Indus Valley Civilization Part-2

Locating and Researching the Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization was initially discovered in 1921 at Harappa in the Punjab area, followed by Mohenjo-daro (Mohenjodaro) in the Sindh (Sind) region, close to the Indus River. Both locations are in the current Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab. In 1980, Mohenjo-remains daro’s were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Later, remnants of the civilization were discovered as far apart as Ropar (or Rupar), in eastern Punjab state, northwestern India, at the foot of the Shimla Hills, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) northeast of Sutkagen Dor. Sutkagen Dor is in southwest Balochistan province, Pakistan, close to the Arabian Sea, about 300 miles (480 km) west of Karachi. Later research confirmed its presence in India’s west coast, 500 miles (800 km) southeast of Karachi in the Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay), and 30 miles (50 km) east of Delhi in the Yamuna (Jumna) River basin. Despite the fact that Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations started considerably earlier than it, it is therefore unquestionably the most advanced of the three first civilizations in the globe.

In addition to the two big cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, the Indus civilization is known to have had more than 100 towns and villages, many of which were quite tiny. The two cities were each likely once around one mile (1.6 km) square in total, and their extraordinary size implies political centralization—either in two sizable states or in a single big empire with multiple capitals, a pattern with precedents in Indian history.

Another possibility is that Harappa replaced Mohenjo-daro, which is known to have experienced many devastating floods. According to estimates, Mohenjo-daro had a population of 35,000–41,250 and Harappa had a population of 23,500–35,000. The major Indus sites appear to be of earlier origin than the southern part of the civilization, which includes the Kathiawar Peninsula and beyond.

Using the Mesopotamian model of irrigated agriculture with sufficient skill, the Indus civilization appears to have developed from the villages of neighbours or forebears. They reaped the benefits of the expansive and fertile Indus River valley while managing the terrifying annual flood that simultaneously fertilises and destroys. After gaining a firm footing on the plain and solving its most pressing issues, the new civilization—likely with a well-fed and expanding population—would find development along the sides of the major waterways to be a natural next step.

The main source of income for the civilization was farming, which was complemented by a sizeable but illusive trade. Field peas, mustard, sesame, a few date stones, and some of the oldest known evidence of cotton have also been discovered. Wheat and six-row barley were also produced. Dogs, cats, shorthorn and humped cattle, domestic birds, and probably pigs, camels, and buffalo were among the domesticated animals. It is likely that the Asian elephant was also tamed and that its ivory tusks were widely used.

The Political system and Society of Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus “state’s” social and political systems are still a matter of speculation despite mounting archaeological evidence. There may have been some social stratification at Mohenjo-daro based on the apparent craft specialisation and regional craft groupings, as well as the stark differences in housing styles and sizes. With the provision of imported raw materials for use at internal manufacturing centres and the distribution of completed items throughout the area, trade was widespread and ostensibly well-regulated, possibly leading to the development of Harappan “colonies” in Mesopotamia and Badakhshan.

The amazing consistency of weights and measures across the Indus regions, along with the construction of ostensibly municipal structures like the large granaries, suggests a high level of governmental and administrative authority over a sizable region. Furthermore, the prevalence of inscriptions written in the Harappan script strongly suggests the adoption of a single common language. However, it is unavoidable that significantly less is known about these characteristics of the Indus civilisation than about contemporary Mesopotamia due to the lack of legible inscriptions.

Artifacts, technology, and work of hand in the Indus Valley Civilization

Numerous examples of creative activity have been found in Indus city excavations. Such discoveries are significant because they shed light on the thoughts, lifestyles, and religious convictions of their makers. The majority of stone sculpture is fairly primitive, and it is quite rare. The entire repertory is incomparable to the material produced in Mesopotamia at the same time. All of the figures appear to be meant to be worship icons.

Typical examples of these figures are from Harappa and include seated males, reclining composite animals, and—in rare cases—a standing naked man and a dancing figure. The highest-quality items are exquisite. A modest but noteworthy collection of cast-bronze figurines is also present, including both incomplete and full depictions of dancing females, miniature chariots, carts, and animals. The bronzes’ superior technical quality points to a well-developed art, yet there aren’t many specimens. They seem to be domestically produced rather than imported.

