The Indus Valley Civilization

By Tim Lambert

The Rise of the Indus Valley Civilization

The first Indian civilization arose in the Indus Valley about 2,600 BC. It straddled northwest India and Pakistan. By 6,500 BC the people of the area had begun farming. By 5,500 BC they had invented pottery. By about 2,600 BC a prosperous farming society had grown up. The farmers used bronze tools. They grew wheat, barley, and peas. Later the Indus farmers also grew rice and millet. They also raised cattle, water buffalo, goats, and sheep. The people spun cotton for clothes.

However, life was not all hard work. The Indus people played board games and children played with toy animals.


Some of the people of the Indus Valley began to live in towns. The two largest were at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Although there were also towns at Kalibangan, Kot Diji, Amri, and other places.

Mohenjo-Daro probably had a population of at least 35,000. The city consisted of two parts. In the center part was a citadel. It contained a public bath and assembly halls. It also held a granary where grain was stored. The lower part of the town had streets laid out in a grid pattern. The houses were 2 or even 3 stories and were made of brick as stone was uncommon in the area. Bricks were of a standard size and the Indus Valley civilization had standard weights and measures. The streets had networks of drains.

Life in Mohenjo-Daro was highly organized although most of the people of the Indus Valley were farmers who lived in small valleys. The Indus Valley people had a form of writing but unfortunately, it has not been deciphered so nothing is known of their political system or their religion. However many engraved seals and terracotta figurines have been found.

For local transport, the Indus people used bullock carts. However, the many rivers made it easy to transport goods by water.

The Indus people also traded by sea with the people of what is now Iraq. They exported lapis lazuli and carnelian beads. They also exported timber and cotton.

The Decline of the Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley civilization was at its peak in the years 2,300-1,700 BC. After that date, it declined.

The reasons for this are not clear. Perhaps there was a climatic change and the area grew cooler and drier. It has also been suggested that rivers changed course. In those days less rainfall or a change in the course of a river would have had severe consequences for farming and of course, like all early civilizations, the Indus Valley depended on farming. Civilization was only possible if the farmers made a surplus. They could exchange their surplus with craftsmen for manufactured goods. They could also exchange some goods from far away.

However, if the farmers no longer made a surplus they could no longer support the craftsmen who lived in the towns. The populations of the towns would drift away to the countryside. Trade and commerce would decline.

As society grew less prosperous people would return to a simpler way of life and the invention of writing would disappear. The Indus Valley civilization vanished and it was forgotten. It was not rediscovered until the 1920s.