excavation has been ongoing since then with major breakthroughs happening as recently as 1999. BY 2008, a total of 1022 cities and settlements have been found out of which 406 are in Pakistan and 616 sites are in India.

Harappan Map

Size and Extent
The Indus Valley Civilization encompassed much of Pakistan, western India and north eastern Afghanistan. The geogprahy of the civilization was very similar to the other civilizations in Egypt and Peru. Rich agricultural lands surrounded by highlands, desert and ocean. Indus valley sites were found mostly near rivers but sometimes near the sea coast also. It flourished along the basins of Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and the Indus river flowing across Pakistan.


An advanced and sophisticated urban culture is evident in the Indus Valley . They has the knowledge of urban planning, high priority was given to hygiene. It included the world’s first known urban sanitation systems. The houses within the city got their water from wells. A room was set aside for bathing with waste water directed to the covered drains. The sewerage and drainage systems found in the Indus cities were far more developed than the urban sites of Middle East and far more efficient than many areas of India and Pakistan today. The massive walls surrounding the city protected it from floods and military conflicts.

There is no immediate answer for a center of power or showing people in power in the civilization. But indications are there that complex decisions were taken and implemented. The evidence of these was that cities were planned in uniform and well planned grid pattern. It suggests that the people in authority did it. Also there is a uniformity in pottery, seals, weights, etc. which were excavated

They were among the first people to develop a system of weights and measurements. The civilization had a great accuracy in measuring length, mass and time. Harappans had evolved new techinques in metallurgy and produced copper, bronze, lead and tin. They had remarkable engineering skills in building docks. They also possessed the knowledge of proto-dentistry.

Art and Crafts
A number of figurines in gold, stone and terracotta were excavated at the site, which reveals presence of some form of dance. These figurines also included cows, bears, monkeys and dogs but there is not enough evidence to substantiate claims of religious or cultic significance, but it still raises questions as whether animals in images were religious symbols. They indulged in many crafts like shell working, ceramics, bead making which were used to make necklaces, bangles and all type of ornaments.

Trade and Transportation
This civilization may have been one of the first to have major advances in transport technology. Bullock carts as well as boats were used as the modes of transportation.
The economy seemed to dependent on trade, as evidence suggests that the similar pottery, seals, figurines and ornaments with Turkmenistan and Northern Iran. Several coastal settlements are proof of the Harappan trading outposts. Studies also show that the trade contacts extended till Crete and Egypt.

There is a strong evidence of local domestication of barley and zebu cattle. A zebu cattle is still very common in India. The crop also included a small percentage of wheat. Neolithic farming spread across the Near East to into North West India.

There is a possibility that the Indus people must have used an early form of Dravidian language. Today Dravidian language used mostly in southern India and some parts of Sri Lanka. Spread of language into the Indian subcontinent must have happened with the spread of farming.

Writing System
Indus symbols consisting  of seals, small tablets, ceramic pots and other materials have been found in excavation. These were generally characterized with a literate Indus society, but some claim these symbols were mostly used for economic transactions. There have been number of interpretations offered for the meaning of the seals but they are marked by ambiguity and subjectivity.


Due to scarcity of evidence, and the fact that Indus script remains undeciphered, the conclusions are speculative. An early work in this area identified prominent figures of the Indus religion, “Great Male God and Mother Goddess, symbolic representation of “linga” and “yoni” and use of baths and water in religious practices. Indus valley lacks any monumental palaces, which suggests that religious ceremonies, if any, may largely confined to homes, small temples or religious places or in open air.

© Copyright Chipak 2018

No comment