• Imagining History

Cities of the Indus Valley – A Guide for Keystage 2:


In our last blog, we answered some introductory questions on the “what, when, where, who and why” of the Indus valley. Join us now as we dive into more detail about what life was like in the cities of the Indus Valley.


Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro:


There were more than 1,400 towns and cities in the Indus Valley. The two largest cities that have been discovered were named Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro by archaeologists (though we’re not sure what Indus people would have called these cities at the time). Both cities are located in modern-day Pakistan.





Building on a grid:


Cities of the Indus Valley civilisation were built with a high degree of skill. The houses and streets were laid out in a grid pattern and most were surrounded by protective walls all the way around. The streets in the city were wide enough to allow two elephants to pass each other, which was ideal for a city packed full of traders busily going about their business.


Harappa Indus Valley city with flat roofed houses built on a grid
Flat roofed houses in Harappa - courtesy Tejavalli reddy

Flat Houses:


The houses in Indus Valley cities had one very popular feature – a flat roof. This was handy because the houses could often be quite small. After all, it was very hot in the Indus Valley, so people would have spent most of their time outside. The flat roofs were strong enough to walk on and were often used as an extra room.


Mud bricks used to build Indus Valley buildings at Mohenjo-Daro city
Check out each of the mud bricks used to construct the buildings at Mohenjo-Daro - Courtesy Usman_Ghani

Muddy Walls:


Buildings in the Indus Valley were made out of mud-bricks. Which, we admit, sounds very messy and very flimsy. But these bricks were so strong that some of them are still standing after nearly 4,000 years!


To make a mud-brick, the mud was mixed with clay and pressed into a mould to give it the right shape. After being shaped, the mud-brick would be left in the hot sun to bake until it turned hard. It would then be used with other mud-bricks to make a wall just like today, but with wet mud to cement the bricks together.


Great public bath at Mohenjo-Daro Indus Valley civilisation
The large public bath at Mohenjo-Daro - talk about amazing plumbing! - Courtesy Saqib Qayyum

Plumbing


Indus Valley cities were very advanced with their plumbing systems (even more advanced than the early Romans, hundreds of years later!). Most cities had a well to provide everyone with fresh water for drinking, washing and cooking. The city’s houses would be fitted with pipes to dispose of their used water into the street. From here, the dirty water would channel down drains and into pipes that would flush it out onto the fields. Some houses even had flushable toilets!


Fun Fact:


The Indus people often built new houses on top of their old ones. So an archaeologist might find the ruins of hundreds of years of houses hidden one underneath the other. This meant that by the end of the Indus Valley civilisation, the city would have been several metres higher than when it was first built!