Monday, October 22, 2007


The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the world's first great urban civilizations that flourished in the vast river plains of what are now Pakistan and western India

Urban Civilization of two cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa with grid-plans and alleys connecting to major streets and both public and private drainage.

These cities of the period 2500-1500 BC, approximately the same time as the early city-states of Egypt and Mesopotamia, are referred to as Harappan Culture or Indus Civilization.

Spreading over a vast geography from high mountains to coastal regions, large cities and smaller towns grew up along the major trade routes as administrative and ritual center.

Major excavations were begun at the larger sites, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, in the 1920s and numerous excavations at smaller sites have broadened our understanding of this unique culture.

Some characteristics:

Well planned cities and towns built on massive mud brick platforms

Grid plan of streets and lanes oriented north-south and east-west

No community temple but fire altars in private homes and neighborhood centers

Terra cota figurines of women

No evidence of military ability and/or weaponry

Two storied housing complete with bath facilities and a drainage system

Granaries and industrial complexes that suggest some level of state control of economic resources and production.

Seals made of stone and engraved with symbols and animal motifs. The most common animal on the seals is a mythical unicorn. Seals of animals with inscription used for administrative purposes.

No burial ground and no temple

The use of elaborate ornaments, sculpture and terra cotta figurines

Seals and writing, decorated pottery and new ritual objects are unifying cultural symbols of the Harappan phase.

Great Bath and Granary

A distinctive form of writing Undeciphered pictography of 400 signs

Some kind of centralized state, extensive town planning

Same period with the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations

Recent excavations and reexamination

  1. revealing another possible site for a temple. Tree temple
  2. revealing fire altars as public ritual sites, indicating precursors to Hinduism and Zoroastrianism.
  3. revealing personal icons, indicating precursors to personal devotion and meditation as in Hinduism and Buddhism
  4. a particular icon that indicates “priest king” and thus clan structure


  1. Why did this sophisticated civilization not spread beyond the Indus valley?
  2. Why did the cities undergo decline?