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Chapter 4 – Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization

Chapter Summary

Like Mesopotamian and Egyptian cities, the cities of the contemporaneous (2600-1900 BC) Indus Valley (or Harappan) Civilization arose alongside rivers: the Indus, its tributaries, and other regional rivers. This environmental similarity opens the way to a comparison and contrast of urban patterns among these three civilizations. The focus here on Mohenjo-Daro and smaller Lothal reveals significant differences with their Mesopotamian and Egyptian counterparts: no monumental temples; no trace of the rulers in architecture, burials, or pictorial art; and no information from the written record, for the local script has not yet been deciphered. Nonetheless, in the care taken in the urban layout, the monumental architecture, the comfortable houses, and the use of baked bricks, these cities were highly sophisticated.



Study guide

  1. How does the archaeological record (the material and textual remains recovered by archaeological research) of the Indus Valley Civilization compare and contrast with those of Mesopotamia and (in Chapters 5 and 6) Egypt? How do these differences make comparison of Harappan, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian cities difficult?

  2. Geography. Where was the Indus Valley Civilization located? Can you place this on a modern political map? What characterizes this environment?

  3. Mohenjo-Daro is the major site presented in this chapter. You should aim to be familiar with its urban, architectural, and other material features.  Describe what we know.  In contrast, what do we not know about the society, the functions of buildings, and the experiences of daily life at Mohenjo-Daro?

  4. What features (architectural and cultural) does the city of Lothal have in common with the much larger city of Mohenjo-Daro?  These features might make up the characteristic profile of the Indus Valley Civilization city. Keep this list on file for use later, when you are asked to compare and contrast Indus Valley cities with cities from other cultures, regions, and periods.


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