Ancient India Lesson 2

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1 Name: Date: Ancient India Lesson 2 Early Indian Civilization Over 1,000 miles separate the Indus River valley from Iraq, the region once known as Mesopotamia. This distance did not keep people from traveling between the two regions over 4,000 years ago, though. Like merchants from Egypt, Indian merchants traded goods in Mesopotamian cities. Of these three ancient civilizations Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus River valley the least is known about the Indus River valley civilization. One reason that historians know less about this culture is that experts have not been able to figure out how to read ancient Indian writing. Another reason is that few Indus artifacts and remains have been found. Despite these limits, historians have pieced together a picture of what ancient life must have been like for the people along the Indus River. A Civilization in the Indus Valley In 1921 archaeologists gathered around a huge dirt mound on the southern plains of the Indus Valley. They knew remains of the past lay hidden beneath the mound. Earlier visitors had found artifacts there. But how old were the remains? What would they reveal about how Indian people lived long ago? As the archaeologists dug down, the ruins of a great city began to appear. A new understanding about India s ancient past had begun. The city described above is called Harappa. The people who lived nearby named the ruins after an Indian god. Archaeologists have no way of knowing what early people living along the Indus called themselves. Therefore, the entire ancient Indus Valley civilization is called Harappan civilization. It lasted from about 2500 B.C. until about 1600 B.C. One year after the city of Harappa was uncovered, archaeologists found a city almost exactly like it about 400 miles to the south. The local name for it was Mohenjo-Daro, which means Mound of the Dead in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language. Locate the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro on the map above. A City Along the Indus The city of Mohenjo-Daro was not small. Archaeologists believe that as many as 40,000 people once lived there! Dozens of streets crisscrossed each other. Larger avenues were paved with tan-colored bricks. The streets that crossed them were narrower and were usually left unpaved. Hundreds of sturdy brick houses lined the streets of Mohenjo-Daro. Most homes were small, one-room buildings. Others were several stories high. Some even had such luxuries as airy courtyards or balconies. At the west end of the city stood a massive fort, or citadel. Surrounding this citadel were thick walls that protected against both floods and enemy attacks.

2 Next to the citadel was an enormous grain warehouse. Judging from its size, farmers around Mohenjo-Daro must have been very successful at growing barley and wheat. Question Time: Answer the following questions based on what you just read above. 1. Consider Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley. About which one of these civilizations do we know least and why? 2. How large a population did Mohenjo-Daro have? 3. How was Mohenjo-Daro laid out as a city? What material did people in Mohenjo-Daro use to pave streets and construct housing? 4. What were probably the largest buildings in the city and what were they used for? Life in Mohenjo-Daro Suppose that you are an archaeologist living 4,000 years in the future. You have just stumbled upon the ruins of a small North American city dating back to the A.D s. You uncover buildings and dusty artifacts. You find machines and bits of plastic labels. You cannot read the city s languages, though. How much will you be able to understand about everyday life in this city? How many conclusions will you be able to make about the culture of the North American civilization? Archaeologists studying ancient Harappan civilization have faced these kinds of challenges since the early 1900s. Yet they have succeeded in making some conclusions about what life was like for ancient Harappans. Many of their conclusions are based on remains found in Mohenjo- Daro. City Planning One of the most striking things about Mohenjo-Daro is the exactness of the measurements used in making and building things. Bricklayers used thousands of same-sized bricks to pave streets and build homes. City engineers dug wells throughout the city. They also created a sewer system, complete with manholes, to keep the city clean. Projects like this need much planning. Therefore, historians believe Mohenjo-Daro must have had a strong government. Harappa had almost the same layout as Mohenjo-Daro. Therefore, historians conclude that the Indus River valley also must have had a strong central government. On top of Mohenjo-Daro s citadel are the remains of a large, pillar-supported building. Archaeologists think it may have served as a city hall, because it overlooked the city. Next door was a building that housed a pool-sized bath. The bath may have had religious importance. Cleansing practices later became a key part of Indian religions. The artwork at left shows what Mohenjo-Daro may have looked like in 2000 B.C.

