In 1856, a British railroad company was laying down tracks across what is now northern Pakistan when they came across a trove of fire baked clay bricks. The bricks were all of the same size and they were used for making ballast for the tracks. The bricks turned out to be artifacts of an ancient civilization. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that serious work began on excavating what was named Harappa. A short time later, another city was discovered and was named Mohenjo-Dara. Over one thousand sites have been discovered and identified as belonging to this great civilization which is referred to as the Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan civilization.

Although archaeologists do not refer to it, practitioners of the ancient art of yoga claim its origin was in the Indus Valley. Somehow the yogi masters figured out that twisting the body into the various poses (asanas) would relieve stress and allow the body to enter a state of perfect health which would free the mind from the distractions of physical discomfort. When the mind is unhampered it is able to access higher states of consciousness.

The most notable findings of the archaeologists is the great respect this culture had for cleanliness. In the great cities (which are estimated to have had populations of around 40,000 each) all homes, regardless of their size, had flush toilets and water and sewer systems that even surpassed the quality of the Romans. The urban planning was excellent and whole sections were brought to completion before the people moved in. Streets were laid out in a North South and East West grid. There is no evidence of temples or palaces or images of kings or queens. There seems to have been a sense of equality although some homes had courtyards. They had developed a system of weights and measures which was very accurate. There is no evidence of a standing army and the few weapons which have been found are thought to have been for defense against wild animals.

The Indus Valley had an abundance of water which originated in the Himalayan Mountains and this in combination with the monsoons allowed extensive farming and some of the large buildings are thought to have been granaries.

Trade with Mesopotamia and Egypt helped to support the economy. Flat bottomed boats allowed for long distance trading and use of the wheel on carts helped to move goods. The people seemed to be good at making things from gold, silver, copper and bronze which were the only known metals at the time. They were also good at pottery and brick making was done with uniformity and everywhere to be found. The people used their homes for workshops and this made things pretty cramped so they hung out on their rooftops which were flat and made with clay embedded with sand.

Although this culture is suspected to have predated that of Mesopotamia or Egypt, the generally accepted dates for it are from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE with the mature date being from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. There is no sure theory for the decline of this great civilization but one is that a form of climate change occurred and the monsoons altered their course. With brick making being so abundant, the hill sides may have been stripped of all the trees which were used to fire the kilns and a combination of flooding and drought occurred.

Unlike the cuneiform script of Mesopotamia or the hieroglyphics of Egypt, the script of the Indus Valley has yet to be deciphered but someday it will be; it will be interesting to find out what they knew.

Dennis Miller lives in the Shade River State Forest, Meigs County, Ohio

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