The Indus Valley Civilization remains one of the most enigmatic events in human history, if only for the paucity of knowledge associated with it in general discourse. It was truly a paean to the desire for human excellence, even in those times, bringing in its wake several important inventions which mankind has derived progress from.
Note: Each and every one of the 4 ancient civilizations had its own mind boggling languages, handicrafts, religion et al. Here I am only concentrating on the amazing and unique things found exclusively in Indus Valley Civilization.
1) IVC is the largest of the 4 ancient river valley civilizations.
The Indus Valley Civilization was spread out over an area of 1, 260, 000 km² over modern day Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. The geographical spread is appreciable particularly when we consider the fact that all across this immense expanse, Indus Valley settlements exhibit the same hallmark features of their civilization. At its peak the area must have been inhabited by well over 5 million people.
2) They had the world's first planned cities with downtowns and residential areas (and perhaps, some of the best planned cities in the sub-continent to date).
A typical city would be divided into two sections, each fortified separately. One section, known as the acropolis, was located on an artificially raised mound while the other level was on level ground.
The acropolis contained the important buildings of the city, like the assembly halls, religious structures, granaries and in the case of Mohenjo-Daro the famous Great Bath. The lower section of the city was where the housing for the inhabitants was located. It was here where some truly amazing features have been discovered. The city was well connected with broad roads about 30 meters long which met at right angles. The houses were located in the rectangular squares thus formed. Houses were built with standardized baked bricks (which had a ratio of length to width to thickness at 4:2:1) and many had spacious courtyards. Some of the bigger houses even had multiple stories (levels) and paved floors.
3) They built urban sanitation systems non-pareil in the Ancient World till much later.
The most unique aspect of the Indus Valley municipal systems was the attention given to and the sophistication involved in urban sanitation systems. Every house had an individual well, a separate drain connecting to the drains in the alleyways which connected to the main street drains: all of which were covered. The street drains had descending levels so as to enable filtering out of waste. They were completely leak-proof due to the masonry expertise and even employed wooden nets at corbelled openings to filter out solid wastes! No other civilization enjoyed such luxuries! Half of India to this day doesn't have access to such sanitation.
4) The IVC developed the most precise measurements humanity had at the time.
The measurements were uniquely standard across the entire region, and followed a decimal system. Their smallest length division, which is marked on an ivory scale found in Lothal, was approximately 1.604 mm, the smallest division ever recorded on a scale of the Bronze Age.
Rulers made of Ivory were in use by the Indus Valley Civilization period prior to 1500 BC. Excavations at Lothal (2400 BC) have yielded one such ruler calibrated to about 1⁄16 inches (1.6 millimetres). Ian Whitelaw holds that the "Mohenjo-Daro ruler is divided into units corresponding to 1.32 inches (33.5 millimetres) and these" are marked out in decimal subdivisions with amazing accuracy, to within 0.005 inches (0.13 millimetres). Ancient bricks found throughout the region have dimensions that correspond to these units. (1)
5) The IVC people were the world's first dentists!
In 2001, archaeologists studying the remains of two men from Mehrgarh, Pakistan, made the discovery that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization, from the early Harappan periods, had knowledge of proto-dentistry. Later, in April 2006, it was announced in the scientific journal Nature that the oldest (and first early Neolithic) evidence for the drilling of human teeth in vivo (i.e., in a living person) was found in Mehrgarh. Eleven drilled molar crowns from nine adults were discovered in a Neolithic graveyard in Mehrgarh that dates from 7, 500-9, 000 years ago. According to the authors, their discoveries point to a tradition of proto-dentistry in the early farming cultures of that region.
6) IVC people had the world's first buttons!
The button, in fact, was originally used more as an ornament than as a fastening, the earliest known being found at Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley. It was made of a curved shell and about 5000 years old.
There are many more mysteries waiting to be solved to shed more light on this civilization: its sudden emergence, its language, its equally sudden collapse, its enemies/ trading partners and so on.
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