Today I’m going to be talking about a civilization that I only learned about a few months ago, the Indus River Valley Civilization. What caught my interest about this civilization right away was how old civilization in this area is and how long it lasted. Another thing I that caught my eye was how advanced this civilization became in its prime. Long story short, ancient India was just as impressive and mysterious as its modern iteration.
The Indus River Valley is an area located on the Northwestern border of India and Pakistan. Evidence of human activity in this area dates as far back as 7500 BCE. We don’t really start to see any permanent settlements showing up until about 4000 BCE, and cities began to emerge around 3000 BCE. By about 2600 BCE there are several towns and cities flourishing in the area. The peak of the Indus Valley Civilization lasted from around 2500 BCE to 2000 BCE.
We know the Indus Valley people were accomplished farmers. They were known to grow and trade wheat and barley as well as raise various livestock. They used boats to trade their goods along the rivers, and possibly sea, with neighboring areas. They built dams along rivers to help divert water away from cities during the flood season.
The main Indus Valley site that has been excavated is the city of Harappa. From the larger city sites like this, we were able to learn much about the great advancements of the Indus peoples. They were able to build brick and stone walls up to 15 meters tall. They had advanced water systems such as subterranean tunnel systems that were able to bring water into the cities. Many individual homes were found to have their own wells, bathrooms, and underground drainage systems for removing waste. They even used systems of gutters and drainage pipes to collect rain water into reservoirs. Not too shabby for 2500 BCE if you ask me.
Archaeologists initially discovered many children’s toys such as model cows, monkeys, and squirrels on their digs. Also, many of the discovered settlements were noted as not having protective outer walls. This led to a belief that this civilization lived largely in peace, but there is not much evidence to say whether they did or not. The Indus people had their own system of writing that scientists have, as of yet, not been able to decipher. They also used a system of standardized weights and measures to regulate trade in their economy. Overall the Indus people had several amenities and systems that fit right in with society today.
We’re not sure whether the cities in this area were all governed under one legal authority, or they were ruled more as independent city-states. Evidence shows that around the year 1800 BCE the Indus Valley Civilization started to go into decline. Archaeologists are uncertain exactly what caused this to occur. The most popular theories include natural disasters such as; a large flood in the area, a major river in the area drying up, or a major river’s course actually being diverted away from the civilization due to a massive earthquake.
Several hundred years later around the time of 1500 BCE a large scale migration of Aryan tribes started to move into the area. Over the next several decades the Aryan tribes would come to outnumber the waning Indus population. This eventually led to the Aryans becoming the dominant culture in the area. The Indus people lived on but ultimately assimilated into this new society.
This article is also available in MiniMag format.