The Indus Civilisation- “Boring No More”

 HORNED GODDESS depiction. It’s dated 6,000 BC and has been found at Mehrgarh site, in the then Ancient Balochistan, the earliest phase of Pakistan’s Indus Valley Civilisation.



by Nayyar Hashmey


Since start of humanity’s civilized settlements on this planet, man has always tried to trace its origin. Consequent to this endeavor, archeological excavations were undertaken all over and conclusive evidence on many ancient civilizations gathered. In this regard, holy scriptures of Muslims, Jews, Christians and other religions / beliefs were a big source to educate and guide researchers about those ancient people and their civilizations.

In Holy Quran there is a complete discourse over such ancient civilizations; civilizations which prospered and then perished during different time periods of ancient history. In Bible’s old and new testaments too, there is a mention of such civilizations. The three holy books carry details of the life and time of prophet Abraham (Hazrat Ibrahim Alay-his-salaam) that period related to civilization in Mesopotamia in present day Iraq. Places like Ur, Babel and Nineveh belong to the same region. That period probably dates to 4000-5000 BCE. It has been a common belief that Mesopotamians were the oldest, and the successive ones were the people in the ancient Indus Valley.

The archaeological excavations, however, done at Harappa and Moenjo Daro in present day Pakistan reveal the people in Indus Valley were no less advanced and culturally rich than the civilizations in Mesopotamia or Egypt. But many things remained unexplained and so remain till this day.  Even today there is no conclusive edict about the Indus script. There is also a school of thought which considers these signs as a depiction of certain figures only and no alphabets at all. Contrary to this there are many who believe the script is agglutinative and hieroglyphic, much older than the one found in Egypt and Sumer. The ancient Indus script was to some extent deciphered by famous Pakistani archaeologist Dr. Ahmed Hassan Dani, yet a full understanding of the language is still a puzzle to all archaeologists.

Fortunately new studies are on the way. Many excavations have been done in recent times especially by US and European teams. In their pursuit they have dug out places, some by chance, many by man’s inquisitive approach to find its anthropological origin and thus discovered many such sites where remains of ancient civilizations lie buried for centuries. This includes the Indus Valley Civilisation as well.

Researchers like Andrew Lawler hint on the changing views of scientists about the Indus. These views throw new light on how does IVC compare to its other contemporaries (Mesopotamia and Egypt) and of what might have happened to it all. These things are undergoing stark and important reconsideration, says Lawler. The scientists consider it to be “BORING NO MORE” and indeed the emerging new understanding of the Indus Civilisation, suggests that it might have been a power house of commerce and technology in the third millennium BC”.

In June last year, in a cover story Andrew Lawler (Science vol 320, p 1278-1285), says a fellow blogger Dr. Adil Najam ( in a post on his site, “Much has been written about the Indus Civilization including fascinating and detailed reports in the National Geographic etc. but the Science report is different because it highlights, how our scientific in this case archaeological – knowledge on the subject is not only expanding, but changing. As says Lawler, “Boring No More, a trade savvy Indus Emerges.””

Striking new evidence from a host of excavations on both sides of the tense border that separates India and Pakistan has now definitively overturned that second class status. No longer is the Indus the plain cousin of Egypt and Mesopotamia during the third millennium BC.  Archaeologists now realize that the Indus diversified its grand neighbors, in land, area and population, surpassed them in many areas of engineering and technology and was an aggressive player during humanity’s first globalization 5000 years ago.

The old notion that the Indus, people were an insular, homogeneous egalitarian brunch is being replaced by a view of diverse and dynamic society that stretched from the Arabian Sea to the foothills of Himalaya and was eager to do business with peoples from Afghanistan to Iraq. And the Indus people worried enough about the privileges of their elite to build the thick walls and to protect them.

“This idea that the Indus was dull and monolithic – that’s all nonsense”, says Louis Fram, another archaeologist at the City University of New York. According to Fram, who has worked in Pakistan, there was a tremendous amount of variety.

“These people were aggressive traders, there is no doubt about it, adds [Gregory] Possehl of the University of Pennsylvania], who has found Indus style pottery made from Gujarat clay at a dig in Oman. Shehnaz Sheikh Vice Chancellor, Shah Bhitai University, takes the assertion a step further, arguing that “the Indus people were controlling the trade; they controlled the quarries, the trade routes and they knew where the markets were”. Thus ends Adal Najam his highly interesting post. But the story goes still further.

In 2000-2003, teams led by archaeologist Andrea Cucina visited the area around Mehrgarh. There they found signs of human settlement dating back to a period 9000 years BC. Surprisingly they also found remains which show dental decay which might have been treated 8,000-9,000 years ago.

It is some of the earliest evidence of dentistry.

_1272010_dental_work_close3002[Left: An example of modern-day dental work. Tiny holes found in teeth suggest even prehistoric man may have had to fear the dentist’s drill].

“It is very tantalizing to think they had such knowledge of health and cavities and medicine to do this” says Professor Andrea Cucina of the University of Missouri-Columbia

The people of that time and area were extremely sophisticated not only in controlling the anguish and pain to human body; they also cultivated crops and made intricate jewellery from shells, amethysts and turquoise. But before this discovery was made, no one was aware they also had dentistry skills.

Cucina, made the discovery when he was cleaning the teeth from one of the men in year 2000.

Under a microscope, the scientists discovered the holes were too perfectly round to have been caused by bacteria. But they did see concentric grooves left by what they think was a drill with a tiny stone bit. Although no drill has been found, archaeologists discovered beads of the same 2.5 mm diameter as the holes found in the teeth, indicating the people did have the capacity to do delicate work.

The physical anthropologist who carried out the examinations, Professor Cucina said the work could have been done to treat tooth decay, and suggested some plant or other material, which would have since decayed, could have been inserted into the hole.

The archaeologist discovered perfect tiny holes in two molar teeth from the remains of different men.

Through their breakthrough work, the two world renown archaeologists (Jean-François Jarrige and Andrea Cucina) have enabled us know the Mehrgarh man, who has thus proved his advancement in the dental surgery right at the start of humanity on this planet. Researchers now agree that Indus Civilisation originally started to develop in Mehrgrah and its surroundings and these people later moved around the river Indus because of its fertile delta.

Now rivers have always been the centres to attract human settlements; as means of transport and above all a continuous source of nourishment as water has always been, now and then too a sustainer of life (human beings, animals and plants). This very fact seems to have motivated rather forced the people to migrate to much fertile lands around Indus which later turned into a highly developed Indus Valley Civilisation of Moenjo Daro and Harappa.



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