Known to be the bronze age civilization, Indus valley civilization used to extend from today’s Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest part of India. In the ancient times, it was considered to be one of the three civilizations of the world (the other two being Egypt and Mesopotamia).
The civilization lasted for thousands of years, and historians have divided this civilization into three different time periods: the mature Harappan period that lasted from 2600-1900 BCE, the early Harappan that lasted from 3300-2600 BCE, and late Harappan period that lasted from 1900-1300 BCE. Harappa was actually the first city that the archaeologists discovered, and thus the eras were named in their names.
Here are some fascinating facts about the Indus Valley civilization:
10. They were way ahead of their times
Indus valley civilization was extremely sophisticated and technically advanced culture. If you look at the cities that they built, they were amazing and mesmerizing, particularly if you look at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
They constructed their homes with baked bricks and built it in dense clusters. Some of the homes were built such that it was oriented to catch the wind and provide a natural form of air conditioning. During those days, they had flushing toilets (their own version of it) at their homes.
They were concerned about their hygiene, and perhaps they had the world’s first sanitation system. Moreover, their homes were connected to a centralized drainage system to carry waste and this kind of system based on gravity became the pinnacle for 18th century Europe. The sewage and drainage system back in the days are even way ahead of some of the contemporary urban cities in the middle east, and way more efficient than the drainage systems in most of South Asia, including India and Pakistan.
This shows that there were perhaps some government making complex decisions to govern the city in a well-planned manner. There was no monarchy system in place, but there were different rulers of different states.
9. The Great Bath
Unlike the most ancient Egypt and Mesopotamian culture where the biggest structures were monuments or temples, Indus valley civilization had a public bath in Mohenjo-Daro that was the largest in structure. It is even named “The Great Bath”.
It was 11m by 7m in an area with a depth of 2.5m. There were two wide staircases that served as an entrance to the pool. At the end of the bath, there is a hole from where the water drains. All of the walls were made out of finely fitted bricks and mud laid with gypsum plaster, and thus, the floors and walls were water-tight.
The exact purpose of the bath is still in debate. But many believe that it was used for rituals, like the ones that still prevalent among the Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. They might have the belief that water can purify and renew their souls.
8. Great Craftmanship skills
The engineering skills of Indus valley people is one of the best even considered to what we have today. They developed modern techniques in metallurgy back in the days, and produced elements like copper, bronze, tin, and lead. They even made different sculptures, potteries, gold jewelry, anatomically detailed figures, which have been discovered by archaeologists. Considering those discoveries, they had mastered shell working, ceramics, agate and satellite bead making. If you see the Harappan culture, you will also notice that they were into necklaces and bangles, the designs of which seem to be still in fashion in the modern era. Their methods of craftsmanship are still in practice today. The most intricate ones are those of dancing figures of females with cylindrical limbs made out of terracotta, as the historians claim that it should have been impossible to be made during the 3000 BCE.
7. They used seals as an identifier
Indus valley civilization even traded goods with Mesopotamia and Egypt back in those days, and historians consider that they might have even used wheel transport for trading. However, they produced seals used to identify goods and clay tablets.
They were engraved with words written in their own language, and we cannot still decode the language yet. The seals consist a lot of creatures, animals, people, or perhaps even gods. The most famous one amongst them is the Pashupati seal, where a three-headed man with Buffalo horn on his middle head sits between a tiger and a bull. Many believe that it is the earliest depiction of Lord Shiva, who is also regarded as the Lord of animals. And the person doing the meditation seems to be doing meditation or could be practicing Yoga.
6. They were the first to make buttons and step-well
If we think that they were the first to make buttons and step-wells, then it might not sound that interesting today. But if we consider their times, they were certain great inventions. The rate of innovation in those times were definitely way-way slower than what we have had since the industrial revolution.
They used buttons for ornaments, and they made it out of seashells. Some of the buttons were even carved into different geographic shapes, with a hole pierced in between so that they could attach a thread to it. The oldest button that was discovered in Mohenjo-Daro is said to be around 5000 years old.
