Indus Valley Civilization

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The Indus valley/Harappan civilization is the earliest and oldest civilization of our country. The early years of this civilization range between 3,300-1,300 BCE, and the later years fall somewhere between 2,600-1,900 BCE. Meanwhile, there are speculations that the southern sites of the civilization may have lasted even later into the 2nd millennium BCE. The three earliest civilizations in the world comprise Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus civilization. The Indus valley civilization is regarded as the most extensive of the three, despite the fact that Mesopotamia and Egyptian civilizations started before it.

Ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization

The early discovery of the civilization was first made at Harappa in Punjab in 1921, hence giving it the name- Harappan civilization. Yet another site was identified at Mohenjodaro, near the Indus river in the Sindh region, a year later in 1922. The map of the Indus valley civilization which extends along the Indus river covers modern-day northeast Afghanistan, extends into Pakistan and northwest India.  

Harappa and Mohenjodaro were the two large cities of the civilization, they contained over 100 small towns and villages. Each of the two cities was roughly 1.6 square km in total size. Archaeologists believe that Harappa would have succeeded Mohenjodaro. The city of Mohenjodaro was believed to be demolished by floods more than once. While the population of Harappa was estimated to be around 23,500-35,000, Mohenjodaro had a population ranging between 35,000-41,250.

Early Excavations

In 1912, several Harappan seals were discovered by John Faithfull Fleet, he was an English civil servant who was employed with the Indian Civil Services. This led to an excavation campaign in 1921-22 under the supervision of Sir John Hubert Marshall, who was the then director-general of ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). The excavation helped in unearthing the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro by 1931. Sir Mortimer Wheeler led the further excavations. By 1999, over 1,056 cities and settlements of the Indus civilization were discovered.


Interestingly, Harappa, Mohenjodaro, and Rakhigrahi (recently excavated) were part of a civilization which had the world’s first known urban sanitation systems. It should be noted that the sewerage and drainage systems that were used throughout the Indus region were found to be more advanced than those found in other urban sites in the Middle East. The systems are said to be more efficient than the ones used in different areas of India and Pakistan in the modern days. Strikingly, every home had a system in place for drawing water from wells, wastewater moved to covered drains which were made on main streets. The elaborate drainage and trash collection systems is proof for the importance given to cleanliness during those days. There was evidence of public granaries and baths as well. The cities had citadels and large walls as well. The extensive sewerage systems, baked brick houses, and water supply systems are testimonials for the exceptional urban planning during those days.

Society and Politics

The divergence of house types and findings of localized groups in crafts hint at some sort of social stratification. The well-planned infrastructure and civic structures were the result of an organized political and administrative system.


Mesopotamian irrigation model of agriculture was followed by the people of the Indus valley civilization. They reaped rich benefits of the fertile Indus river valley. The intelligent people developed techniques to control/regulate the annual floods. They survived mainly on farming and trade. During excavations, archaeologists discovered barley, wheat, mustard and traces of cotton. The domesticated animals of those days included cattle, cats and domesticated fowl. Even ivory tusks had popped up while digging!

Craft, Technology and Artifacts

Among the excavated materials there were bronze sculptures of men and animals. The other sculptures which included standing females with jewelry and males with horns and beards were probably worshiped in Harappa. Bronze figures of small chariots, dancing girls, animals, and carts indicated the excellence of Harappan people in crafts, technology, and arts. Painting was also prevalent during those times. Processes like casting and hammering were used for making tools and vessels. Apart from copper and bronze, metals like gold, silver, lead, shell, and carnelians were used.          

Harappans were really skilled at seal carving. The seals played a crucial role in trading. There were different types of seals available in the market, some were decorated with animal figures (including tigers, elephants, and buffaloes). Over 600 Indus symbols were engraved on the seals. Some of the seals carried the Swastika symbol as well. 

Check Your Knowledge

      Answer) Indus Valley Civilization.

Answer) Harappan Civilization.

Answer) Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus valley civilizations.  

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