The Indus Valley Civilisation extended from 3300 BCE to 1300 BC and achieved maturity in 2600-1900 BCE. The Indus Valley Civilisation is the most extensive of the three oldest civilisations. It extended from Afghanistan in the west, Pakistan, and right to the river Yamuna. Neither the Mesopotamian civilisation nor the Egyptian civilisation was this widely spread. The excavations of the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro led to the discovery of this vast civilisation. These cities are the major centres of the Indus Valley Civilisation and appeared in 2600 BCE along the banks of the river Indus. It is from this river that the civilisation has got its name.
Discovery of the Indus Valley Civilisation
In 1921, the remains of the city of Harappa were discovered in the Punjab province of present-day Pakistan, which was the first sign of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The city of Mohenjo Daro was discovered in 1922 in the Sindh province of Pakistan, and the civilisation was confirmed.
Society and political system
Even though there is a growing amount of archaeological finds from the civilisation’s sites, the social and political structure of the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation remains a matter of speculation. There have been discoveries to suggest that craft specialisation and the grouping of similar artisans existed in Mohenjo Daro. The houses in the cities differed in size and organisation of the towns. It suggests that there was some sort of social hierarchy in the society of these ancient people.
Craft and technology
Through the artefacts discovered in the excavations of the major sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the living conditions and the craftsmanship of the people can be estimated. By analysing the artwork, scientists can recreate the minds, culture, and the life of the inhabitants. These are some points in the craft of the Harappan civilisation:
- The stonework is quite rare and not as refined or as extensive as the work of the Mesopotamian civilisation in the same period.
- Almost all the stonework figures are made for religious purposes. These figures are of seated men, recumbent composite animals, and in rare cases, dancing figures.
- Some select few pieces are made with exceptional skill and are of the finest quality.
- There is a small but notable number of bronze cast figures. These include chariots, dancing girls, carts, and animals.
- The bronze cast pieces are exceptional and are evidence of a high degree of skill. These pieces are not many but are Indian made and not imported.
Language, Script, Weights, and Measures
The Harappan civilisation was extensive in reach and had multiple trading relations. To maintain a standard in trade deals and intra-state activities, they invented a well developed and standard language. However, due to a lack of written evidence of sufficient length, the language of this civilisation is undecipherable to date. However, there are some conclusions that researchers have reached. They are as follows:
- This language did not originate in the Indo-European family.
- It is not like the Sumerian, Hurrian, or Elamite either.
- It is most closely related to the present day Dravidian languages currently spoken in the southern part of India.
- There are about 2000 pieces of writing discovered and analysed to form an idea of the language of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
- It was written from right to left.
- There are about 500 symbols.
- Some of these symbols are individual, and some appear to be composites of more than one symbol.
Weights and measures
There were standardised weights and measures. These were divided into the lower denominations and the higher denominations. The lower denominations follow a binary system – 1,2,4,8,16,36,64 – and the higher denominations follow a decimal system – 160, 200, 320, 640, 1,600.
Trade and external contacts
Both archaeological and literary proofs show that the Indus Valley people had trade relations with Mesopotamia. For example, Indus seals have been discovered at Ur, and seals from the Persian Gulf have been found in Lothal.
There are several theories about the decline of the Indus Valley Civilisation. But the most credible approach is that the people left due to climate change and the geographical changes it brought to the river Indus. The decline began in about 1800 BCE. Archaeological evidence suggests that trade with Mesopotamia, standardised weights and measures, and even the advanced drainage system declined.