An extensive civilization that developed on the plains of the Indus Valley of Pakistan and northwestern India in the middle of the 3rd millennium bc and lasted for about five centuries. Also known as the Harappan civilization. The discovery of the Indus civilization was a piece of pure archaeological research that began in the late 19th century ad with work by Sir John Marshall and with the discovery of some seal‐stamps at Harappa. Unlike many other great civilizations, no hint of its former existence came through in the later historical texts from the Indian subcontinent.
The origins of the Indus civilization are poorly known. Certainly there are some connections with the Akkadian Period in Mesopotamia, but the extent of any influence is impossible to gauge. There does, however, appear to be a period of rapid cultural change in the Indus Valley about 2600 bc with the emergence of major cities such as Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Ganweriwala, and perhaps also Chanhu‐daro, Lothal, Dholavira, and Kalibangan. A form of writing developed, still not deciphered, and there was agricultural intensification with concentration on barley and wheat. The peoples of the Indus were also cattle‐keepers on a grand scale, with cattle bones representing more than 50 per cent of the material in any assemblage; there is also abundant cattle imagery in art. Long‐distance trade both east and west is well attested, as well as internal commerce in artefacts and foodstuffs. Metal was worked and there was an early use of the fast wheel for potting. The central theme of Indus religion is the combined male/female deity symbolized by animal horns and broad curving plant motifs. There is some speculation that some of the beliefs and imagery represent a proto‐Shiva or early form of Buddhism, but this is highly speculative. There is an interest in water and cleanliness. How and why the civilization came to an end is unknown. The major settlements were simply abandoned around 2000 bc, with no archaeological evidence for natural disasters or invasions by other peoples.
Subjects: Archaeology — Hinduism.