An Indus city was made of mud-brick buildings. It had walls and roads. Water was very important to Indus people, so the builders started by digging wells, and laying drains. Main streets were up to 10 metres wide, wide enough for carts to pass. Side streets were narrow, more like alleys.
Some cities had a citadel high on a mound. In the citadel were bigger buildings. Perhaps the city's rulers lived there. Most people lived and worked in the lower part of town. Most Indus people did not live in cities at all. Perhaps 9 out of 10 people were farmers and traders who lived in small villages.
An empire is a large country or group of countries, with different peoples ruled by a king or emperor. The Indus Valley civilisation was very large, but we do not know if it had kings. It seems that nothing much changed there for hundreds of years. New houses were built on top of old ones, and city street plans stayed the same. Life went on in the same way for generations. This might mean the Indus rulers controlled everything. Or it might just mean they were happy the way things were. What look like crowns were found at a site called Kunal. Did they belong to an Indus king? Perhaps each city had its own ruler.
An Indus city had strong walls, and in history, walls usually mean people want to keep out enemies. Think of a medieval castle. Like a castle, an Indus city had towers and gateways, but we do not know if there were soldiers. At the city gates city officials could check traders coming in and out. There were probably guards too, in case of trouble.
Other ancient civilisations, such as Egypt, had large armies. Kings fought battles with enemies. But the Indus people seem to have lived in peace for most of their history. Other ancient writings tell us about wars. Since we can't yet read the Indus writing, we just don't know.
Pictures on seals and other artifacts show what look like figures of gods. One looks like a Mother Goddess. People probably believed this goddess gave health and fertility to people, animals and plants.
Another seal picture shows a male god with horns and three faces. Around him are animals, including an elephant, tiger, rhino and buffalo. Plants, trees and animals were probably important to Indus people.
They did, but we can't understand the Indus script yet.
Writing was done using a pointed stick in soft clay, or with a sharp tool to scratch marks on stone or metal. It is likely that only a few people could read and write, like scribes. But perhaps traders could read enough to tell what was written on seals.
Most Indus Valley writing was probably to do with trade, government or religion.
People wrote the first line from right to left, the second line from left to right, and so on.
This bracelet is made from polished stones. Jewel-stones were brought from mines in the mountains by traders.
Indus Valley cities lived by trade. Farmers brought food into the cities. City workers made such things as pots, beads and cotton cloth. Traders brought the materials workers needed, and took away finished goods to trade in other cities. Trade goods included terracotta pots, beads, gold and silver, coloured gem stones such as turquoise and lapis lazuli, metals, flints (for making stone tools), seashells and pearls.
Minerals came from Iran and Afghanistan. Lead and copper came from India. Jade came from China and cedar tree wood was floated down the rivers from Kashmir and the Himalayas.
Sargon of Akkad (2334 to 2279 BC) was a king in Mesopotamia. This was one of the first ancient civilisations. We know Indus Valley traders went there, because Indus seals have been found in Mesopotamia.
Sargon's scribes kept written records of ships from other lands. So we learn that the Mesopotamians bought gold, copper and jewellery from 'Meluhha'. Was Meluhha the Mesopotamian name for the Indus civilisation? Or was it the Indus Valley people's own name for their land?
To reach Mesopotamia, Indus ships sailed west. They probably kept close to land. Bits of old Indus pottery found on beaches in Oman, in the Gulf, came from storage jars left behind by traders.
Charles Masson, the 19th-centry explorer, made this drawing of the Citadel at Kalat. The citadels in Ancient Indus cities may have looked like this, with high walls.
Most Indus Valley cities were made from mud bricks. First the brick-makers mixed soil, clay and water to make squishy mud. Next they squashed the mud into a wooden mould which was the shape of a brick. And then they turned out the mud-brick, like you would turn out a sand-castle.
Mud-bricks could dry in the hot sun. But it was better to put them inside a kiln. The fire in the kiln heated or 'fired' the bricks at a high temperature to make them very hard.
All Indus Valley bricks were the same ratio of 1 : 2 : 4 but came in different sizes. A common size was 7 cm high x 14 cm wide x 28 cm long. Bricks were laid in rows or 'courses', end to end and crossways, using wet mud as cement to stick the bricks together. Indus Valley walls were so strong that many have stood for over 4,000 years!
Indus Valley cities were neatly planned. They had straight roads making a grid pattern, dividing the city into blocks. Main streets were almost 10 metres wide, so two bullock carts could pass by each other. Drains were laid along the streets and wells were dug for water.
Mohenjo-Daro stood on a mound and had a wall with gateways to go in and out. Some city districts inside were raised on mounds too. On the highest mound was a citadel, which was perhaps where priests and rulers lived.
People built new houses on top of old ones, as the mud-bricks crumbled. So, over hundreds of years the cities grew higher. In time some new houses were seven metres above the level of the old houses at the bottom!
This picture shows what the Great Bath at Mohenjo-Daro may have been like. The artist has cut through the roof and walls to show hidden detail.
The Great Bath at Mohenjo-Daro. You can see the stairs leading down into the bath, and a ledge for people to stand on.
The Great Bath in the city of Mohenjo-Daro looks like a swimming pool. It was over 14 metres long and seven metres wide. It had a brick-paved courtyard and columns on three sides.
Water (probably from a well) filled the Bath to about 2.4 metres deep (a tall man is about 1.8 metres). Two sets of steps led down to the bottom. Water drained out through one corner into a drain. Tar and gypsum mortar between the bricks made sure no water leaked out.
