Primary History

Indus Valley: Land of the Indus

  • Where is the Indus Valley?

    The Indus is the longest river in Pakistan. Pakistan is a country in Asia. Look for it on the map. Afghanistan is to the west, China to the north, and India to the east. The Indus River begins in the Himalaya Mountains, and flows nearly 3,000 kilometres to the Arabian Sea.

    In the Sanskrit language of Ancient India, the Indus was called the Sindhu. Other rivers such as the Sarasvati join the Indus as it flows down to the sea. The Indus Valley civilisation is sometimes called the Sindhu-Sarasvati civilisation.

    A valley is a physical feature. It's the land shaped by a river. A valley can be V-shaped or U-shaped. A river can also create a wide, flat 'flood plain'. The Indus Valley was shaped by the Indus River, and here people long ago built some of the first cities.

    Back to top

  • Why did people settle near rivers?

    Stone Age people hunted animals and gathered wild plants to eat. Rivers were good places to look for food. The first farmers also liked to live near rivers. A river keeps the land green and fertile for growing crops. Farmers lived together in villages. Indus Valley cities like Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro began as riverside farming villages about 5,000 years ago.

    The Indus people needed river water to drink, wash and to irrigate their fields. They used water in religious ceremonies. They made boats to travel up and down the rivers. To the Indus people, their river was The King River.

    Back to top

  • Other ancient civilisations

    The Indus civilisation began about 5,000 years ago. It was one of the first civilisations. The others were in Egypt, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and China. The Indus Valley civilisation was the biggest.

    Our word civilisation comes from the Ancient Roman (Latin) word, civis. meaning 'city'. In a city, people felt safe from enemies. City people learned many new skills. They made clay pots, bricks and metal tools. Some could read and write. Some became traders, travelling to other cities.

    The first city-civilisations grew powerful. Their kings lived in palaces. Rich people enjoyed gardens, games, music, dancing and feasts. But most people were poor. Some were slaves.

    Back to top

  • How big was the Indus civilisation?

    The Indus Valley civilisation was bigger than modern Pakistan, and four times bigger than Britain! There were more than 1,400 towns and cities. The biggest cities were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Each city had as many as 80,000 people.

    There were lots of smaller cities, such as Lothal, Dholavira, Kalibangan and Banawali. These names of these cities were given in later times. We do not know what the Indus people themselves called their cities

    Back to top

Fun Facts
  • The Saravati River had lots of cities too, not just the Indus.

  • At Mohenjo-Daro it can get very hot, over 37ºC/ 100ºF.

  • Indus city streets ran North-South and East-West.

  • The Indus civilization covered 4 times as much land as Britain.

  • How many people were there? Perhaps between 1 and 5 million in the Indus Valley.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Jump to: A-D | E-G | H-L | M-O | P-Z

A to D

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.

M to O

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.