Mature Harappan Civilisation - Part 2 - Subsistence, Craft, Techniques, Trade, Writing and Script

February 18, 2018

For Part 1: Visit the link (Click here)

Diversity of the Harappan Subsistence Base:

  1. There was a situation of food surplus. Agriculture was the mainstay, supplemented by animal husbandry, hunting and fishing. Below are cereals and their discovery location

    • Wheat: Mohenjodaro, Harappa

    • Barley: Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kalibangan

    • Sesamum: Harappa

    • Rice: Harappa, Kalibangan, Lothal, Rangpur.

    • Millets: Harappa, Surkotada, Shortughai.

    • Grapes, Cotton, Henna, Watermelon, Peas, Dates, Gram, Chickpea, field pea, green pea, Garlic were also found.


  2. Plough was used. Terracotta figurines of Plough found.

  3. Canals were used for Irrigation.

  4. Animals:

    • Deer, Pig, Boar, Sheep, Goat, Ass, Tortoise, Fish, Rhinoceros, Elephant, Camel, Tiger, Rabbit, Peacock, Pigeon, Duck, Monkeys, Wild fowl were known. Cattles, Buffalo, Dogs, Goat and Sheep were domesticated.

Harappan Crafts and Techniques:

  1. Pottery was produced at large scale.

  2. Mostly red and black painted. Red was got from Iron oxide, geru and Black by mixing iron oxide with manganese.

  3. Stone ware bangles were also made.

  4. Copper objects were used in various forms such as vessels, spears, knives, short swords, arrowheads, axes, fishhooks, needles, mirror, ring, bangles etc. 

  5. Lead was known and used.

  6. At Lothal we have found two objects containing iron in the ratio of 39.1 and 66.1. Thus at least the Harappans of Gujarat knew about Iron smelting.

  7. Seals:



    • Mostly square or rectangular.

    • Carving is in intaglio- sunken engraving.

    • Motifs are of elephant, tiger, antelope, crocodile, hare, humped bull, buffalo, rhinoceros, unicorn, composite animals, human figures and plants.

  8. Beads:

    • Made of steatite, Agate, Carnelian, Lapis Lazuli, Shell, Terracotta, Gold, Silver and Copper.



    • Priest king at Mohenjodaro

    • Dancing girl at Mohenjodaro

  10. Cotton and woolen textiles were used. Traces of cotton cloth were found at Mohenjodaro preserved over the centuries due to their being in contact with a corroding silver jar.

  11. Standardization extended to units of weights and measures.



  1. Areas: Persian Gulf, Mesopotamia, Central Asia (Including Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan) and Oman.

  2. Trade was in barter.

  3. Trade with Mesopotamia was not direct.

  4. Imports:

    • Oman: Chlorite, Vessels, Shell and perhaps Mother of pearl.

    • Mesopotamia: Fish, Grain, Raw wool, Woolen garments and silver.

    • Afghanistan: Lapis Lazuli.

    • Kazakhstan: Tin.

    • Persian Gulf: Carved chlorite and Green schist.

  5. Major Exports: Lapis Lazuli, Carnelian, Gold, Silver, Ebony, Ivory, Tortoise shell, Chicken like bird, Dog, Cat and Monkeys.

  6. Influence of Mesopotamia or Harappan Seals: Whorl design, Man grappling with two animals and gatepost motif.

Routes: Both overland and Maritime routes were there.



  1. 400-450 basic signs and the script is logo-syllabic- each symbol stood for a word or syllable.

  2. Boustrophedon style i.e written from right to left and then in next line from left to right.

 Indus Script:

  1. It is older than Prakrit and Tamil Scripts.

  2. It is undeciphered as no bilingual text has been found till date.

  3. The most widely accepted corpora of Indus scripts was brought together by the efforts of Iravatham Mahadevan, noted Indian epigraphist, from the 3,700 texts and 417 unique signs collected so far.

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