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The Indus Valley civilization, also known as the Indus civilization, belonged to the Bronze Age civilization.
This civilization covered the northwestern regions of South Asia from 3300-1300 BC. The Indus civilization was one of the three ancient civilizations of East and South Asia besides ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The Indus Valley civilization flourished in the basins of the Indus River as its site spread from today's Afghanistan, through Pakistan, and into the western and northwestern parts of modern-day India. The name of this civilization was given after the Indus River as the first sites were excavated from this area. This civilization is also known as the Harappan civilization. The name was given after the excavation of the first site during the 20th century. The discovery of the Harappa and Mohenjo Daro was made by the Archaeological Survey of India. The term Ghaggar Hakra is also associated with the Indus Valley civilization as a number of sites have been found along the Ghaggar Hakra River in northwest India and eastern Pakistan. Indus-Sarasvati civilization and Sindhu-Saraswati civilization are some other names that are associated with this civilization as well.
The Indus Script or the Harappan script is the writing system that was used by the people of the Indus Valley civilization. Most of the inscriptions found from the Indus valley sites are small inscriptions that are quite hard to decipher. Researchers still have not been able to decipher if the symbols were a script that helped to record a language or they symbolize a writing system.
Most of the Indus script seals have been discovered from areas in Pakistan along the Indus River and the other sites account for about 10% of seals. The very first seal publication was found in a drawing by Alexander Cunningham in 1875. Almost 4000 inscribed seals have been found since then and some of the seals have been excavated from Mesopotamia due to the Indus-Mesopotamia trade relations.
Iravatham Mahadevan published a corpus and concordance of the inscriptions of Indus which had 3700 seals and 417 distinct signs listed. He concluded that the average inscriptions consisted of five symbols and the longest inscription had about 26 symbols. Famous scholars have argued over the writing system of the Indus Valley civilization as they state that this script has a connection with the Brahmi script. Some of the examples of the symbol system can be traced back to the Early Harappan and Indus civilizations. Seal impressions and pottery have also been found from the Kot Diji phase of Harappa.
According to some historians, the script was written from right to left. This was concluded because in many instances the symbols became compressed at the left which looks like the writer was running out of space. In some cases, the script started from the left. The characters of the symbols are quite pictorial and include abstract signs. There are about 400 principal signs that have been recorded and as that is quite a large number, they are believed to be logo-syllabic.
In the Mature Harappan period, the Indus signs were found on flat stamp seals as well as on other objects such as ornaments, pottery, and tools. The signs were written by carving, chiselling, painting, and embossing on different materials such as terracotta, sandstone, copper, gold, silver, shell, and soapstone. Indus symbols have been assigned the ISO 15924 code INDS which is the code for the representation of names of scripts. The script was submitted to be encoded in Unicode's Supplementary Multilingual Plane in 1999. However, the non-profit organization Unicode Consortium has still kept the status of this proposal pending.
The Indus Valley civilization was one of the earliest civilizations and is considered as one of the cradles of civilization. The Indus Valley civilization is named the Harappan civilization because the very first site to be excavated was Harappa in the '20s, which is part of present-day Pakistan.
The first accounts of the ruins from the Indus Valley civilization can be traced to the modern accounts of Charles Masson, who was a deserter from the East India Company's army. Mason was in an arrangement with the Army where he was asked to travel the nation and bring back any artifacts that he discovered, in return for clemency. Mason took unknown roads and traveled through small towns. He eventually found the ruins of the Harappan civilization.
After two years, The East India Company asled Alexander Burnes to sail up to Indus in order to assess the river ways to secure waterways travel for the army. Burnes witnessed the baked rocks of the Indus civilization and also noted that the bricks had been plundered by the local people. Even after this report, Harappa was raided for these bricks after the British annexation of Punjab. A large number of bricks were taken away in order to turn them into track ballast for railways.
After the end of the rule of the East India Company, the Crown rule helped set up the Archaeological Survey of India. Alexander Cunningham was appointed as the first director-general and he visited the site. Archaeological work after Cunningham was quite slow until Lord Curzon imposed the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 1904, where he appointed John Marshall as the director-general. John Faithfull Fleet who was an English Civil servant in 1912 found several Indus valley seals, which led to the excavation campaign in 1921-22 led by Sir John Hubert Marshall, the director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India during the period of British India.
