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The Indus Valley Civilisation (abbreviated IVC), also known as the Harappan Civilisation, was a Bronze Age civilisation which flourished from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE. Over 1400 archaeological sites have been identified as belonging to this civilisation, predominantly in central and eastern Pakistan and northwestern India; Wikipedia has a list.


At its height, the Indus Valley Civilisation spanned almost all of what is now Pakistan and parts of what are now northern India, eastern Afghanistan and southeastern Iran. It had outposts further afield, including one far to the north in Bactria. Trading links extended at least to Central Asia, Persia and the great Mesopotamian civilisations of the period in what are now Iraq and Syria.

Indus Valley Civilisation in yellow
Current national borders in white

Other civilisations were at a similar level of development in about the same time period, though none had as much territory as the IVC. Bronze Age cities contemporary with the major IVC cities included Thebes in Ancient Egypt, Nineveh and Ur in Mesopotamia and Knossos in Minoan Crete. China also had well-developed cities at around that time, but the Liangzhu Culture and Longshan Culture were still Neolithic (late Stone Age).

Like its contemporary civilisations, the IVC was primarily based on agriculture; irrigation and flood control were important areas of engineering. The cities handled grain storage, trade, crafts, government and education, and acted as the main religious centres. The IVC was quite technologically advanced for the time with expertise in arts and crafts and great skills in metallurgy and hydraulic engineering. While Ancient Egypt was better at constructing monuments and other civilisations also had their strong points, the IVC cities had the best urban infrastructure of the era; for example, they had the world's first municipal sewage systems.

The major IVC city of Mohenjo-daro was abandoned around 1900 BCE and the whole IVC declined from about then until there was nothing left by about 1300 BCE. The reasons are not fully understood. One theory is that it was caused by climate change, in particular floods of the Indus and droughts due to monsoon hiatus; another attributes it to overly intensive farming destroying the land's fertility.

Aryan invaders arrived around 1500 BCE, but it is not clear to what extent they conquered and to what extent they were assimilated by the more advanced Indus Valley culture. The Aryans spoke Sanskrit, the language of the oldest Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas, and the ancestor of all the main modern languages of Northern India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, as well as the Sinhala language of Sri Lanka. Sanskrit is a member of the Indo-European language family, as are almost all the languages of Europe, Persian (the modern name for Persia, "Iran", is from the same root as Aryan), the main languages of Afghanistan, Kurdish, Armenian, and some now-extinct languages spoken in Anatolia (now Asiatic Turkey) such as Hittite. All those areas were invaded by Indo-European speakers sometime in the second millennium BCE; the invaders had chariots, some of them had iron, and bronze-age civilisations everywhere from the IVC to Minoan Greece fell before them.

It is thought that the Indus Valley people spoke a language of the non-Indo-European Dravidian group, related to the modern languages of South India and northern Sri Lanka. However, this is somewhat uncertain since the Indus Valley script has not been deciphered.

The extent and nature of the IVC's influence on the modern Indian subcontinent is unclear and somewhat controversial. Some archaeologists see parallels between various IVC artifacts and members of the Hindu pantheon while others see more relation to religions further west, in particular the "Mother Goddess" religions of Mesopotamia and Crete. Some of the "Hindutva" nationalists call the IVC the "Saraswati Culture" and believe the influence was fundamental to later Indian culture.

Some links to modern culture are considered likely, though none are certain. The earliest cities along the Ganges — including Varanasi, "the spiritual capital of India" — appeared about 1,200 BCE; it is thought the founders may have been migrants from the IVC, moving east as that culture fell. The Great Bath and the many household baths at Mohenjo-daro may have been used for purification rites similar to those in modern Hinduism. Cremation of the dead became common in late Harappan culture and is now the usual custom for Hindus. A treasure of pottery, seals and other artifacts discovered from the excavated ruins points to craft technology, and some items like the pottery and ox carts were well enough developed in this ancient civilisation to resemble items still made and used today.


Since there are well over 1000 IVC sites there are a lot of artifacts; nearly any museum in the region has some and others have been exported to museums all over the world. However the best collections are in the museums at the sites listed below or in the major museums of countries that had a hand in the excavations, Pakistan's National Museum in Karachi and the Lahore Museum, India's National Museum in Delhi, and the British Museum in London.

Archaeological sites[edit]

Map of Indus Valley Civilisation
  • 1 Mohenjo-daro, Sindh, Pakistan. One of the main IVC cities. Mohenjo-daro on Wikipedia
  • 2 Harappa, Punjab, Pakistan (24 km (15 mi) west of Sahiwal). Another major IVC city. Harappa on Wikipedia
  • 3 Dholavira, Gujarat, India. Dholavira on Wikipedia
  • 4 Lothal, Gujarat, India. In its time, this was an important port. Lothal (Q9443) on Wikidata Lothal on Wikipedia
  • 5 Rakhigarhi, Haryana, India. This was the site of a village as early as 6500 BCE and later an IVC town. Some experts consider it the largest and oldest IVC site. The state government is building an IVC museum, but there have been delays and political complications; as of late 2021 it is expected to open in 2022. Rakhigarhi Indus Valley Civilization site (Q59633503) on Wikidata Rakhigarhi on Wikipedia
  • 6 Ganeriwala, Punjab, Pakistan. Ganeriwala on Wikipedia
  • 7 Rupnagar, Punjab, India. Rupnagar on Wikipedia
  • 8 Kot Diji, Sindh, Pakistan (45 km (28 mi) south of Khairpur). Considered to be a pre-Indus or early formative Indus site covering 2.6 hectares, Kot Diji is comprised of an inner citadel area on higher ground and an outer area on lower ground. Houses were made from unbaked mud bricks. Kot Diji (Q1017084) on Wikidata Kot Diji on Wikipedia
  • 9 Shortugai, Bactria. A trading colony near the lapis lazuli mines of Badakhshan, now in northern Afghanistan. Shortugai (Q1550221) on Wikidata Shortugai on Wikipedia

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