When the Greek army of Alexander the Great invaded the valley of the Indus river in the fourth century BC, it was wholly unaware that this region of northwest India had once been the centre of a civilization worthy of comparison with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Indus civilization flourished for half a millennium from about 2600 to 1900 BC, when it mysteriously declined and vanished from view. It remained invisible for almost four thousand years, until its ruins were discovered in the 1920s by British and Indian archaeologists. Today, after almost a century of excavation, it is regarded as the beginning of Indian civilization and possibly the origin of Hinduism.
More than a thousand Indus settlements covered at least 800,000 square kilometres of what is now Pakistan and India: it was the most extensive urban culture of its age, with a vigorous maritime export trade to the Persian Gulf and cities such as Ur. The two largest Indus cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – boasted street planning and house drainage worthy of the twentieth century AD, including the world’s first toilets, along with complex stone weights, finely drilled gemstone necklaces and an exquisite part-pictographic writing system, which was carved on seal stones and has defied numerous attempts at decipherment. Astonishingly, there is no evidence for armies or warfare.
The Indus: Lost Civilizations is an accessible introduction to every significant aspect of an extraordinary and tantalizing ‘lost’ civilization, which apparently combined artistic excellence, technological sophistication and economic vigour with social egalitarianism, political freedom and religious moderation. The book also discusses the vital legacy of the Indus civilization in modern India and Pakistan
‘[a] wonderfully eloquent and informative new book . . . Robinson examines by chapter every aspect of this deliciously intriguing civilisation, from religion, society, art, trade, and agriculture, to their origins, disappearance and rediscovery . . . a comprehensive account of the Indus people, condensed into a highly accessible volume – and a very good read indeed.’ – Current World Archaeology
‘a very well-written, well-illustrated popular account of the Indus civilization. . . . This new work is an important addition to the literature because of the author’s extensive knowledge of the subject, his use of the most recent sources, and his succinct but engaging style.’ – Choice
‘Robinson’s detailed, yet gripping and clear, portrait of this important cultural ancestor is highly recommended.’ – Fortean Times
‘Andrew Robinson’s new book is a clear summary of what we know, and a tantalising account of what we might yet know . . . Robinson does a commendable job of laying out the evidence in all its incompleteness and ambiguity.‘ – Minerva
‘Robinson writes with an elegant clarity which comes from a masterly overview of the subject and transmits some of the mysterious excitement which this enigmatic civilisation evokes.’ – Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
‘Andrew Robinson does an excellent job of condensing key Indus issues to their core, framing them in terms accessible to the intelligent enthusiast and archaeologist alike. Robinson is a superb writer. With numerous other books on ancient civilizations to his credit, he knows how to make things interesting without going into numbing detail, always keeping the narrative thread alive . . . well-illustrated and highly recommended.’ – Omar Khan, Harappa.com
‘A brief but excellent introduction to the Indus Civilisation.’ – Indian Historical Review
‘Written in a highly engaging manner, the author, Andrew Robinson, cleverly weaves a rich and intricate tapestry of life in the third millennium BC. This is a timely contribution, as the Harappans have been trending lately. In recent years, Indus culture has captivated the attention of popular media, particularly in the form of video documentaries for television and the internet. These short productions have been mostly concerned with dramatic effects accompanied by indiscriminate narratives for a lay audience. At first glance, The Indus also deals with the usual topics, but it is far from a superficial rendering. While Robinson’s book is for a general readership, it has considerable academic value.’ – Dawn, Pakistan
‘Andrew Robinson creates a brilliant portrait of one of the world’s most enigmatic early civilizations. In doing so, he crosses the boundaries between different academic disciplines with effortless panache and high learning. This succinct account of the Indus civilization, its script, religious beliefs, and its complex inheritance, places a vigorous, urban society in its rightful historical context. Everyone interested in ancient civilizations should read this eloquent, closely argued biography (it is nothing less) that brings the Indus people in from the historical shadows.’ – Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of The Great Warming and Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind.
‘The Indus is very well written and eminently readable . . . Andrew Robinson deals with all the unsolved problems in a fair manner and with balanced judgement . . . a valuable contribution to the literature on the Indus Civilization.’ – Iravatham Mahadevan, epigraphist of the Indus Valley Civilization
Andrew Robinson is the author of some 25 books on the arts and sciences, and writes for Current World Archaeology, The Lancet, Nature and Science. His recent books include Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts (2009), Earthquake: Nature and Culture (Reaktion, 2012) and India: A Short History (2014). He has been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge and is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society.
Table of Contents
1 An Enigmatic World
4 Arts and Crafts
9 Decline and Disappearance
10 Deciphering the Indus Script
11 Indus Origins of Hinduism?
12 The Indus Inheritance