Wikijunior:Ancient Civilizations/Indus Valley
What country did they live in?
The Indus Valley civilization existed in modern-day India and Pakistan. It is sometimes known as Harrapan, after the first site to be excavated in Pakistan or the Saraswati-Sindhu civilisation after the legendary Saraswati and Sindhu (Indus) rivers.
What did they eat?
We have learned in recent studies that the people of the Indus Valley were excellent farmers. They grew cereal crops like wheat, rice and barley. They also had many fruits and they kept animals like cows and a type of buffalo for eating. In the center of the town was a granary for storing any extra grain that the whole town could use outside of the growing season. They ate very little meat but they ate shellfish and other fish.
What did they wear?
The Indus valley people were the first in the world to spin cotton and woollen yarn. Needles and buttons have been found there. They knew the art of weaving and stitching. The men used to wear a loin cloth akin to a dhoti that is still worn by a large number of Indians, even today. The women wore a type of skirt and wrapped a shawl round their shoulders. Men and women, both rich and poor, wore ornaments. Necklaces, fillets, armlets and finger rings were common to both men and women. These ornaments were made of gold, silver, copper, bronze, ivory or shells. They usually moved around barefoot.
What did their writing look like?
When seals from the Indus Valley were discovered, it was assumed that they contained the writing of the Indus Valley people. These stone seals were probably pressed into soft clay to mark people's possessions. Over 4,000 examples of the seals have been found, as well as 400 different signs. However, the script, called Indus script, remains undecipherable, though the seals most likely carried the names of the owners.
There are several reasons as to why it cannot be deciphered. One is that linguists don't know what language family it belonged to. Another is that the average length of the inscriptions is less than five signs, the longest being one of only 26 signs. The third is that no text written in Indus and another known language has been found. All these factors make it difficult to figure out what the seals say.
From excavations of the Indus Valley, archaeologists have found female fertility statues. These statues indicate that they worshipped mother goddesses. These statues included depictions of Kali and Shakti. Seals depicting animals, perhaps as objects of worship, have also been found. Finally, seals depicting the god Pashupati (Shiv) in a yogic posture have been discovered. It has not been proven yet but it is possible that some of the gods prevalent in South India, like Ayyappan and Murugan, might also have been worshipped.
Are some of them famous even today?
Shakthi/Kali are famous in the northern parts of India. In southern India, people pray to another form of the same goddess with different names, like Sakthi, Bhagavati, Kali Amman, etc. and male deities like Shiv, Murugan and Ayyappan.
What happened to them?
Unfortunately, no one actually knows what happened to Indus Valley Civilization, though the main theories of their extinction are:
- Natural disasters like earthquakes or floods.
- Environment changes due to deforestation
- Internal wars or poor administration.
- External aliens from the Aryans or other Central Asian hordes.
- Last but not least desertification of the Indus estuary, the retreat of the sea and parts of the Indus silting up with sand, leaving the early 5500 BC Harappa civilization in ruins. For a long time, it was thought that the civilization was destroyed by invading nomadic tribes, but most historians today doubt that theory.
Many skeletons of people who had died violently and had been left in streets and houses to rot have been found in Mohenjo-daro, one of the major cities of Indus Valley Civilization. It is estimated that the cities were destroyed in about 1500 BC.