Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley (Harappan) Civilization flourished between 2600-1900 BC. The Indus Civilization was twice as extensive as two earlier civilizations -- the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the Sumerian city-states.

The Indus Civilization built the first cities in the Indian subcontinent, sophisticated and technologically advanced urban centers. The quality of municipal town planning suggests the knowledge of urban planning and efficient local government which placed a high priority on hygiene and public access to the means of religious ritual.

Their urban planning included the world's first urban sanitation systems. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. Specific rooms were set aside for bathing, and waste water was directed to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened to inner courtyards and smaller lanes.

The ancient Indus systems of sewerage and drainage that were developed and used in cities throughout the Indus region were far more advanced than any found in contemporary urban sites in the Middle East and even more efficient than those in many areas of Pakistan and India today.

The advanced architecture of the Harappans is shown by their impressive dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms and protective walls. The massive walls of Indus cities most likely protected the Harappans from floods and may have dissuaded military conflicts.

Huge granaries were built at each city. The Harappans cultivated wheat, barley, peas, sesame seed, and cotton.

The people of the Indus Civilization achieved great accuracy in measuring length, mass, and time. They were among the first to develop a system of uniform weights and measures. Unique Harappan inventions include an instrument which was used to measure whole sections of the horizon and the tidal lock.

In addition, Harappans evolved new techniques in metallurgy and produced copper, bronze, lead and tin. The engineering skill of the Harappans was remarkable, especially in building docks after a careful study of tides, waves and currents.

They had knowledge of proto-dentistry -- the oldest evidence of teeth-drilling in a living person has been found in Harappan territory.

Judging from the dispersal of Indus civilization artifacts, their trade networks integrated a huge area, including portions of Afghanistan, the coastal regions of Persia, northern and western India, and Mesopotamia.

The Indus writing system script, despite many attempts at decipherments and claims, it is as yet undeciphered. The underlying language is unknown, and the lack of a bilingual example makes the decipherment difficult -- however, see this article.

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