Planned Cities on the Indus

Like Africa had the Sumer and Egyptian civilizations, India had the Harappan civilization. The Harappan civilization, today known as Pakistan and part of India, was quite different from the civilizations in Africa. Historians know less about its origins than they do about the origins of Mesopotamia and Egypt, because the language of the culture has not been translated.

The Geography of the Indian Subcontinent

The Indus Valley Civilization was a civilization which centered mostly on the western part of the Indian Subcontinent. In the Indian subcontinent India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are included. The world's tallest mountains, Hindu Kush, Karakorum, and Himalayan, helped the Indus Valley from invasion. These mountains also guard a large flat and fertile plain formed by two rivers, the Indus and the Ganges. Most of the lower Indus Valley is covered by the Thar Desert. Therefore, these people could only farm in the areas that were directly watered. Like the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Nile, these rivers carry not only water for irrigation, but also silt, which was a very rich soil for agriculture.

India's climate was dominated by monsoons, seasonal winds. Winter monsoons from October to February blow dry air westward across the country. The summer monsoons, which are from June to October, blow eastward from the sounthwest, carrying moisture from the ocean in great rain clouds. Summer monsoons caused many floods and this benefitted the agriculture, but when summer monsoons didn't come, this led to droughts and starvation.

This civilization also suffered from environmental challenges including:

  • Floods, which spread silt over a broad area. Howerver, the floods were unpredictables
  • Rivers sometimes changed their course.
  • Monsoons were unpredictable. If there was little rain, the plants would wither and die and there would be no cropd to eat. If there was too much rain, floods would occur sweeping away whole villages.

The start of a new Civilization

Even though historians know less about this civilization because of there unique and complex writing, archeologists are still finding useful evidence. Although many of these sites remain unexplored, and floods probably washed away important atrifacts and useful information, the Indus Valley influenced an area much larger than Mesopotamia and Egypt put together.

Historians aren't sure who were the first to arrive in the Subcontinet. Archaeologists have found evidence that agriculture and the domestication of animals were located in the highlands to about 7000 B.C. By about 3200 B.C., people were farming in villages along the Indus River.

The mature phase of this civilization is called the Harappan Civilization, because of all the large cities, Kaliangan, Mohenjo-Daro, and Harappa, the many archaeological findings were made at the Harappa site. While Egyptians were building pyramids, people in the Indus Valley were making houses out of mud bricks for India's first cities.There positioning of there houses was a good spot for a natural defense barrier in case of floodwaters.


The Harappan civilization had advanced planned cities. These planned cities were very sophisticated, they laid out their cities on a precise grid system. They also ceated sewage and plumbing systems. ”Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. From a room that appears to have been set aside for bathing, waste water was directed to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and smaller lanes. The house-building in some villages in the region still resembles in some respects the house-building of the Harappans.” * ** The city planning and contruction suggest that these people had developed a strong central government.

Harappan Culture

Harappan culture spread throughout the Indus Valley. Like the African Civilizations, culture was pretty much based on agriculture. There artifacts help explain some aspects of their culture.

Like all the other civilizations, Harappan culture developed one as well, except this language has not been translated, and this has an effect on how much we know from them. More that 500 hundreds distinct Indus simbols have been found on small tablets, ceramic pots, stamps, and seals. Typical Indus inscriptions are no more than four or five characters in length, the longest on any object has a length of 26 symbols.


The hypothesis that the script encodes language has recently been questioned. A paper by Farmer, Sproat, and Witzel (2004)argues that the Indus system was a variaty of non-linguistic sing systems used in the Near East and other socities. Other said they used it for comercials purposes and economic transactions or trades. But the symbols found on many other ancient artifacts remain a mystery, including those of a people that inhabited the Indus valley on the present-day border between Pakistan and India.


Seal impression showing a typical "inscription" of five "characters".

The culture of the Indus Valley were very different, they made their own culture, religion, government, art and rules. Social classes didn't really exist and the differences between them were very small. The royal family lived in normal houses, obviously a bit more extravagant than the other houses. Although they lived amoung the people, apparantly there weren't any slaves. There culture was also very unattractive because the civilization didn't focus on gold and high elevated monuments like the Egyptians did, they buried their riches along with their perished body.

Religion as in the African civilizations was very important. Scientists believed that there culture had many gods, although no site of a temple has beed found, religious artifacts have been found that links to modern Hindu culture. There also has been a large quantity of animal images on many types of artifacts which suggests that animals were an important part of the culture.

Economy was highly based on trade,they had very strong trading systems. The Indus civilizations mayor trade products were cotton, lumber, grain, livestock and other food things. To transport the foods to the other mayor towns or cities they used animals such as bulls and river boats. They also traded things like beads, metal tools, and pottery that were made by hand. They not only traded with cities and towns nearby, they also traded with external (more distant) cities such as Central Asia and distant Mesopotamian cities.


“The Indus civilization's economy depended significantly on trade, which was facilitated by major advances in transport technology. These advances included bullock carts that are identical to those seen throughout South Asia today, as well as boats. Most of these boats were small, flat-bottomed craft, perhaps driven by sail, similar to those one can see on the Indus River today; however, there is secondary evidence of sea-going craft.”

Indus Valley Culture mysteriously Ends

Nobody knows for sure how this civilization came to its end. “ Archaeological evidence shows that after 700 years of stability, the civilization declined. Most of the Indus settlements had been abandoned or had shrunk in size by about 1800 BCE. Many factors contributed to the end of the Indus civilization, but climate change is emerging as a primary reason for its gradual demise. Geological evidence shows that the region's climate grew colder and drier, in part perhaps because of a weakened monsoon. By 1800 BCE, the Ghaggar-Hakra River, a river in the region that paralleled the Indus system and that some scholars suggest is the Saraswati, the lost sacred river of Rig Veda, was severely diminished. As a result, cities were abandoned and though some of the population remained, many migrated to more fertile lands in the east around the Ganges and Jumna River. ”
Satellite images also revealed evidence that the plate movement was also a cause of the altered course of the Indus Valley.

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