There are pieces of evidence of stepwell too if we look at some sites in Mohenjo-Daro. It could have had religious values, and it could also explain why Buddhists and Jains have used step-wells in their structures that still stand in the modern times.
5. They were pioneers in building artificial dockyard
Currently located at the modern state of Gujarat, Lothal is one of the fascinating cities of the Indus valley civilization. It was a structured and well-planned town, considering how the structure protects the town from the consistent flood from the beginning.
The town is divided into 1-2 meters high blocks, with each block consisting of more than 20 houses. This indicates that the engineers back then were highly skilled and they were visionary enough to develop such intricate system in the town. It doesn’t look surprising to know that they could have built the artificial dockyard.
This artificial dock was discovered by archaeologists in 1954, the earliest they know of a building using artificial dockyard. The dock could have connected the city to Sabarmati river in the days as the dock was built on the eastern side of the town. The archaeologists even label this as the “engineering feat of highest order”.
4. They even developed precise measurement techniques
The scientists during those days were able to come up with devices to measure length, weight, and time in highly accurate terms. They were also one of the first to have used measurement schemes to measure objects and time. Some of the discoveries of their devices are stunning. The ivory with the smallest division found in Gujarat was 1.7mm, which is the smallest division ever in the bronze era. But the historians believe that there were even subdivisions that measured at an accuracy of 0.005 of an inch. Not just the length, their measurement of weight also went to several decimal figures. Their weight chart is in the ratio of 5:2:1 with weight ranging from 0.05 to 500 units, which is quite similar to the English imperial ounce.
3. The first dentist was born in the Indus valley civilization
You might be wondering that dentist should be a modern practice. But you’re wrong. It is in practice for more than 7000 years, and the people in Indus valley used it in the early Harappan period.
The archaeologists who were studying the remains of two men in Mehrgarh, Pakistan found that the people from the early Harappan period might have had the knowledge of proto-dentistry. This was done in 2001. Later in 2006, archaeologists found drilling in a person’s teeth in the remains found in Mehrgarh. They discovered 11 drilled molar crowns of nine different adults, the remains of which is dated to be between 7500 to 9000 years old.
2. The Indus Valley Civilization is comparable to heaven
The civilization is located on the plain of Indus river, which considering their time is the best place on earth to live. Supply of food was never going to dry down. There was a population of around 5 million people, and they were considered to be peace-loving people. The archaeologists never found any settlements with sings of warfare, murder or use of weaponry among more than 1050 sites they investigated. This is quite in contrast to the Ancient Egyptian civilization.
The society was peaceful and progressive. They had everything they could have asked for during those times. Isn’t that heaven considering their time?
1. Nobody knows how the Indus Valley Civilization collapsed
For thousands of years, the Indus Valley Civilization was on the rise. But when it came to around 1800 BCE, the gradual decline began, and after about a century, the people started to abandon cities.
The cause of the decline is still a mystery. Only theories have been purported. Some say that their lack of military strategies worked against them and Aryans from Indo-European tribe from central Asia invaded them. Some suggest that it could have been caused by a large-scale drought, and perhaps a decline thereafter with Egypt and Mesopotamia. Some think that there could have been a massive earthquake that changed the course of a river, and thus changing their course of living, forcing them to migrate elsewhere. Deforestation, tuberculosis, and floods are also thought to be some of the reasons for the cause of the decline.
But these people didn’t disappear just like that. There are signs that suggest their civilization engulfed with other civilizations, which is supported by the elements of their civilization in newer cultures. The archaeological excavations show that the decline could have shifted their demographics into the eastern sites. Many believe that their descendants are probably among the Indians and Pakistanis mixed with other races since they found the number of sites increasing more after 1900 BCE around India and Pakistan.
Are you fascinated by how the Indus valley civilization worked back in the days? Let us know which of the facts you found to be the most interesting one in the comments below.