Primary History

Indus Valley: Technology and Jobs

  • Making bricks

    Most Indus Valley cities were made from mud bricks. First the brick-makers mixed soil, clay and water to make squishy mud. Next they squashed the mud into a wooden mould which was the shape of a brick. And then they turned out the mud-brick, like you would turn out a sand-castle.

    Mud-bricks could dry in the hot sun. But it was better to put them inside a kiln. The fire in the kiln heated or 'fired' the bricks at a high temperature to make them very hard.

    All Indus Valley bricks were the same ratio of 1 : 2 : 4 but came in different sizes. A common size was 7 cm high x 14 cm wide x 28 cm long. Bricks were laid in rows or 'courses', end to end and crossways, using wet mud as cement to stick the bricks together. Indus Valley walls were so strong that many have stood for over 4,000 years!

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  • City plans

    Indus Valley cities were neatly planned. They had straight roads making a grid pattern, dividing the city into blocks. Main streets were almost 10 metres wide, so two bullock carts could pass by each other. Drains were laid along the streets and wells were dug for water.

    Mohenjo-Daro stood on a mound and had a wall with gateways to go in and out. Some city districts inside were raised on mounds too. On the highest mound was a citadel, which was perhaps where priests and rulers lived.

    People built new houses on top of old ones, as the mud-bricks crumbled. So, over hundreds of years the cities grew higher. In time some new houses were seven metres above the level of the old houses at the bottom!

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  • Mohenjo-Daro's Great Bath

    The Great Bath in the city of Mohenjo-Daro looks like a swimming pool. It was over 14 metres long and seven metres wide. It had a brick-paved courtyard and columns on three sides.

    Water (probably from a well) filled the Bath to about 2.4 metres deep (a tall man is about 1.8 metres). Two sets of steps led down to the bottom. Water drained out through one corner into a drain. Tar and gypsum mortar between the bricks made sure no water leaked out.

    Water was very important to the Indus Valley people. The Great Bath may have been a temple, where priests and rulers bathed in religious ceremonies.

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  • Tools and jobs

    Indus Valley people used some tools like the ones we use today - hammers, knives, needles, fish-hooks, axes, razors and saws. But many Indus tools were made of stone called flint. The metal Indus Valley people used most was copper. They made sharp copper tools. They mixed copper and tin to make bronze.

    Workers did different jobs. For example, some workers made stone querns (for grinding grain to make flour). Others spun and wove cotton into clothes and cotton bags. City workers made beads, fishing nets, pots, baskets...everything people needed. Children learned work- skills from their families.

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  • Keeping clean

    Indus Valley people had clean water and excellent drains - better than any other ancient civilisation. Most city homes had a bathroom and toilet, connected to the city drains. Some people had private wells, for clean water. Others went to public wells, to fetch water in jars or animal- skin bags.

    Waste water flowed out of the house through pipes into the street-drains. 'Poo-cleaners' cleaned the drains and emptied the pits where sewage from toilets collected.

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Fun Facts
  • Traders could use sheep and goats to carry goods.

  • An Indus hotel had rows of rooms with bathrooms.

  • Ruts left by cart-wheels at Harappa are 1.6 m apart. This helps us work out how big carts were.

  • An Indus brick is twice as long as it is wide.

  • Dye from the madder plant turned clothes red.

  • Red was one of the Indus people's favourite colours.

  • Wax and clay moulds were used to make copper tools. Melted metal was poured in the mould, then cooled until hard.

  • Goat poo was good for making clay pots dark-coloured!

  • At Kalibangan, there were no drains in the street - just jars outside houses.

  • Some Indus city walls are 7 metres thick!

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

E to G

evidence
Materials or facts that can help you form a conclusion or judgment about something.
excavate
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.
furnace
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

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

M to O

Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia was an ancient civilisation in what is now Iraq; it lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
minerals
Minerals are natural substances like gold, silver, stone or sand.
museum
A museum is a building that houses artefacts that have a historical value.
mythical
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.
record
A record is information or data that has been collected and kept.
resources
Resources are the raw materials people use for building or making things.
seal
An Indus seal was a small stone block with a picture that left an impression when stamped into soft clay.
settlement
A settlement is a place where people live together, such as a village, town or city.
site
An archaeological site is an area that archaeologists are investigating.
scribe
A scribe was a person in ancient times who could read and write, and wrote things for other people.
slave
A slave is a person who is not free and has to work for an owner.
steatite
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
Sumer was a land in Mesopotamia, with one of the first civilisations, about 3500 BC.
taxes
Taxes are what people have to pay to their government, as money or in ancient times as goods, such as sacks of grain.
trade/trader
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.
well
A well is a hole dug to find water underground.