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Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Brief Discussion on Indus Valley Civilization Compared to Mesopotamia and Egypt

In response to a recent email I received from a student, I wanted to provide a brief discussion on the major differences between the Indus Valley Civilization Compared to Mesopotamia and Egypt. This is a general discussion and not meant to be a thorough paper on the topic.

Evidence suggests that Mesopotamia, Indus Valley, and Egyptian culture had somewhat of a cultural and economic impact on one another; however there are many observable differences and similarities in their artistic expression, social organization, and technologies.

Water, Irrigation, Flooding

Whereas rainfall was highly unpredictable in the Indus Valley, the Nile experienced a steady flow of ocean fed water, and while the Tigris and Euphrates could experience a lowering of water levels due to drought, the Nile’s flooding was a predictable occurrence, therefore soil remained highly lush and fertile. This of course supports the idea that irrigation was not as important in Egypt, yet vital in the Indus Valley, leading Indus Valley residents to create economic exchange networks to provide the many necessary resources that could not be obtained on the river floodplains.


Fragmentation of the Indus culture can be attributed in part to changing river systems that disrupted the agricultural and economic system, whereas fragmentation of Egypt was largely because of politics and not related to the Nile or its impact on resource management.

Symbols and Writing

According to Kenoyer, “the urban expansion and increasing stratification of social classes in the Indus cities required the development of new forms of symbolic expression and new mechanisms for reinforcing social organization.”

We see this in seals and writing from the Indus Valley as well as cylinder seals in Mesopotamia. Cylinder seals from Uruk were linked to the invention of cuneiform writing on clay, therefore when this spread to other areas of the Near East, the use of cylinder seals spread too.

There were seals discovered in Egypt, albeit they were much smaller, in the deserts outside of Cairo. They are called scarab seals and they would have been attached to a document, possibly some form of weights and measures by a string.

Although many of the seals from Mesopotamia were pierced all the way through, like the scarab seals in Egypt, and worn around the neck as amulets, they tend to have the same message as seals found in the Indus Valley, which more often than not, were used as some sort of totem or art, hung instead of worn.

1 Comment:

Daniel Salas said...

Decipherment of the Indus Script


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