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Ancient Indus Civilization

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Publisher:  Royal Book Co. Type: 


Copyright:  2000

The book covers evolutionary, proto-urban and mature phases one of the great civilizations of the ancient world, belonging to 3rd millennium BC.


Introduction: Roots; Spread; Archaeological explorations; Character; Decline.

Geographical Features: Himalaya & sub-montane regions; Indus Plains; Hakra-Ghagger Valley; Coastal Regions.

Evolutionary Phases: First settlement at Mehrgarh; Chalcolithic sites; Bronze Age; Indus Civilization; Disintegration.

Proto-urban phase: Early developments at Moenjodaro.

Genesis: Contributing factors.

Rulers & System of governance:  Political status of cities; local government; Rulers.

Cities & Other Settlements: Moenjodaro; Harappa; Ganweriwala; Rakhigarhi; Kalibangan; Dholavira; Coastal settlements; industrial sites.

The Indus society: Social hierarchy; family life; Dress & personal adornment; Food; Games; Script; religion & rituals; funerary practices.

Economy, Trade & Commerce: Agriculture; craft industries; construction; traders; weights & measures; transport; external trade.

Technology & Crafts: Architecture & town-planning; wood-working; stone carving; ceramics; metallurgy; Ornaments; Faience.

Character: Ethnographic profile; clergy; rulers & social fabric.

Decline: Process; causes.

Professional Reviews

Still a mystery

Exit Civilization, enter chaos
Osman Samiuddin, in Dawn, Karachi

Ancient Indus Civilization
Author: Rafi U. Samad
Publisher: Royal Book Company, Karachi

Exit Civilization, Enter Chaos
The history of ancient civilizations reminds man constantly of the intrinsic resourcefulness of human beings and how, by our very progressive nature, we have managed to survive for so long on a planet where so many other species have failed to adapt to the peculiar nature of the planet. Indeed the history of the old world is replete with examples of how we have adapted the planet and its vast resources to our own needs.
Despite the numerous wars, natural disasters, man-made disasters and diseases that have come our way, if there is one thing that we have achieved is survival. And if there is one thing that the discovery and study of ancient civilizations such as the Egyptian and the Sumerian have taught us is that man has the capacity to ultimately survive – and to progress.
One of the greatest example of our ability to adapt, survive and progress is the Indus Civilization – a Civilization about very little is known in comparison to, say, the Sumerian or Egyptian Civilizations, both of which were in fact preceded by the Indus Valley Civilization. Rafi U. Samad’s recent publication, Ancient Indus Civilization, is an effort, as the forward by Dr. Asma Ibrahim states, to “bring up the interest of general public (sic) and the younger generation” by writing informative and interesting books, which are not totally focused on technical details.”
There is lack of literature on the subject, as the bibliography and Aitzaz Ahsan’s The Indus Saga bear out, but the lack of documentary information and the undeciphered script do not help. As Samad acknowledges, “Within the limitation imposed by an undeciphered script … an attempt has been made … to fill in our gaps in our knowledge about the Civilization…(This is) done on the basis of analytical treatment of data.”
The book then attempts to chart the rise and fall of the Civilization over the span of approximately 6000 years – right from the earliest settlements in Mehrgarh (7300 BC) through the formative period, followed by the eventual blossoming of the civilization and subsequently mysterious disintegration (1000 BC). Much attention is paid to earliest settlements at Mehrgarh – one of the first settlements anywhere in the world. It was here, in Balochistan, that the founding steps for the Indus Civilization were laid and although the text at times is slightly monotonous, the information provided us is nevertheless riveting.
Samad covers this period in so much detail that it is subsequently a slight disappointment that other features of the actual civilization are restricted by the fact that the book has only 170 odd pages. Certainly we would have done with more information about the society of the Indus Valley settlements – the social hierarchy, family life, religion – these are all covered but perhaps not in as much depth as one would expect befitting of as significant a civilization as this.
We discover how well organized the administrators of the time were – the road networks and sewage and waste disposal systems and general town planning would put the most existing third world cities to shame – and there existed no ruler-slave hierarchy in that ancient civilization. In fact this last of supreme ruler overseeing the affairs of a civilization, as in Egypt, is one of the more astonishing traits of the Indus Civilization.
It seems that a belief existed among the people that no one individual had the right to acquire or restrict the benefit of wealth and resources of the land for only him and his family. While there was an administrative hierarchy and a political class of sorts in charge of running socioeconomic affairs of the community there was no gross abuse of power, as by the Pharaohs, for instance.
Another aspect of the Indus Civilization that stands out is the relatively low-key stature of the religious class and the priests. They were present and respected but purely in an advisory manner, with no interference in the day-to-day running of the affairs. Religion although important, was kept separate and distinct from the affairs of the State. Without a doubt, however, the two most striking aspects of the civilization were its capacity for technological innovation with regard to the economy, and its wariness of military conquests and skirmishes.
The flourishing economy was based mainly on the thriving craft industry, where progress in production and manufacturing techniques contributed to the emergence of a healthy State. In fact the level of innovation in that day and age was nothing short of outstanding, as the book informs us. The lack of evidence of many weapons or political in-fighting and military conquests suggests that unlike today the people of the Indus Civilization were a generally happy and content lot with little ambition of extending their culture beyond the valley.
In view of the above information it then seems amazing that the Civilization declined and disintegrated as quickly as it had evolved. This can actually be one of the main criticisms on the book. Samad’s measly chapter on the decline of the Indus Civilization is far too vague and short, choosing factors such as changes in climate and culture (alone?), which forced the Civilization to break up into more localized cultures (did it really?).
The final conclusion, thus, sounds simplistic, especially considering that one of the main cited traits of the people in question was their ability to harsh climatic conditions and changes; this evidently contributed to their initial success. A more detailed and probing study of the decline is the least that the Indus Civilization deserves.
The other criticism is that Samad adopts a history book approach to the subject. Although the subject is fascinating and a rich source of information, the readability suffers from that monotone textbook style that K.K. Aziz (in his compulsory read The Murder of History so despairs of. And rightly so, if you want he school children to be aware of the past then this not the type of book tat will light their educational fuse. Also, there are editing errors and grammatical mistakes in the book that would enrage Aziz more.
Despite these oversights the book is definitely worth the read, if only for the exhaustive research and pure fact processing that has gone into it. This is ostensibly because little documentary information is available on a subject that would have been the pride of any other country. In the end one dare say, that the custodianship of a great civilization like the Indus Valley would have bee in better hands if it weren’t for us and our mucked up sense of priorities.
Sadly we cannot do justice to our past, what to speak of the future.

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