Deccan and South India
Age of small kingdoms
know very little about this civilization, but what we know is
fascinating! Over 4,000 years ago, in the Indus Valley, people built
huge, planned cities, with straight streets, and brick homes with
private baths! Kids played with toys and women wore lipstick!
of this knowledge comes from the remains of the cities of
Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Other ancient cities from the same
period have also been excavated. Collectively, this civilization is
referred to as the Indus Valley Civilization (sometimes, the Harappan
civilization). This civilization existed from about 3000-2,500 BC to
about 1500 BC, which means it existed at about the same time as the
Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations.
was life like, over 4,000 years ago, in Harappa and in Mohenjo-Daro, two
busy cities of about 35,000 people each?
were one or two stories high made of baked brick, with flat roofs, and
were just about identical. Each was built around a courtyard, with
windows overlooking the courtyard.
outside walls had no windows. Each home had its own private drinking
well and its own private bathroom. Clay pipes led from the bathrooms to
sewers located under the streets. These sewers drained into nearly
rivers and streams. This was a very advanced civilization.
and women dressed in colorful robes. Women wore jewelry of gold and
precious stone, and even wore lipstick!
the treasures found was a statue of women wearing a bracelet. (Bracelets
with similar designs are worn today in India.)
beautiful small bronze statue of a dancer was found, which tells us that
they enjoyed dance and had great skill working with metals. In the
ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro, scientists have found the remains of a
large central pool, with steps leading down at both ends.
could have been a public swimming pool, or perhaps have been used for
religious ceremonies. Around this large central pool were smaller rooms
that might have dressing rooms, and smaller pools that might have been
Dinner might have been warm tasty wheat bread served with barley or
rice. It would appear they were very good farmers. They grew barley,
peas, melons, wheat, and dates. Farms raised cotton and kept herds of
sheep, pigs, zebus (a kind of cow), and water buffalo.
were caught in the river with fishhooks! Each town had a large
central storage building for grain. Crops were grown, and the harvest
stored centrally, for all in the town to enjoy.
of the toys found were small carts, whistles shaped like birds, and toy
monkeys, which could slide down a string!
ancient civilization must have had marvelous craftsmen, skilled in
pottery, weaving, and metalworking. The pottery that has been found is
of very high quality, with unusually beautiful designs. Several small
figures of animals, such as monkeys, have been found. These small
figures could be objects of art or toys.
are also small statues of what they think are female gods. So far,
scientists have found no large statues. They have found bowls made of
bronze and silver, and many beads and ornaments. The metals used to make
these things are not found in the Indus Valley. So, either the people
who lived in this ancient civilization had to import all of these items
from some other place, or more probably, had to import the metals they
used to make these beautiful things from somewhere else.
The people used camels, oxen and elephants to travel over land. They had
carts with wooden wheels. They had ships, with one mast, probably used
to sail around the Arabian Sea.
with a pictographic script, which has not as yet been deciphered, were
found at the Indus Valley sites. Similar seals were found in
Mesopotamia, which seems to indicate possible trade between these two
Riddle of the Indus:
What does it take to build a city with straight streets and
well-designed sewers? It takes smart engineers and a lot of planning!
These well-organized cities suggest a well-organized government and
probably a well-developed social life.
is amazing is that it appears the Harappan cities did not develop
slowly, which suggests that whoever built these cities learned to do so
in another place. As the Indus flooded, cities were rebuilt on top of
each other. Archaeologists have discovered several different cities, one
built over the other, each built a little less skillfully. The most
skillful was on bottom. It would appear that builders grew less able or
less interested in perfection over time. Still, each city is a marvel,
and each greatly advanced for its time.
language of Indus valley has not been deciphered yet. Scholars have
quite a few mysteries to solve about the ancient Indus civilization.
For one thing, the people who lived in these marvelous cities
disappeared around 1500 BC. Perhaps they ran out of wood to hold back
flooding, or perhaps their soil gave out and no longer would grow crops.
No one knows what happened these people, or where they went. Historians
are very curious. It will be interesting to see what archaeologists
"dig up" next!
on the Indus Valley
(spring, 1998): Thanks
to modern technology and international rivalry, nearly 1,400 Indus sites
(towns!) have now been discovered. That is a very big civilization;
large enough to be called an empire, only there is no evidence that
these people were governed by emperors who lived in palaces or large
estates. Rather, the opposite has been discovered. Some homes are a bit
larger than others, but that might be due to a larger family unit.
have discovered a lot about this culture. Their towns were laid out in
grids everywhere (straight streets, well built homes!) These people were
incredible builders! Scientists have found what they think are giant
reservoirs for fresh water. They have also found that even the smallest
house at the edge of each town was linked to that town's central
scientists cannot yet read the language, they are beginning to believe
these people had a common language! That's incredible! As well,
scientists have found artifacts at different sites (towns) with the same
or similar picture of a unicorn on them. India Today , an
Indian magazine, suggested humorously that perhaps it was a logo
- like Pepsi and Coke, only this one was Unicorn!
next? Scientists remain very curious about these people, who lived about
the same time in history as the ancient Mesopotamians and the ancient
Egyptians. Did these ancient civilizations know each other in ancient
times? As scientists continue to unravel the riddle of the Indus, we may
find we will have to rewrite history! Was it the ancient Mesopotamians
who first invented the sailboat and the wheel, or was it perhaps the
people in the Indus Valley? Where did these people come from, and where
did they go? It's a fascinating riddle.
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