48 Lesser-Known Facts about Indus Valley Civilization

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Mysteries that are yet to be solved:

42We are not sure what happened to them

There are several theories as of what happened to the inhabitants of Indus Valley civilization. But scholars are certain about one thing- it wasn’t invasion, disease or similar catastrophe that wiped out the entire civilization. Instead, the population of these cities declined gradually until they were finally deserted. It is quite possible that these inhabitants migrated to different regions in search of better land and resources. There are various reasons that have led to the decline of the Indus Valley civilization.

IVC-Fact#42 What happened to Indus Valley people remains a mystery even today Click to Tweet

43Exact use of the seals is still uncertain

Seals of Harappan Culture

More than 4000 flat, rectangular stone tablets called seals have been found. Seals made of at least a dozen other materials are also found. The seals bear the images of animals, god-like figures, etc., and inscriptions. Some of the seals were used to stamp clay on trade goods, but they probably had other uses too. It is difficult to say exactly what was the purpose of these ‘seals’ when the inscriptions have not yet been deciphered.

IVC-Fact#43 Thousands of square seals are found with inscriptions, but use of them are uncertain Click to Tweet

44The Indus Valley Script has not been deciphered yet

At least 400 different symbols have been identified inscribed in various objects. These symbols usually appear in strings of 3-20. Despite best attempts by scholars have not been able to translate or even interpret them in any way. This is one of the most important reasons why we know very little about this civilization.

Some scholars even argue that whether these symbols should even be considered as a script since no instance of any text longer than 20 symbols have ever been found. Others believe that these symbols refer to only names and do not give any real meaning.

Computer analysis of these scripts has revealed that these symbols are a mixture of sounds and concepts like the Egyptian Hieroglyphs. However, due to lack of any medium to translate the language it still remains a mystery.

IVC-Fact#44 Indus Valley script has not yet been deciphered despite best attempts. All texts are still… Click to Tweet

45The invisible rulers of Indus Valley Civilization.

One of the factors that make this civilization so unique and that has surprised the scholars is that there has been no mention of any ruler or powerful authority throughout the region. Neither do we know anything about their governing system. Although it is very clear that it is unlikely that such an organized and systematic society can exist without any local and central control, these cities show very little or no evidence of it whatsoever.

Contrary to all the other civilizations where a king or a priest were the central figures of the entire political structure, existence of no such figure has ever been found. The closest depiction of a figure is a terracotta sculpture of what is believed to be the priest-king. The king or the ruler is totally absent from the art or any other form of depiction.

IVC-Fact#45 Rulers of Indus Valley (if they had any) are missing from any forms of depiction which is unique Click to Tweet

46Absence of any monumental structures, temples or palaces

Another astonishing fact that has surprised the researchers is the absence of any structure which can be thought of central importance like a palace or a temple. The presence of a temple or a palace is a standard feature of every other early civilization. There are several public buildings like the Great Baths and granaries but no structure can be even remotely related to a palace or temple. This has made some scholars to believe that Indus Valley cities were an egalitarian society.

IVC-Fact#46 Contrary to other cultures, Indus Valley cities didn't have any monumental structures/ temples/… Click to Tweet

47No imagery or evidence of Warfare

There have been no imagery or evidence of any war-like activities throughout the civilization nor there were any weapons found in the cities. This makes us think that they were probably a peaceful society. Compared to Mesopotamian city-states, who were at constant wars with each other and depicted their battles in their art and written works, no such image of Harappan cities has been found.

IVC-Fact#47 Indus Valley cities depict an image of a peaceful city as there are no evidence of any warfare Click to Tweet

48We know nothing about political structure or religious beliefs

Very little knowledge of their political and religious hierarchy has been found. We don’t know whom they worshiped or how they worshiped. There have been various debates regarding the same but it is difficult to say anything for certain.

IVC-Fact#48 There is no information about the political structure or religious beliefs of Indus Valley… Click to Tweet

Let me know if you enjoyed these lesser-known facts about this lesser-known civilization by leaving a comment below. If not, let me know how I can improve it. If there is anything I missed please let me know in the comment section.

If you want to know more about Harappan Civilization you may check out these 8 books on Indus Valley Civilization. There are some amazing video courses at Great Courses in their History Section.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this information. I love ancient history. I hope someone deciphers their language. Their lack of symbols being put together on stone makes me wonder if they used some type of paper to write on. If so, they would have had libraries to store them in. I’m sure more artifacts will be discovered over time that will shed more light on this interesting civilization.

    • google: S. Kalyanaraman Sarasvati Research Center May 26, 2017, for the recent decipher of Indus script. Also another researcher has done this: google: Suzanne Redalia – Apr 17, 2016.

  2. This civilization has been turned into a ‘Faceless’ (Possehl) one due to careless mistakes of historians. The present form of the RigVeda may be dated to about 1500 BC but Vedic culture is much older. Names such as Ayodhya (Rehman Dheri) Kashi, Koshala, Magadha (Sumerian Mah Gud) Melukhkha(Maha Uksha), Kalinga, Kikata etc. go back to this era. Some of the seals at least can be read if it is assumed that Brahmi was an offshoot of the Harappan writing system. The name Mohenjo Daro is a transform of Maha Indra Dvara.

  3. First time I have read such a detailed and most informative article on the Indus Valley Civilization although I belong to its geographic region, with my family originating in Ahmedabad and presently living in Karachi. I have visited both the Harrapa and Moenjo Daro sites, and am quite familiar with the present day geography and sociology of the complete Indus Valley Site in Pakistan. The Hakra River now exists only as the Hakra Distributory on the fringes of the green belt in the area of Bahawalpur.

  4. We do not know what happened to IVC. Yet a civilisation which lived for such a long time, even with migration must have left impressions or links with later civilisations. What I am saying is there should be continuum unless it is a magical vanishing of a civilisation. I am curious to know what are these continuum signs.

  5. Is it possible that the civilisation ended because of not one great flood but similar floods over a longer period of time thus forcing the few people left to migrate to other destinations?

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