Terracotta figurines were the most often used form of art among the Harappans. Standing males, some sporting beards and horns, are also seen, but the bulk are of standing ladies, frequently laden with jewels. The majority of these images are widely accepted to represent deities (perhaps a Great Mother and a Great God), although several little figurines of moms with children or doing household chores are probably toys.

Numerous terra-cotta toys, animals, and carts are available, including head-nodding cows and piercing monkeys that can climb a string. The sole indication that there was a painting tradition is painted ceramics. Although a lot of the work is done with courage and subtlety, there isn’t much room for originality due to the limitations of the art.

Several tiny seals are among the Indus civilization’s most well-known relics. The seals were often carved intaglio or etched with a copper burin from steatite (soapstone) (cutting tool). In profile, the vast majority of seals depict a bull or “unicorn” without a hump, while few also depict the Indian humped bull, elephant, bison, rhinoceros, or tiger. Frequently, the animal is placed in front of a ceremonial item, which is sometimes called a manger, a standard, or even an incense burner.

Many of the seals have images with clear mythological or religious significance. However, the interpretation of these seals is sometimes quite difficult. The seals exhibit significantly better levels of craftsmanship and were unquestionably more extensively distributed than other works of art. They probably served as amulets in addition to more useful tools for product identification.

The two main metals utilised to make tools and implements were copper and bronze. These include flat, oblong axes, chisels, knives, spears, razors, tiny saws, and arrowheads (of a type that was apparently transported to nearby hunting cultures). These could all be constructed with basic casting, chiselling, and hammering techniques. Bronze is significantly rarer in the lower levels and is less prevalent than copper.

There have been discoveries of four primary types of metal: bronze with a tin alloy, frequently of up to 11 to 13 percent; refined copper with trace amounts of arsenic and antimony; an alloy of copper with 2 to 5 percent arsenic; and raw copper lumps in the form they left the smelting furnace. The Harappans’ best creations were the vessels they forged from hammered copper and bronze. It was known how to cast copper and bronze, and lost-wax techniques were used to create figures of people and animals. Although the total level of copper-bronze technology is not thought to have approached the level gained in Mesopotamia, these are also technically superb.

Gold, silver, and lead were some more metals utilised. The latter was occasionally used to create miniature vases and items like plumb bobs. Numerous vessels are recorded, mostly in shapes resembling copper and bronze examples. Silver is comparatively more prevalent than gold. Gold is extremely rare and was formerly only used for little items like beads, pendants, and brooches.

Faience (earthenware embellished with coloured glazes) production, which is used to make beads, amulets, sealings, and tiny vessels, is another specialty skill. Stoneworking is another specialty craft. There were many different materials used to make beads, but the carnelians stand out. They include lengthy barrel beads crafted with amazing craftsmanship and accuracy, as well as many types of engraved carnelian. Additionally, shell and ivory were worked and utilised to make bracelets, combs, inlays, beads, and other items.

The Indus cities’ pottery has all the hallmarks of mass manufacture. A sizeable percentage is applied to the wheel (probably the same kind of footwheel that is still found in the Indus region and to the west to this day, as distinguished from the Indian spun wheel common throughout the remaining parts of the subcontinent). The majority of the pottery is decent plain ware that has been well made and fired but is not very attractive. The pottery is decorated with black ornamentation and has a crimson slip on a sizable piece of it. Greater pots were likely assembled on a turntable.

The intricate geometric designs of the painted ceramics of Balochistan give place to simpler motifs, such intersecting circles or a scale pattern, and conventionalized vegetal patterns are frequent among the painted designs. It’s rather uncommon to see animals, fish, birds, and other intriguing sceneries. The offering stand, which is a shallow plate on a tall stand, is notable among the vessel types, as is the tall cylindrical vessel, which is perforated with tiny holes throughout its whole length and frequently has openings at the top and bottom. This later vessel’s purpose is still unknown.

