Planned Cities in the Indus Valley

The Indus Valley civilization, also known as the Harappan civilization, is the oldest known civilization in the Indian subcontinent. It lasted from around 3300-1300 BCE. The civilization reached from Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India. The two largest cities in the Indus Valley civilization were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

Similar to Mesopotamia, this civilization grew from small villages and towns to larger centralized cities with the emergence of the use of irrigation and agriculture. Historians know less about Indus Valley civilizations than other early groups because their writing system has yet to be deciphered. Archaeological digs, however, let us know they had advanced and highly planned cities with grid systems, brick platforms, centralized protected citadels, and plumbing.

The cities in the Indus Valley were very organized. Mohenjo-Daro and Harapa were rectangular in shape and built with blocks divided by a grid of straight streets, running North to South and East to West. Many of the cities and small villages in the civilization share this similar layout. Cities featured a fortified area called a citadel, which contained the major buildings of the city and included military structures. For instance, in Harappa, a citadel provided protection for the royal family and also served as a temple. The Citadel was surrounded by a huge brick wall.

There were also remains of shops and craft workshops such as metalwork, bead making, pottery, and kilns. The people of the Indus Valley used mud from the river to make bricks to build their buildings. They would mix the soil with water and press it into wooden molds then bake it in the sun or kiln. Harappa was partially built on mud-brick platforms about 20 feet thick to protect it from flooding. A thick brick wall about three and a half miles long surrounded it and buildings were constructed of oven baked bricks cut in standard sizes.

The houses in the Harappan civilization ranged in size. There were single room structures with cooking and bathing areas. Larger houses featured a central courtyard with attached rooms.

The Indus Valley civilization shows the first and most efficient ancient urban sanitation systems in the world. Plumbing was very well planned out advanced for its time. In Mohenjo-Daro, almost every house had a private bathroom and toilet made of brick. The connected pipes carried wastewater underground and out of the city.