Indus valley civilization was a bronze age civilization located in south Asia, extending from today’s Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest part of India. It was one of three early civilizations of the old world, other two were Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and it was the largest of all three. Just like any other ancient civilization, it flourished in the basins of Indus river which was equivalent of Nile in ancient Egypt.
Although the Indus valley civilization existed for thousands of years but historians divide its age into three different time periods. Mature Harappan period dated from 2600-1900 BCE, while early Harappan and late Harappan periods lasted from 3300-2600 and 1900-1300 BCE respectively. Harappa was the most prominent city and it was also the first city discovered by archaeologists which is why Indus valley civilization is also known as Harappa civilization.
Before jumping into the list let’s clear one point, Indus valley people were literate and had a language, but for some reason we still can’t read their language so, everything we know about them is due to archaeology.
10. They Were Ahead Of Their Time
An extremely sophisticated and technically advanced culture of its time is evident throughout the Indus valley civilization. The cities that were built by them were absolutely amazing, particularly “Harappa” and “Mohenjo-Daro”. They had the dense cluster of multistory nonresidential buildings, homes that were constructed using uniformly sized baked bricks, some homes were in a special orientation to catch the wind and provide natural form of air conditioning, they even had their own version of flushing toilets.
The people of Indus valley civilization placed high priority on hygiene too. Harappa and mohenjo-daro had the world’s first sanitation system. Most homes were connected with the centralized drainage system to carry waste and water with the help of gravity, this kind of system was pinnacle for 18th century Europe. The ancient Indus sewage and drainage system that were used throughout the Indus region, were leagues ahead of any contemporary urban city of middle east. It is also believed that their drainage system was more efficient than those in many areas of today’s India and Pakistan.
There’s an apparent indication of some kind of government that were taking and implementing complex decisions. Construction of cities were done in highly uniform and a well planned grid pattern. They probably didn’t have monarchy system, but had different rulers for different cities.
9. The Great Bath of Indus Valley Civilization
One of the most captivating things about the Indus valley civilization is that the largest built structure by them wasn’t any temple or monumental building, which is commonly seen in contemporary civilizations like Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, instead it was a public bath in Mohanjo-Daro named The great bath.
The 11×7 meters bath had the depth of around 2.5m. It had two wide staircases from north and south that served as the entry to the pool. A hole was also found at the end of the bath, which might have been used to drain water into it. The floor and walls of pool was water tight due to finely fitted bricks and the mud laid with gypsum plaster. The sides and the floor of the pool were covered with a thick layer of waterproof tar.
Although the exact purpose of the great bath is still much debated. But most scholars believe that it was built for religious purposes, a kind of ritual which is still practiced today in India, but mostly among Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. Indus valley people may have believed that the water purify and renew the soul of bather.
8. They Had Highly Skilled Craftsmen
The Engineering skills of Indus valley people were remarkable, they developed some new techniques in metallurgy and produced elements like copper, bronze, lead and tin. Various sculptures, seals, vessels pottery, gold jewelry and anatomically detailed figures have been found in archaeological sites that are made out of various materials such as terracotta, bronze, gold and satellite. Those people had mastered many crafts including shell working, ceramics, agate and satellite bead making. They were also obsessed with ornaments like necklaces and bangles, which is evident in almost all phases of Harappan culture. Some of these crafts are still practiced in the subcontinent today. Their extraordinary craftsmanship is manifest with highly detailed dancing figures of females with cylindrical limbs that they made using terracotta. Some historians call these crafted figures almost impossible to be developed by the people of 3rd millennium BCE.
7. Astonishing Seals
It’s now widely accepted among historians that people from Indus valley civilization traded goods with Mesopotamia and probably Egypt. Perhaps they were even the first people to use wheel transport. But the most interesting things that they produced were “seals” that they used as identification markers on goods and clay tablets.
These seals contain a written language that we still can’t read and a lot of interesting designs of fantastical creatures, animals and people (probably gods). But the most famous and profound seal is the one called Pachupati seal. In this seal a three headed man with Buffalo horns on his middle head is sitting between a tiger and a bull. The exact meaning of the image isn’t well understood but it’s purported to be the earliest depiction of Hindu god “Shiva”, who’s also regarded as the “lord of animals”. The man is sitting with legs bent in a position that he seems to be doing medication, some believe that it could also be the earliest example of practicing Yoga.
6. They Pioneered Buttons And Stepwell
The inventions and discoveries made by Indus valley civilization doesn’t sound interesting today, but they were great achievements at their time. We’re talking about the age when the rate of innovations was much lower than the modern time period, while number of inventions and discoveries done by humans didn’t skyrocket until 15th century or perhaps industrial revolution.
