Indus Valley Civilization artifact

The Indus Valley Civilization: An ornamented past, revealed in 5,000-year-old artifacts and jewelry

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The Indus Valley Civilization was rich with culture and tradition, revealed in its wealth of beautiful, intricate, and elaborate ornaments, jewelry and artifacts. These items and more are on exhibit at India’s Jewellery Gallery of the National Museum in Delhi .

According to DNA India , the display represents the high aesthetic sense of the craftsmen of Old World civilization, and the connection between culture then and now through art, jewelry, coins and pottery.

The National Museum exhibit is entitled Alamkara – The Beauty of Ornament . The museum describes the nature of the collection and the influence of adornment on humanity, observing, “Once decorated with beautiful ornaments, the body assumes form, becomes visible, attractive and perfect.”

“Painstakingly wrought by anonymous goldsmiths in ateliers and workshops across the country, the national museum collection celebrates the great variety of forms, the beauty of Indian design and the genius of Indian craftsmanship,” FirstPost reports.

Royal earrings from India, 1st Century BC

Royal earrings from India, 1st Century BC. Wikimedia, CC

More than 200 ornaments are on display collected from 3,300 BC to the 19th and 20th centuries, including a 5,000 year old necklace, created of steatite and gold beads all capped in gold, with pendants of agate and jade.

Beaded necklace of the Indus Valley, Mohenjodaro circa 2,600 – 1,900 BCE

Beaded necklace of the Indus Valley, Mohenjodaro circa 2,600 – 1,900 BCE. Credit: National Museum

Guest curator and jewelry historian Usha Balakrishna told DNA India, “"India was the largest manufacturer and exporter of beads to the world at that time. […]They had the skill of tumbling beads, of cutting semi-precious hardstones, of shaping the beads. India was also home to the diamond and invented the diamond drill, which was then taught to the Romans."

The ancient auspicious image of the swastika can be found on other items featured in the exhibit at the museum. Two square amulets feature lucky swastika symbolism, and Balakrishna says they are "the earliest known representations of swastika in gold known to us.” Other motifs decorating the artifacts are lions, fish, and the ' poorna ghat ', known as a vase of plenty in religious ceremonies.

The Indus Valley civilization (also called the Harappan era) was one of the earliest known cultures of the Old World, dating from approximately 3,300 to 1,900 BCE, and spanning widely across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, covering 1.25 million km 2 at its height.

Wikipedia notes that the engineering skills of the people were “remarkable”, with great achievements in measurement accuracy and craftsmanship. The subcontinent boasts the longest history of jewelry making in the world, stemming back 5,000 years. These first jewelers created gold earrings, necklaces, beads and bangles, and the wares would be used in trade, and worn mostly by females.

Ancient Harappan weight scales

Ancient Harappan weight scales. Wikimedia, CC

Sir John Marshall of the Archaeological Survey of India is to have been shocked at seeing samples of ancient Indus Valley bronze work in the early 1900s: “When I first saw them I found it difficult to believe that they were prehistoric; they seemed to completely upset all established ideas about early art, and culture. Modeling such as this was unknown in the ancient world up to the Hellenistic age of Greece, and I thought, therefore, that some mistake must surely have been made...”

Replica of the prehistoric “Dancing Girl of Mohenjo Daro” circa 2,500 BC

Replica of the prehistoric “Dancing Girl of Mohenjo Daro” circa 2,500 BC, Wikimedia, CC

The showcasing of the art, skills and craftsmanship of the Indus Valley civilization and their descendants is hoped to help fill in some of the gaps in understanding of the history and rich culture of ancient India.

Featured Image: Artifact on display at the National Museum in Delhi featuring jewelry and adornment of the Indus Valley Civilization. Credit: National Museum

By Liz Leafloor

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