3 Working in Mohenjo-Daro Harappan builders, engineers, and craftworkers were highly skilled. Archaeologists have found remains of their work in the workshops that lined city avenues. Skilled workers carved beautiful figures into small squares of stone. These stone squares were probably used as seals for marking belongings. Potters made water jars, cooking bowls, and other containers. These were covered with colorful paintings. Metalworkers made everything from copper fish hooks to razors. They also made fine statues of people cast in bronze. Perhaps for the first time anywhere, weavers made cloth from cotton. As in other ancient cities, such specialization meant that Harappan farmers produced surplus food. Surplus grain was stored in a great warehouse. Perhaps, as in ancient Egypt, government workers collected grain from farmers as taxes. The stored grain could later be measured out again, possibly as payment to city workers. Harappan Trade Historians are not sure of the exact trade routes used by ancient Harappans. However, historians do know that Harappan merchants traded with neighbors both near and far. From artifacts, archaeologists know that Harappans sold stone seals in what is today Iran. They brought home blue stones called lapis lazuli from what is today Afghanistan. Beadmakers made necklaces from stones brought from what is today India. These and other goods were then traded in faraway Mesopotamia. The long journey to Mesopotamia was probably made in small sailboats. From the Indus River delta, the boats headed west along the southern coast of Asia. The sailors may have taken along field birds such as crows and swallows. When set free, the birds would fly toward land. Question Time: Answer the following questions based on what you just read above. 5. What evidence can you find to conclude that Harappan civilization had strong government? What evidence suggests that religion was important? 6. What specialized jobs had developed to help create Harappan civilization? 7. Why might it have been easier to trade with Mesopotamia than with Afghanistan and Iran? 8. What evidence must historians have found to tell them where Harappan merchants traded? Newcomers Sometime around 1600 B.C. the city of Mohenjo-Daro was totally abandoned. So was the city of Harappa. Why? Unfortunately we may never know for sure why these ancient cities were abandoned. One possible answer, archaeologists say, is that an earthquake caused the Indus to change its course. Without river water, farming would have become very difficult in this area. This earthquake may also have created massive floods. Floods may have destroyed the region s two largest cities. Life went on in the Indus Valley after the disaster. Harappan civilization, however, was never the same again. Life in the Indus Valley changed even

4 more, beginning around 1500 B.C. At that time newcomers began crossing the icy passes of the Hindu Kush Mountains. The Aryan people, originally from central Asia, herded cattle and sheep on horseback. Perhaps due to natural disasters or wars at home, they migrated. To migrate means to move from one place to another to live. The Aryans migrated both to Europe and India. Follow their routes to India on the map below. Aryans means noble ones in Sanskrit. The Aryan people brought this language to the Indus Valley and the rest of the subcontinent. They also brought new religious ideas, which you will read about in the next lesson. Why it Matters Harappan civilization existed in the Indus River valley for almost 1,000 years. During that time farmers produced a large surplus of food. This surplus fed the populations of the great cities that developed along the fertile plains. Workers in cities like Mohenjo-Daro created items unknown in other parts of the world at that time. These included cotton cloth, stone seals, and citywide drainage systems. In the end, Harappan civilization may have been destroyed by the very thing that made it possible the Indus River. Yet parts of that civilization would continue in new forms. New peoples would come to control the Indian subcontinent. In time their cultures would blend with the culture of the Harappans to create a new, rich culture.. Main Ideas Little is known about Harappan civilization because its writing system has not yet been figured out. The city of Mohenjo-Daro included many brick buildings and a huge citadel. The city also had a sewer system more advanced than any other of its time. The orderly layout of the city and its large grain warehouse suggest that Mohenjo-Daro was ruled by a strong local government. Harappan merchants traded goods in many places, some of which were as far away as Mesopotamia. In about 1500 B.C. people called Aryans migrated to the Indian subcontinent. They brought new ideas to the region.

5 Question Time: Answer the following questions based on what you just read above. 9. What causes might have destroyed Harappan civilization? 10. Who were the Aryans and when did they migrate to the Indus Valley? 11. Why do we believe that Mohenjo-Daro had a strong government? 12. Based on the information in this lesson, what conclusions can you make about the people who lived in Mohenjo-Daro? What evidence supports your conclusions? Pretend you are living in ancient Mohenjo-Daro. Write a paragraph long diary entry describing one of your days there.

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