The remnants of cotton textiles found at Mohenjo-daro are of extremely high importance, despite the fact that relatively little of them has remained. These offer the oldest proof of a crop and business that India has long been known for. The presence of dyers’ vats would appear to imply that the raw cotton must have been transported in bales to the cities where it was spun, weaved, and maybe coloured.

Stone played a significant part in Harappan material civilization, despite being entirely missing from the vast Indus alluvial plain. Scattered sources, particularly on the outskirts, were used as significant industry locations. As a result, the large number of stone blades discovered at Mohenjo-daro were likely hammered at Sukkur’s flint quarries from prepared cores.

Weights and measurements, languages, and scripts used in of the Indus Valley Civilization

It must have required highly developed communication techniques to maintain such a vast network of relationships as those implied by the size and regularity of the Harappan kingdom and the scope of trade links. Since the Harappan script has long resisted attempts to decipher it, the language is still a mystery. Many academics now believe that the language does not belong to the Indo-European family and is not related to Sumerian, Hurrian, or Elamite.

This conclusion is based on relatively recent analysis of the arrangement of the signs on the inscriptions. One isolated member of this family, the Brahui language, is spoken in western Pakistan, a place that is closer to the regions of Harappan civilization. If it is connected to any modern language family, it appears to be the Dravidian, now spoken throughout the southern half of the Indian peninsula. The 2,000 or so brief inscriptions that have been discovered, which range in size from single letters to inscriptions of roughly 20 characters, provide information on the script, which was written from right to left. More than 500 signs have been identified, many of which seem to be composites of two or more other signs.

Regular weights and measurement systems were also used by the Harappans. Early research on many of the well-preserved chert cuboid weights suggested that they used a binary system for the smaller weights (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64) and a decimal system for the larger weights (161, 200, 320, 640, 1,600, 3,200, 6,400, 8,000, and 12,800), with the unit of weight being calculated as 0.8565 gramme (0.0302 ounce).

 A more recent research, which took into account additional weights from the Lothal excavation’s tiny hamlet, shows a somewhat distinct system with weights from two series. The fundamental unit of measurement in both series was the decimal, and the principal series ratios were 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500(?). This shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to fully comprehend the weight system’s intricacy.

 In the excavations, a number of scales of measuring were discovered. Two examples include a bronze rod marked in lengths of 0.367 inch (0.93 cm), apparently half a digit of a “cubit” of 20.7 inch (52.6 cm), also widely used in western Asia and Egypt. The first example was a decimal scale of 1.32 inches (3.35 cm) rising probably to 13.2 inches (33.5 cm), apparently corresponding to the “foot” that was widespread in western Asia. These units were correctly used in practice, according to measurements taken from several of the constructions.

Additionally, it has been proposed that certain odd objects may have been precisely crafted optical squares that surveyors could offset correct angles with. This argument seems quite tenable given how accurate so much of the architectural work is.

Trade and outside relationships in Indus Valley Civilization

As was said above, the Indus civilization inhabited an area with a fairly homogeneous degree of material culture. This entails internal trade inside the state and a cohesive, integrated government. It might be challenging to establish proof of real exporting of goods, but the widespread use of chert blades crafted from the distinctive Sukkur stone and the size of the factory at the Sukkur site strongly point to commerce. Other objects, like the almost similar bronze carts found at Chanhu-daro and Harappa, which need a shared origin, also seem to imply commerce.

The variety of crafts and unique materials utilised must also have prompted the development of trade partnerships with peoples beyond the Harappan empire. Such commerce might be divided into two categories: first, the acquisition of products and raw materials from forest tribes or village populations in areas bordering the Indus culture area; and second, trading with Mesopotamian towns and empires. Even if it is difficult to identify the places from whence certain materials were sourced, there is abundant evidence of the former kind.

 Copper might have come from a number of sources, with Rajasthan being the primary one. Gold was very definitely imported from the group of villages that emerged around the goldfields of northern Karnataka. Lead could have originated in Rajasthan or another Indian state. Instead of coming straight from the Badakhshan mines, lapis lazuli and turquoise were likely imported from Iran. Among them were jade from Central Asia, alabaster from Iran, amethyst from Maharashtra, and fuchsite (a chromium-rich type of muscovite) from Karnataka. What the Harappans offered in return for these materials—possibly non-durable products like cotton textiles and definitely different kinds of beads—is not well-documented. They could have traded copper-based items or weaponry as well.