People of Indus valley civilization actually developed and used Buttons around 2000 BCE for ornamental purposes. Buttons were made out of seashells, some of them were carved into various geometric shapes. They had holes pierced into them, so that they can be attached by using thread. Earliest known button is found in Mohenjo-daro which is believed to be about 5000 years old.
Earliest apparent evidence of stepwell is also found in Indus valley civilization’s archeological site Mohenjo-Daro. It probably had religious significance which also seems to explain why later Buddhist and Jains adapted stepwells into their structures, both the ritual of bathing and stepwell reached other parts of the world with Buddhism.
5. They Were First People To Build And Use Artificial Dockyard
Lothal was one of the most remarkable cities of Indus valley civilization, which was located in modern state of Gujarat. Lothal was a well planned town, engineers and planners engaged themselves to protect the town from consistent floods right from the beginning. They ended up dividing the town into 1-2 meters high blocks each serving more than 20 houses. Now, that clearly indicate that their engineers had the skills required to develop something modern as dockyard. Lothal engineers placed high priority on building a dockyard and a warehouse to serve the purposes of trade
In 1954, archaeologists discovered the world’s earliest known evidence of building and using an artificial dockyard in Lothal, which must have connected the city with the ancient course of Sabarmati river. The dock was build on the eastern flank of the town, and is regarded by archaeologists and historians as an engineering feat of highest order.
4. They Developed Most Precise Measurement Techniques of Its Time
The people of Indus valley civilization developed techniques and tools to measure the length, weight and time with impressively high accuracy. They were even among the first homo-sapiens to use uniform measures such as length, time and weight. A sharp study of objects found in Indus territories indicate a large scale variation. Their smallest division which is marked on an ivory found in Gujarat was approximately 1.7mm, that’s the smallest division ever recorded on any scale of bronze age. But historians speculate that the engineers may have used the decimal subdivisions with the accuracy of 0.005 of an inch. They even used decimal subdivisions for the measurement of mass as revealed by their hexahedron weights. Their weight chart was in the ratio of 5:2:1 with weights ranging from 0.05 to 500 units, with each unit weighting approximately 28 grams, similar to English imperial ounce or Greek uncia.
3. They Had World’s First Dentist
You may think of dentistry to be a quite modern medical practice, but it’s pretty old, in fact it’s probably more than 7000 years old. People of Indus valley civilization practiced it in early Harappan period.
In 2001, while archaeologists were studying remains of two men in Mehrgarh, Pakistan which was the part of Indus valley civilization, proposed that people from early Harappan period perhaps had the knowledge of proto-dentistry. Later in 2006, archaeologists finally confirmed that the earliest known evidence of drilling a living person teeth is found in Mehrgarh, from the age of Indus valley civilization.
Eleven drilled molar crowns from nine different adults were discovered in Neolithic graveyard in Mehrgarh, that are believed to be 7,500 to 9,000 years old.
2. Indus Valley civilization Was Almost Heaven
Indus valley civilization was located on a plain of Indus river which at its time was arguably the best place on earth to have a civilization. There was no lack of food for any person of the civilization. At its peak Indus valley may have had the population of 5 million people, that doesn’t sound much in 21st century but it was a great achievement 5000 years ago.
One of the best quality (or weakness) of Indus valley civilization is that they were peace loving people. Despite archaeologists finding more than 1050 sites and settlements there were very little or no sign of warfare, murder or use of weaponry. Their nonviolent nature is completely contrast to a contemporary civilization Ancient Egypt, whose leaders always had urge to conquer neighborhood lands and engage in war with others.
Indus valley civilization had extremely peaceful and progressive society, their cities wasn’t short of heaven on earth at their time. They had baked brick houses with drainage systems and even water supply, what else on earth you could ask five millenniums ago.
1. The Collapse Of Indus Valley Civilization Is Still A Mystery
Indus valley civilization was doing great in overall human development for hundreds of years, but around 1800 BCE signs of gradual decline began to occur. Probably 100 years later around 1700 BCE most people just abandoned the cities.
Although the exact cause of decline is not known but there are several theories to explain what could’ve happened. Some suggest that the peaceful nature of Indus Valley people and avoiding the development of weapons was a lousy military strategy, and people of an Indo-European tribe from central Asia called “Aryans” invaded the land.
Many historians also believe that the collapse of Indus valley civilization may have caused by a large scale drought and probably the decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Some believe that a massive earthquake completely changed the course of the river, hence lead to the lack of water for irrigation and thus migration. But deforestation, tuberculosis or floods could have also contributed to the decline.
However, people of Indus valley civilization didn’t disappear suddenly, many elements of this civilization can be found in later cultures that emerged centuries after their collapse. Recent archaeological excavations indicate that the decline of Indus valley civilization drove people more towards the east. After 1900 BCE the number of sites significantly increased in India. Probably their descendants are living peacefully in India and Pakistan mixed with dozens of other races.