What do you know about the Indus civilisation?

If you are a typical Aussie, educated in an Australian school, chances are you will know very little, probably nothing. I knew a bit because I studied Asian History (including India, China and Japan) at Sydney University in 1962. (See My Asian Century.) I didn’t know much though:

We galloped through China and Japan in two terms (Dr Nish) and India in one (Marjorie Jacobs) and never quite got to South East Asia though I had bought the textbook – D G E Hall in those days. I read it anyway. I wrote essays on Ram Mohun Roy and on the Sian Incident 西安事变. Turned out to be the one and only time I topped a subject at Sydney U!

So this email from New Scientist this morning intrigued me.

The Indus civilisation thrived for 700 years from about 2600 to 1900 BC without war or conflict.

While other early civilisations such as Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and ancient China gloried in warfare, it seems absent from the Indus valley. In nearly a century of excavations, archaeologists have uncovered just one depiction of humans fighting.

Was the Indus civilisation a real, functioning utopia? If so, how did it survive, and why did it eventually disappear?

The Daily Mail summarises:

This is according to Andrew Robinson. the author of ‘The Indus: Lost civilisations’, who has written an in-depth piece in the New Scientist.

‘All signs point to a prosperous and advanced society – one of history’s greatest,’ he writes.

The Indus Empire stretched over more than a million square miles across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges, over what is now Pakistan, northwest India and eastern Afghanistan…

Speaking to Robinson, Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, said: ‘What’s left of these great Indus cities gives us no indication of a society engaged with, or threatened by, war.

‘Is it going too far to see these Indus cities as an early, urban Utopia?’.

While Mr MacGregor sees the utopian theory as credible, others cast doubt on the total absence of war…

Among the doubters is Richard H. Meadow of Peabody Museum, Harvard University. See How peaceful was Harappan Civilization? at Harappa.com.


The Great Bath of Mohenjodaro

This is intriguing too:

Scientists from IIT-Kharagpur and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have recently uncovered evidence that the Indus Valley civilization is at least 8,000 years old and not 5,500 years old as earlier believed.

This discovery, published in the prestigious Nature journal on May 25, 2016, makes it not just older than the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations but also the oldest in the world!

That ties in rather with something I have said several times, for example April 18, 2012 and January 7, 2013.

All of which makes it very difficult to treat the following with the awe and wonder it may have attracted in the past, or indeed in my own past. How do you reconcile the fact that in light of the above the grand cosmic narrative of the Abrahamic religions looks decidedly less impressive?

4004 B.C.
Creation of Adam and Eve – [Very few accept this “date” as having any connection whatever with anything that really happened in the history of this planet. — NW]

2348 B.C.
Noah’s Flood – [never happened — NW]

1996 to 1690 B.C.
The Biblical Patriarchs lived during this time – from Abraham to Jacob – [totally myth and legend, reflecting certain rather mundane developments in the movements of people and cultures, but having no resemblance to actual history. — NW]…


…as noted here.

As a lapsed Presbyterian Buddhist Agnostic I find the Abrahamic tradition problematic because it is just so damned parochial! Does the ancient Near East really matter all that much in the context of the facts of WORLD history? Really? Has the creator of the universe not only dedicated him/herself to playing favourites but made the salvation of all humanity depend on this rather odd divine quirkishness? Isn’t the idea of God’s Chosen People the most arrogant thing you can ever imagine? How ungodly! How unOlympian! How only too human!

So one of my problems comes about simply when I contemplate this:


If you want an easy introduction to Indus Civilisation, go to BBC Bitesize.