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Lesson summary: Indus River Valley

An overview of Indus River Valley civilizations.


Some of the first advanced civilizations we know about emerged in places like the Indus River Valley in about 2600 BCE.

Key terms

Indus River Valley CivilizationAlso called the Harappan Civilization, the Indus River Valley civilization existed from about 2600-1300 BCE and extended from modern-day northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India
HarappaAnother name for the Indus River Valley Civilization. Harappa was the name of the first Indus River Valley Civilization archaeological site to be excavated, in modern-day Pakistan
Mohenjo-daroThe largest city of the Indus River Valley Civilization and believed to be one of the world’s earliest major urban centers. Known for advanced engineering and urban planning
urban planningA technical and political process concerned with the use of land and design of the urban environment
monumental architectureGiant temples, pyramids, or other structures that large cities produce. Their main purpose is to honor a deity or leader, or as a site for public ritual.
standardized weights and measuresA uniform system of measurement for items that a civilization uses for things like trade, shipping, or construction
metallurgyThe science of working with copper, bronze, lead, and tin
the Indus scriptCollection of trident-shaped, plant-like markings on clay tablets found in Harappa and carbon-dated 3300-3200 BCE. Because the strings of symbols are so short (the longest is only 27 signs) and without comparable symbols like on the Rosetta Stone, the Indus script is indecipherable today
Indo-European migrationLarge-scale migration movements that involved people spreading throughout Europe and Asia from about 4000 to 1000 BCE
Indo-Aryan migration/invasion theoryA historical theory that Indo-Aryans, people from Central Asia, began to migrate into the Indus River Valley area at the time that civilization was declining. Indo-Aryans were a sub-group of Indo-Europeans
VedasA collection of literary works written in Sanskrit; a major foundation of modern Indian culture and religion
Vedic PeriodThe period in India following the Indus Valley period, from about 1500 BCE to 500 BCE. Historians believed that Indo-European peoples migrated to North India from Central Asia and began to settle and establish kingdoms
Map of Indus River Valley and Shang China civilizations.
Map of Indus River Valley and Shang China civilizations.


c.2600 BCE - c.2500 BCEBeginning and spread of the Indus River Valley Civilization
c.2500 BCE - c.2000 BCE“Mature” or main period of Indus River Valley Civilization
c.2000 BCE - c.1900 BCEFall of the Indus Valley Civilization
c.1500 BCE - c.500 BCEIndo-Aryan migration and Vedic Period in North India
Excavated ruins of the great bath at Mohenjo-Daro.
Excavated ruins of the great bath at Mohenjo-Daro. Wikipedia

Thematic connections

The development of civilizations: In fertile areas where successful agriculture was possible, civilizations were established and grew. The Indus River Valley Civilization in northern India and the Shang Dynasty along the Yellow River in China are two examples of how civilizations flourished under the right geographical and climatic conditions.
Culture: Systems of writing developed, as well as standardized weights and measures that facilitated trade and regimented urban planning, especially in the Indus Valley. New religious beliefs emerged, such as the Vedic religion during the Vedic period. Exchanges between cultures occurred as regions traded with one another, such as China and Southwest Asia.

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