There are both literary and archaeological records of commerce with Mesopotamia. Evidently, bundles of goods were sealed with the Harappan seals as evidenced by clay seal imprints bearing cord or sack markings on the back. There is strong evidence of sea trade with other civilizations thanks to the presence of several Indus seals at Ur and other Mesopotamian cities as well as the discovery of a “Persian Gulf” type of seal at Lothal, which was previously only known from the Persian Gulf ports of Dilmun (modern-day Bahrain) and Faylakah. Silver, tin, woollen textiles, cereals, and other consumables were shipped to Mesopotamia in return for timber and rare woods, ivory, lapis lazuli, gold, and luxury items like carnelian beads, pearls, and shell and bone inlays, including the distinctively Indian kidney form.

It appears that Lothal imported copper ingots from a region called Magan (possibly in present-day Oman). Other likely trade goods include commodities unique to each region, including bitumen, which occurs naturally in Mesopotamia, and cotton fabrics and poultry, which are significant Indus region exports but not indigenous to Mesopotamia.

In addition to Harappan seals and archaeological discoveries, Meluhha (the old Akkadian name for the Indus area) is mentioned in Mesopotamian trade records, catalogues of items, and governmental inscriptions. Meluhhan commerce is mentioned in literature from the Akkadian, Ur III, and Isin-Larsa eras (i.e., around 2350 and 1794 bce), although texts and archaeological evidence suggest that the trade likely began in the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2600 bce).

Meluhhan ships went directly to Mesopotamian ports during the Akkadian Period. However, Dilmun became the hub for Meluhhan and Mesopotamian commerce during the Isin-Larsa Period. Trade between the two civilizations appears to have completely stopped by the time of the following Old Babylonian Period.

Trade and outside relationships in Indus Valley Civilization

It is still unclear how and when the civilization ended, and for a society that was so widespread, there is no need to assume a single conclusion. The period between around 2000 and 1750 bce is a credible estimate. The drop most likely happened over the course of multiple phases, maybe over a century or more.

Although the collapse of the urban system does not necessarily indicate a total breakdown in population lifestyle over the whole Indus basin, it does appear to have included the demise of whatever structure of social and political control had existed prior to it. The cities as a whole, along with many of their distinctively urban characteristics—such as the use of writing and seals, as well as a number of the specialised urban crafts—disappear after that date.

However, it is clear that Mohenjo-daro came to an abrupt and tragic conclusion. Around the middle of the second millennium bce, raiders raided Mohenjo-daro, sweeping through the city before leaving the dead lying where they had fallen. One can only guess who the assailants were. In the older books of the Rigveda, where the invaders are depicted as attacking the “walled cities” or “citadels” of the indigenous peoples and their war-god Indra as tearing forts “as age consumes a garment,” the episode would seem to be consistent in time and location with the earlier invaders from the north (believed to be Indo-European speakers) into the Indus region.

One thing is certain, though: before the coup de grace, the city had already entered a serious state of economic and social decay. Large portions of it have previously been flooded by heavy floods. The building of homes had gotten progressively worse, and they displayed overpopulation. Although the ultimate blow appeared to come out of nowhere, the city was already in trouble.

According to the available evidence, the Indus valley’s civilization was replaced by impoverished cultures that drew inspiration from sub-Indus heritage as well as Iran and the Caucasus—indeed, from the general direction of the northern invasions. In the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, urban civilization was extinct for many millennia.

The situation appears to have been extremely different in the south, namely in Kathiawar and surrounding areas. The Copper Age societies that dominated central and western India between 1700 and the first millennium bce appear to have had a substantial cultural continuity with the late Indus era. Between the end of the Indus civilization itself and the advanced Iron Age civilization that emerged in India around 1000 bce, those cultures serve as a tangible link.

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