Archaeologists say the Indus civilization wasn’t nearly as peaceful as popularly thought
The Indus civilization was long believed to be a peaceful civilization, vastly different from the violent civilization of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. However, new research published in the International Journal of Paleopathology has revealed a darker story.
The sophisticated Indus civilization flourished over four millennia ago spanning an area greater than that of ancient Egypt in what is now Pakistan and western India. They lived in well-planned cities and were known for the advanced use of wells, water storage and drainage systems. The people of the Indus Valley also developed a writing system which was used for several hundred years. However, unlike other ancient civilizations, their writing system has not been deciphered and is still unreadable.
A lot is already known about the way the Indus people lived their lives, but one startling new fact has just been announced from two new studies of skeletons from Indus cemeteries – at least some of the population were subjected to savage violence. Researchers examined 18 skulls and nearly half showed serious injuries from violence including the skull of a child which was cracked and crushed by blows from a blunt weapon and an adult woman beaten so badly that her skull caved in.
The rate of skull injuries tied to violence is the highest recorded in the prehistory of South Asia, the researchers say. One hypothesis is that the violence was linked to a particular stage in history in which the Indus civilization was beginning to disintegrate and cities were being abandoned, for reasons that are still unclear.
Nancy Lovell, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta who has also studied Harappan skeletons, says the study's findings are "a really important contribution, because the tendency has been to think of Harappa as being fairly … peaceful."