Primary History

Indus Valley: Games and Toys

  • What toys did children play with?

    Indus Valley people seem to have loved toys. They made many toys, such as toy carts and toy animals, from baked clay.

    Archaeologists have found model cows that waggle their heads on a string, and toy monkeys that could slide down ropes, and little squirrels. They have also discovered toy carts have a little roof, to keep off the rain and hot sun.

    Indus children may also have played with pull-along animals on wheels, as well as rattles and bird-whistles all made from terracotta.

    One clay figure is of a boy holding a small disc, probably used in a throw-and-chase game.

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  • Work and play

    We only know a little about what it was like to be a child in the Indus Valley cities. Children could play in the courtyards of houses, and probably on the flat roofs, too. The roof could be a fun place to play: you could wave to your friends across the street!

    Most children had to work hard. Even small children helped with the daily tasks. Children were taught how to make things, how to farm, how to hunt. They learned these skills from older members of their family, and from people with special skills, such as potters, bead-makers and metal-workers.

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  • Did children go to school?

    Some children may have gone to school. A scribe, who knew how to read and write, would teach some children the same skills. A priest would teach religious lessons. Whether there were schools, and if many children went to school, is something we don't know. Perhaps only rich children had lessons.

    Ancient civilisations needed people with skills, just as we do. So traders, scribes, potters jewellers, builders, farmers and others like them would teach children their skills.

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  • Did people have pets?

    Archaeologists have found paw prints left by animals preserved within the ruins of Indus cities. Children may have had pet monkeys, and perhaps birds in cages, or even lizards and snakes! Hunters might have brought home baby deer or wild pigs. Children could also look after baby farm animals such as lambs or kids (baby goats).

    We know that dogs lived in Indus Valley cities, because dog bones have been found. Perhaps some dogs were guard dogs, or hunting dogs. Some were probably family pets.

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  • Playing games

    Indus Valley people enjoyed gambling and playing board games. At Harappa archaeologists found dice made from cubes of sandstone and terracotta. These are probably the oldest dice in the world.

    The Indus people may have been the first to use cube dice with six sides and spots, just like the ones we use today. Ivory made from elephant tusks was used to make counters for board games.

    Indus Valley people also liked the cruel sport of cock-fighting. They probably bet on which bird would win. They kept camels too, so perhaps they went camel racing!

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Fun Facts
  • One Indus model animal is of a squirrel eating a nut.

  • Bird-whistles were handy for attracting birds when hunting.

  • One bronze sculpture shows man driving a chariot pulled by two oxen.

  • Indus dogs may have helped shepherds round up sheep and goats.

  • Some Indus carts had 2 wheels, and others 4 wheels.

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aerial photograph
An aerial photograph is usually taken from an aircraft or hot air balloon and shows the landscape beneath.
An amulet is a good-luck charm, like a locket, usually worn around the neck.
ancient civilisation
An ancient civilisation is one which existed over 1,500 years ago.
An archaeologist is a person who studies ancient civilisations by examining the materials they left behind. These materials can include buildings, pottery, graves and tools.
An artefact is an object that has been made by a person. Archaeologists use old artefacts to learn about the past.
BC is the abbreviation for Before Christ - which is before the Christian era.
A bullock is a young bull or ox (male cattle) used to pull carts or ploughs.
Bronze is a metal made by mixing copper and tin.
Carnelian is a reddish-brown mineral stone used to make jewellery.
A cemetery is a place where dead people are buried.
A citadel is a fortified place, usually in a raised position in or near a city.
A civilisation is a culture and society that developed in a region at a particular time.
A compass is a device that shows the direction of the magnetic or true North.
Copper is a metal. It was used in ancient civilisations to make tools.
A detective is a person who investigates crimes by finding evidence.
A drain is a pipe or ditch made to carry away water from buildings.

E to G

Materials or facts that can help you form a conclusion or judgment about something.
To excavate an area is to uncover it by digging or removing earth.
excavation map
An excavation map shows the site where an archaeologist is searching for artefacts.
faience (fie-unz)
Faience is a material made by heating minerals until they melt; when it cools, it is hard and shiny.
A furnace is a very hot fire used to melt rocks containing metals, and melt metal soft enough to shape.
geophysical scan
A geophysical scan uses radar, lasers and other 'x-ray' technology to look beneath the ground for hidden objects.

H to L

The Himalaya are the highest mountains in the world, to the north of India.
A Hindu is a person who follows the ancient religion of Hinduism, which began in India.
To irrigate is to use water from a river or lake to feed farm crops in fields.
Jade is a hard stone used to make jewellery and ornaments.
A kiln is a very hot oven used to bake and harden materials such as clay and bricks.

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Mesopotamia was an ancient civilisation in what is now Iraq; it lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Minerals are natural substances like gold, silver, stone or sand.
A museum is a building that houses artefacts that have a historical value.
If something is mythical, it is imaginary or made-up.

P to Z

physical feature
A physical feature is a land shape formed by nature. Valleys, mountains and deserts are all physical features.
port city
A port city is a city by the sea, where boats can dock and people can buy or sell goods.
A record is information or data that has been collected and kept.
Resources are the raw materials people use for building or making things.
An Indus seal was a small stone block with a picture that left an impression when stamped into soft clay.
A settlement is a place where people live together, such as a village, town or city.
An archaeological site is an area that archaeologists are investigating.
A scribe was a person in ancient times who could read and write, and wrote things for other people.
A slave is a person who is not free and has to work for an owner.
Steatite is a soft stone which can be carved using metal tools. Steatite hardens when it is fired in a kiln.
Stone Age
The Stone Age was the period in ancient history when people made tools from stone, such as flint knives and axes.
Sumer was a land in Mesopotamia, with one of the first civilisations, about 3500 BC.
Taxes are what people have to pay to their government, as money or in ancient times as goods, such as sacks of grain.
Trade is exchanging goods. A trader is someone who makes a living by trade, buying and selling things that they or other people have grown, collected or made.
A well is a hole dug to find water underground.