Water was very important to the Indus Valley people. The Great Bath may have been a temple, where priests and rulers bathed in religious ceremonies.
Copper was a metal used by the Indus Valley people to make weapons, such as these. The metal blades were fitted onto wooden shafts.
Indus Valley people used some tools like the ones we use today - hammers, knives, needles, fish-hooks, axes, razors and saws. But many Indus tools were made of stone called flint. The metal Indus Valley people used most was copper. They made sharp copper tools. They mixed copper and tin to make bronze. Workers did different jobs. For example, some workers made stone querns (for grinding grain to make flour). Others spun and wove cotton into clothes and cotton bags. City workers made beads, fishing nets, pots, baskets...everything people needed. Children learned work- skills from their families.
The city of Mohenjo-Daro had drains with manholes for drain cleaners to climb into. This photo of the site shows a covered drain in the street leading to the Great Bath.
Indus Valley people had clean water and excellent drains - better than any other ancient civilisation. Most city homes had a bathroom and toilet, connected to the city drains. Some people had private wells, for clean water. Others went to public wells, to fetch water in jars or animal- skin bags.
Waste water flowed out of the house through pipes into the street-drains. 'Poo-cleaners' cleaned the drains and emptied the pits where sewage from toilets collected.
Connection Between The Indus Valley & Easter Island
Rongorongo is Oceania's only indigenous script. It is found in one location only - in the centre of the Pacific Ocean, over a thousand miles from any continent. We now know that the first migrations to Easter Island were deliberate, because they involved taking the people, plants and animals needed to establish sustainable colonies. The script was first identified in 1864, and any suggestions that it originated after European contact are rejected on the basis that at least two of the Rongorongo tablets are dated to before their arrival. So the big question remains...where did it come from?
In 1932, Wilhelm de Hevesy was the first academic to suggest a link between Rongorongo and the Indus script of the Indus Valley Civilization, claiming that as many as forty Rongorongo symbols had a correlating symbol in the script from Pakistan. For a while, the idea was entertained and debated until radiocarbon dating of the Indus Valley culture was placed between c. 3,300 - 1,900 BC (7), a finding which officially separated the two cultures by over 2000 years. Recent research however, has opened the debate again as the finding of Indus Valley DNA in Australian Aborigines suggest a contact between the two cultures c. 2000 BC.
'A recent study by Irina Pugach of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, and her colleagues, which has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has apparently resolved the matter. About 4,000 years before Europeans arrived, it seems that a group of adventurers (from the same time as the great Indus Valley Civilisation) chose to call the place home. Unlike their European successors, these earlier settlers were assimilated by the locals. And they brought with them both technological improvements and one of Australia’s most iconic animals, the Dingo'.
Perhaps no coincidence that studies in language evolution have shown that the navigation and settlement of the Pacific began at the same time and in the same region, continuing from west to east finally reaching Easter Island approximately c. 1,000 BC.
'The settlement of the Pacific proceeded in a series of expansion pulses and settlement pauses. The Austronesians arose in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. Before entering the Philippines, they paused for around a thousand years, and then spread rapidly across the 7,000 km from the Philippines to Polynesia in less than one thousand years. After settling Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, the Austronesians paused again for another thousand years, before finally spreading further into Polynesia eventually reaching as far as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island'.
The continued navigation and colonisation of the Pacific Islands from this time onwards offers the possibility of a continuation of the traditions of a 'sacred' script. Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Chinese logograms and Sumerian cuneiform are all testimony to the longevity of language. In ancient times, many scripts were considered sacred such as the Hebraic Torah still is today. These 'sacred' texts were transferred meticulously without deviation for millennia. This theory is supported by the discovery of repeated script on more than one of the few surviving Rongorongo tablets.
In addition, recent epigraphic research have revealed both further similarities between the two scripts but also, and more significantly, that similarities between groupings of characters can be found in both scripts. A finding which cannot be ignored or considered simply a further coincidence. We are left with a mystery which however unlikely, appears to show a thread of connection between the two cultures.
Two Indus Valley seals with corresponding Rapa Nui symbols to illustrate the similarity between characters.
Indus Valley people seem to have loved toys. They made many toys, such as toy carts and toy animals, from baked clay. Archaeologists have found model cows that waggle their heads on a string, and toy monkeys that could slide down ropes, and little squirrels. They have also discovered toy carts have a little roof, to keep off the rain and hot sun. Indus children may also have played with pull-along animals on wheels, as well as rattles and bird-whistles all made from terracotta.
One clay figure is of a boy holding a small disc, probably used in a throw-and-chase game.
Maze puzzles and dice games were enjoyed by children and adults.
People in the Indus Valley played board games like this, moving pieces beween squares.
Clay model of a cart, pulled by oxen or water buffalo. These figures, probably toys, show us what life-size working carts were like.
The Indus people may have been the first people to have used dice. Cube dice with six sides and spots have been found by archaeologists. The dice found in the Indus Valley are very similar to the ones we use today. They have spots (nowadays called pips) on each side numbering from 1 to six.
Dice have also been found in south-eastern Iran, from a place known as the Burnt City. The dice from this archaeological site date back to 5000 years ago. Dice may have come from Iran to the Indus Valley, or from the Indus Valley to Iran.
An early form of chess may have been played by the Indus people. Objects with grids on them and playing pieces have been found at sites in the Indus Valley. Could these have been early chess boards and pieces? Did the modern game of chess originate from these objects?
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