Soon after this, the ruins of the ancient city of Mohenjo Daro were found along the Indus region. After the excavated ruins had been cross-checked, it was stated by archaeologists that both the Indus cities had a number of similarities and the seals helped to jot down the time period in which this ancient civilization existed. Hiranand Sastri who was appointed by Marshall to survey the ancient civilization, concluded that it was not of Buddhist origin and went much further back than that.
The Indus Valley civilization was divided into three stages namely the early Harappan period, the middle Harappan period, and the late Harappan period. During the middle Harappan Phase, Indus civilisation artifacts reached the peak of excellence.
Harappan people were accustomed to almost all metals except iron. Gold materials such as bracelets, beads, armlets, and other ornaments were made by the Indus Valley people. The use of silver was more common than gold and a large number of silver utensils and ornaments have been found amongst the Indus civilization artifacts.
Tools such as axes, saws, chisels, spearheads, and arrowheads made of copper have been found. The arms used by the Indus Valley people were quite harmless as no swords or arrows have been found so far. They mostly used stone tools and copper was mainly brought from Khetri in Rajasthan.
One of the many different ruins found in the Indus Valley cities includes a stone sculpture of a bearded man from the Harappan period that was found in Mohenjo Daro. The man has his eyes closed and is sitting in a meditation pose. There is a cloak on the left shoulder of the sculpture and some scholars indicate that the sculpture is that of a priest.
Several other terracotta figurines have also been excavated from the Indus Valley cities. There were more female figurines than males and this helped to confirm that the figurines were of Mother Goddess, helping historians learn more about Harappan culture.
A variety of clay and porcelain models of animals such as monkeys, birds, dogs, cattle, and bullshave also been found. Most of the figurines that have been found are terracotta carts. Historians have found from the artifacts that the people of Harappa made a lot of their utensils out of clay.
Pottery making was an important part of the Indus Valley civilization. Pottery made on the wheel during this period was well-constructed and treated with a red coating. All the decorations were painted in black. The designs on pottery consisted of horizontal lines of different sizes and widths, leaves, and palm trees. The people of Harappa manufactured seals of various kinds. From archaeological accounts, around 2000 seals have so far been found from the sites of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. The seals were made of steatite and square in shape. The seals consisted of Harappan scripts and horses which have not been deciphered as of yet.
The most famous seal found was a horned male deity that was surrounded by four animals which archaeologists have deciphered to be the ancient form of Lord Pashupati, the god of beasts.
Besides hunting and agriculture, city dwellers of the Indus Valley civilization made their money from trading goods. The well-knit trade system helped the Indus civilisation's economy to flourish. Being a coastal city, the Indus River made it easy for this civilization to form trade relations with other civilizations in the ancient world.
People who lived in Indus city used different sets of stones to measure and weigh the goods that were exported and imported. The weights were made of steatite and limestone. Farmers used to buy food from the cities and the workers used to make pots and cotton clothes. The materials needed for this were brought in by the traders and the finished goods were exported to other cities. Goods that were traded included terracotta pots, gold, silver, colored gemstones like turquoise and lapis lazuli, metals, and seashells. Imported goods included minerals from Iran and Afghanistan, lead and copper from India, jade from China, and cedar trees were floated down the river from Kashmir and the Himalayas.
Mesopotamian civilizations were famous for the estuaries that helped them to travel between cities to exchange goods. The Indus Valley civilization is famous for its advanced architecture and also its advanced methods of transport and technology. Archaeological evidence suggests that they used boats and wheeled forms of tranport to move around. Their boats were small and flat-bottomed. Their carts had wooden wheels that were pulled by bulls along the Indus plains. The trading system of this civilization only existed in the areas of Central Asia.
The Indus Valley civilization was quite developed as the people of Harappa had trade relations with other civilizations, complex infrastructure with well-developed sewage systems, and their very own writing system.
However, during 2500 BC, the population started to decline as people started to migrate towards the eastern side of the Himalayan foothills. By 1800 BC, many had left the cities, leaving them empty, and the number of people in villages also gradually declined.
The people of the Indus Valley civilization depended on agriculture and floods helped the crops that they grew. They had well-constructed dams, wells, drains, and channels. However in 2500 BC, the summer heat got the best of them and drought became a problem. As agriculture depended on floods for irrigation, the absence of water made people decide to leave the cities and move towards different areas. People moved towards the Himalayan foothills for the winter monsoons, however they also soon stopped. The lack of water was a key factor for the decline of the Indus Valley civilization.
Also, the Indo-Aryan civilization might have also been a cause for the demise of the Indus Valley civilization as they moved into this region and drove out the people of the Indus Valley civilization.
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