Out of the four great civilizations of the ancient world, three of them, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China, have been extensively studied and well-known to almost every individual. Lost to human memory was the fourth civilization of equal importance and much more sophisticated Indus Valley Civilization that thrived along the flood plains of rivers Indus and Gaggar-Hakra.
It was not until the twentieth century that this lost and forgotten civilization was rediscovered and acknowledged and was placed together in equal importance with Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China.
Today, we know very little of this technologically advanced civilization as compared to other civilizations. Check out these lesser-known facts about Indus Valley civilization that are not just worth sharing but will keep your curiosity going. The more you learn about them the more you will be interested to know.
For the convenience of the readers these facts have been categorized into the following broad headings:
- General facts about the Civilization and their Culture
- Cities of Indus Valley Civilization
- Technological Achievements of Indus Valley Civilization
- Mysteries that are yet to be solved
1Indus Valley Civilization was the largest among the four ancient river valley civilizations of the world
In terms of geographic area, Indus Valley Civilization was the largest among the four ancient civilizations of the world namely, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. It was spread out over an area of 1,260,000 sq. km over modern-day India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In today’s map, if it were a country, it would rank 22nd in term of size between Niger and Angola
This civilization extended from Ghaggar-Hakra River Valley in the east to Makran coast of Balochistan in the west, from Afghanistan in the northeastern to Daimabad in Maharashtra in the south.
2At its peak, it may had a population of over 5 million
The Indus Valley Civilization had a total population of over five million. This is greater than present day population of New Zealand. Most of its inhabitants were artisans and traders.
3Till date over 1056 cities have been discovered
Over 1,056 Harappan cities and settlements had been found, of which 96 have been excavated. They are mostly located in the broad regions of the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra Rivers and their tributaries. Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Dholavira, Ganeriwala in Cholistan and Rakhigarhi were the major urban centers.
4Most of the population lived in villages we don’t have any record of
Archaeologists believe that majority of the population of Indus Valley Civilization lived in villages. These villages may have been made of perishable materials like timber or mud which makes it impossible to trace their existence. Thus, there is no way to find out the lifestyle and culture in these villages which have been lost to time without any trace.
5We still don’t know what we should actually call them
The first settlements discovered were along the banks of river Indus, so the archaeologist called them ‘Indus Valley Civilization.‘ However, contrary to its name only about 100 sites are found along the Indus and its tributaries. While over 500 sites are discovered along Gaggar-Hakra River (which is believed to be the long-lost river, Saraswati).
Now, many archaeologists prefer to call them as ‘Indus-Saraswati Civilization,’ based on the two river systems. Others prefer the name ‘Harappan Civilization,’ based on the name of the first city discovered called Harappa.
However, according to some archaeologists, the presence of more number of sites along Gaggar-Hakra River is because they were better preserved under the uninhabited desert.
6Meluhha, the ancient place of exotic items mentioned by the Mesopotamian scribes
We don’t know what the Indus Valley people used to call themselves. The Mesopotamian scribes had been writing about a distance place called Meluhha. Archaeological evidence has proved that Indus Valley civilization and Mesopotamians were having long time trade relations. It is entirely possible that the place the Mesopotamians called Meluhha is Indus Valley Civilization.
7Archaeologist first thought they had discovered cities of children
When Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were first excavated, a significant number of toys, dice, marbles and whistles were found. This made them think that they had discovered cities where a majority of their inhabitants were children.
8Britishers laid down 93 miles of railway track with 4000-year-old Indus Valley bricks
During the British Rule in India, British engineers were constructing the railway track from Karachi to Lahore. When they felt shortage of materials to raise the track up to the desired level, they collected bricks from nearby ruins of Harappa to build the track. They laid down the bricks and constructed 93 miles (150 km) of railway track using these 4000-year-old artifacts!
9They had the world’s first planned cities
Although the use of grid pattern in town planning is attributed to the Greek urban planner Hippodamus (5th Century BC), the first grid planned cities were thousands of years older than that of Miletus. Almost all the Indus Valley cities were designed in a grid pattern with streets crossing at right angles.
10The cities were densely populated but not chaotic
Given the systematic approach in town planning and level of sophistication achieved by the Indus Valley people, scholars believed that even though these cities had very dense population, they were not chaotic. Instead, they had a very organized way of living.
This is in total contrast to the chaotic cities of the same time from Egypt or Mesopotamia, which make them very unique of its time.
11They built urban sanitation systems non-pareil in the Ancient World till much later
Engineers of Indus Valley Civilization had mastered the channeling of water and disposal of wastewater thousands of years before the Romans began to start building aqueducts.
Similar sanitation system is also seen in the Minoan Civilization of the Crete Island.