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Cities arose along the Indus River and Ghaggar-Hakra River by circa 2600 B.C. This marked the beginning of the Indus Civilization. Each major city was linked with others through rivers, which served as transportation and communication highways. This extensive network over a vast area supported a prosperous and stable society, and advances in technology in these cities yielded products that were traded as far away as the Arabian Sea and Mesopotamia.

Morphology of cities

Regional variations

City planning - "Citadel"

City planning - "Lower Town"

Standardization of bricks

The most distinctive feature of the Indus Civilization was its intricate urban planning. Some cities were composed of two sections surrounded by walls, the "Citadel" and the "Lower Town". The "Citadel" was the administrative and religious center with public buildings such as the "Great Bath" and the "Granary", and the "Lower Town" was primarily a residential area. The cities were distinguished by a well-planned layout of streets and buildings and sophisticated construction. More than 1,500 sites have been discovered, and approximately ten of these are cities.

Household utensils

Figurines and urban life

Transport vehicle

Terracotta objects

Copper and bronze implements

Animals in daily life

Human and animal terracotta figurines, various toys, decorative motifs painted on pottery and other objects made from copper/bronze, shell and semi-precious stones all indicate that people enjoyed an affluent urban life. Specialized craftsmen residing in cities made these objects, and their skilled production inspired trade with far-off lands. People in surrounding villages must have admired urban life and the cities as centers of information and all the latest trends.

The "Priest King"

Worship of horns and pipal leaves

Indus seals

Set of ornaments

Carnelian beads

Manufacture of carnelian beads


The people of the Indus Civilization apparently regarded buffalo horns and pipal trees as sacred. Depictions on some seals and tablets of men wearing horned headdresses decorated with pipal leaves may have represented religious as well as secular leaders. Perhaps these men wore the unique ornaments made of gold and semi-precious stones found at Indus sites. Of these ornaments, carnelian beads with bleached (etched) white designs treated with alkaline solution were an Indus specialty, exported as far as the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia.



CG reconstruction of Dholavira

Recent excavations at Harappa (Punjab, Pakistan) are being conducted by the American team of the Harappa Archaeological Research Project jointly with the Department of Archaeology and Museums of Pakistan. Excavations at Dholavira (Gujarat, India) are being conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India. These excavations have been the focus of much attention in the last decade.
Habitation at both sites began well before 3000 B.C. and continued until several hundred years after the decline of the Indus Civilization (after the end of urban life). New data from these sites is expected to contribute to a better understanding of the formative stages of the Indus Civilization, as well as its decline.

Maritime trade with the west

Across the sea

The land of "Meluhha" mentioned in Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets was probably the Indus Civilization. Trade contacts between the Indus Civilization and the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia are evident from Indus signs engraved on button-shaped Persian Gulf seals and the unique carnelian beads and ornaments found in these regions. Chlorite stone vessels manufactured in Iran have also been found throughout the Indus and Mesopotamian regions. Semi-spherical copper ingots probably originating in Magan (Oman) provide further evidence of widespread trade. Various goods traded from east to west, as well as from west to east, surely spread beliefs and philosophies along with material goods.

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