the Indus Valley Civilization and its inhabitants. The Indus Valley people were most likely Dravidians, who may have been pushed down into south India when the Aryans, with their more advanced military technology, commenced their migrations to India around 2,000 BCE.
|toys from Indus Vally|
Neither Harappa nor Mohenjodaro show any evidence of fire altars, and consequently one can reasonably conjecture that the various rituals around the fire which are so critical in Hinduism were introduced later by the Aryans. The Indus Valley people do not appear to have been in possession of the horse: there is no osteological evidence of horse remains in the Indian sub-continent before 2,000 BCE, when the Aryans first came to India, and on Harappan seals and terracotta figures, horses do not appear. Other than the archaeological ruins of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, these seals provide the most detailed clues about the character of the Indus Valley people. Bulls and elephants do appear on these seals, but the horned bull, most scholars are agreed, should not be taken to be congruent with Nandi, or Shiva’s bull. The horned bull appears in numerous Central Asian figures as well; it is also important to note that Shiva is not one of the gods invoked in the Rig Veda. The revered cow of the Hindus also does not appear on the seals. The women portrayed on the seals are shown with elaborate coiffures, sporting heavy jewelry, suggesting that the Indus Valley people were an urbane people with cultivated tastes and a refined aesthetic sensibility. A few thousand seals have been discovered in Indus Valley cities, showing some 400 pictographs: too few in number for the language to have been ideographic, and too many for the language to have been phonetic.
|Human Figure From Harappa|
|Terracotta Figurines From Indus Vally|
The Indus Valley civilization raises a great many, largely unresolved, questions. Why did this civilization, considering its sophistication, not spread beyond the Indus Valley? In general, the area where the Indus valley cities developed is arid, and one can surmise that urban development took place along a river that flew through a virtual desert. The Indus Valley people did not develop agriculture on any large scale, and consequently did not have to clear away a heavy growth of forest. Nor did they have the technology for that, since they were confined to using bronze or stone implements. They did not practice canal irrigation and did not have the heavy plough. Most significantly, under what circumstances did the Indus Valley cities undergo a decline? The first attacks on outlying villages by Aryans appear to have taken place around 2,000 BCE near Baluchistan, and of the major cities, at least Harappa was quite likely over-run by the Aryans. In the Rig Veda there is mention of a Vedic war god, Indra, destroying some forts and citadels, which could have included Harappa and some other Indus Valley cities. The conventional historical narrative speaks of a cataclysmic blow that struck the Indus Valley Civilization around 1,600 BCE, but that would not explain why settlements at a distance of several hundred miles from each other were all eradicated. The most compelling historical narrative still suggests that the demise and eventual disappearance of the Indus Valley Civilization, which owed something to internal decline, nonetheless was facilitated by the arrival in India of the Aryans.
The Indus Valley Civilization, also known as Harappan culture, is among the world’s earliest civilizations, contemporary to the Bronze Age civilizations of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. It peaked around 2500 BCE in the western part of South Asia, declined during the mid-2nd millennium BCE and was forgotten until its rediscovery in the 1920s by R.D. Banerjee.
Geographically, it was spread over an area of some 1,260,000 km, comprising the whole of modern day Pakistan and parts of modern-day India and Afghanistan. Thus there is an Indus Valley site on the Oxus river at Shortughai in northern Afghanistan (Kenoyer 1998:96) and the Indus Valley site Alamgirpur at the Hindon river is located only 28 km from Delhi. At its peak, the Indus Civilization may have had a population of well over five million.
The Indus civilization is still poorly understood. Its very existence was forgotten until the 20th century. Its writing system remains undeciphered. Among the Indus civilization’s mysteries are fundamental questions, including its means of subsistence and the causes for its sudden disappearance beginning around 1900 BCE. We do not know what language the people spoke. We do not know what they called themselves. All of these facts stand in stark contrast to what is known about its contemporaries, Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.
The native name of the Indus civilization may be preserved in the Sumerian Me-lah-ha, which Asko Parpola, editor of the Indus script corpus, identifies with the Dravidian Met-akam “high abode/country”. He further suggests that the Sanskrit word mleccha for “foreigner, barbarian, non-Aryan” may be derived from that name.
To date, over 1,052 cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the general region of the Hakra-Ghaggar river and its tributaries. Among the settlements were the major urban centers of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as Lothal, Dholavira, Ganweriwala, Kalibanga, and Rakhigarhi.
Additionally, there is some disputed evidence indicative of another large river, now long dried up, running parallel and to the east of the Indus. The dried-up river beds overlap with the Hakra channel in Pakistan, and the seasonal Ghaggar river in India. Over 500 ancient sites belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization have been discovered along the Hakra-Ghaggar river and its tributaries (S.P. Gupta 1995: 183).
In contrast to this, only 90 to 96 of the over 800 known Indus Valley sites have been discovered on the Indus and its tributaries. A section of scholars claim that this was a major river during the third and fourth millennia BCE, and propose that it may have been the Sarasvati River of the Rig Veda. Some of those who accept this hypothesis advocate designating the Indus Valley culture the “Sarasvati-Sindhu Civilization”, Sindhu being the ancient name of the Indus River. Most archeologists dispute this view, arguing that the old and dry river died out during the mesolithic age at the latest, and was reduced to a seasonal stream long before the Vedic period.
The Indus civilization was predated by the first farming cultures in south Asia, which emerged in the hills of what is now called Balochistan, to the west of the Indus Valley. The best-known site of this culture is Mehrgarh, established around 6500 BCE. These early farmers domesticated wheat and a variety of animals, including cattle. Pottery was in use by around 5500 BCE. The Indus civilization grew out of this culture’s technological base, as well as its geographic expansion into the alluvial plains of what are now the provinces of Sindh and Punjab in contemporary Pakistan and Northern India.
By 4000 BCE, a distinctive, regional culture, called pre-Harappan, had emerged in this area. (It is called pre-Harappan because remains of this widespread culture are found in the early strata of Indus civilization cities.) Trade networks linked this culture with related regional cultures and distant sources of raw materials, including lapis lazuli and other materials for bead-making. Villagers had, by this time, domesticated numerous crops, including peas, sesame seeds, dates, and cotton, as well as a wide range of domestic animals, including the water buffalo, an animal that remains essential to intensive agricultural production throughout Asia today.
Archaeology of Humankind
From Website and Books by Mortimer Wheeler,