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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Indus Valley Civilization - Economy

The Indus Valley Civilization flourished on the fertile plains of the river Indus and its tributaries. Farming was therefore the main occupation of the people. The Indus Valley Civilization was however a highly urbanized civilization. As a result there was a large section of the population that was not directly involved in agriculture but instead relied on the farmers in the rural areas for their food, a pattern which is consistent with cities today. The city dwellers were engaged in occupations like arts and crafts, trade, seal making etc. While definite evidence is still lacking, excavations indicate that there was an organized and complex economic system. One in which the interdependence of the cities and rural areas was marked. We shall now briefly look at the main occupations of the time.
Agriculture-The Indus plains were made fertile by the annual inundation of the river Indus. This river carried far more alluvial soil than many other contemporary rivers like the Nile in Egypt. The farmers
sowed their seeds in November when the flood waters receded and reaped their harvests in April before the next floods. They must have produced enough to provide for the people in villages and cities. They produced wheat, barley, rice, sesamum, mustard etc. They also produced significant quantities of cotton, in fact the Greek word for cotton is sindon, a word derived from Sind which is a part of the Indus Valley Civilization region.
Technology, arts & crafts - Besides using stone implements the people of the Indus Valley Civilization also used implements of bronze. This means, they were well versed with the technique of mining from the near-by mines of Khetri which is till today famous for it's copper ores. Tin was probably brought from mines in Bihar or from Afghanistan. The amount of artifacts left behind by the Indus Valley Civilization suggests that there were a large group of bronzesmiths who not only made utensils but also made various kinds of tools as well. There is evidence which suggests that they may also have practiced weaving , possibly using spindle whorls . Whatever buildings have been excavated seem to have been made of brick which indicates that brick-laying must also have been an important occupation. Besides the above, people of the Indus Valley Civilization must also have followed the occupations of seal-making, goldsmiths, pottery, beadmaking etc.
Trade- In the absence of any scriptural evidence it can only be presumed that the Indus Valley Civilization had trade relations with places as far as Mesopotamia. Excavated materials in Mesopotamia suggest that they might have had trade relations with Indus Valley Civilization by a sea route since some of the seals have pictures of boats. It can also be suggested that there was internet trade taking place because the resources required by the civilization were located over a large area. They were familiar with the wheel and possibly used a bullock-cart for transportation. We do not have any conclusive evidence to find out about the medium of exchange used, though the barter system is a likely possibility. The Indus Valley Civilization people might have used weights and other measures. Some of the artifacts discovered seem to be objects used for weighing. An interesting feature is that the weights appear to be based on a multiple of sixteen system, a system which continued in India until the metric system was adopted.
Thus there is strong evidence to suggest the existence of a highly complex economic structure five thousand years ago but unfortunately absence of any definite evidence prevents us from making any kind of conclusions about the character and extent of the economy of the Indus Valley Civilization.
ago but unfortunately absence of any definite evidence prevents us from making any kind of conclusions about the character and extent of the economy of the Indus Valley Civilization.

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