The Indus Valley civilization was rediscovered
in 1920-21 when engraved seals were
unearthed in the Punjab province of Pakistan
at a site called Harappa, a name which is often
used to describe the civilization as a whole.
Subsequent excavations at Harappa revealed
the size and complexity of this ancient city.
Other sites were unearthed as well along the
banks of the Indus River, including the equally
large city of Mohenjodaro. Through
archaeological and historical research, we can
now say for certain that a highly developed
urban civilization flourished in the Indian
subcontinent over five thousand years ago.
Though the Indus Valley script remains
undeciphered, the numerous seals, statuary,
and pottery discovered during excavations,
not to mention the urban ruins, have enabled
scholars to construct a reasonably plausible
account of the Indus Valley civilization.
Some kind of centralized state, and certainly
fairly extensive town planning, is suggested by
the layout of the great cities of Harappa and
Mohenjodaro. The same kind of burnt brick
appears to have been used in the construction
of buildings in cities that were several hundred
miles apart. The weights and measures also
show a very considerable regularity,
suggesting that these disparate cities spread
out across a vast desert shared a common
culture. The Indus Valley people domesticated
animals, and harvested various crops, such as
cotton, sesame, peas, barley, and cotton.
Indus Valley seals have been excavated in far
away cities such as Sumer, suggesting that a
wealthy merchant class existed, engaged in
extensive trading throughout the subcontinent
and the Near East.
Other than the archaeological ruins of Harappa
and Mohenjodaro, these seals provide the
most detailed clues about the character of the
Indus Valley people. Bulls and elephants
appear on these seals, but the horned bull,
most scholars agree, should not be taken to
be congruent with Nandi, for the horned bull
appears in numerous Central Asian figures as
well. The women portrayed on the seals are
shown with elaborate coiffures, sporting heavy
jewelry, suggesting that the Indus Valley
people were an urbane people with cultivated
tastes and a refined aesthetic sensibility. A few
thousand seals have been discovered in Indus
Valley cities, showing some 400 pictographs:
too few in number for the language to have
been ideographic, and too many for the
language to have been phonetic.