The Indus Valley Civilization and the Aryan Invasion Theory
Calla Thompson Humanities: Early Civilization Indus Valley Civilization and the Aryan Invasion Theory Of the four major early civilizations, consisting of Mesopotamia, Egypt and China, the Indus Valley Civilization is the biggest mystery by far. Due to the fact that the script of the civilization remains undeciphered, historians have to rely on remaining evidence of the civilization to learn about the culture. Located in present day Pakistan, northwest India, and eastern Afghanistan, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro are two of the largest cities excavated from the ancient civilization.
Remains of these cities show an exceptional advancement in the civilization at the time. Actually, the roadside irrigation systems, waste disposal, and plumbing/water systems that suggest a high standard of hygiene, were more advanced and efficient then in many modern day areas. Standardized fired bricks, superior to other ancient civilizations of the time, were used to build most major architecture in the large cities, and imply that cities were plentiful with skilled tradesman. The Indus Valley Civilization is considered to be one of the first examples of urban-central planning.
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Evidence of public market areas and vast amounts of Indus artisan work imply the city relied heavily on trade, and was full of artisans and merchants as well. Further evidence is shown in the Indus artifacts found as far as central Asia, the Arabian Gulf region, and distant Mesopotamia. Highly impressive, is the advanced measuring system assumed to have been used for taxing and controlling the trade industry (Kenoyer). Lack of battles and military suggest a peaceful, socially equal society, though this is not to say that major conflict wasn’t prevalent.
However, with no proof to provide, many questions remain about the civilization’s lifestyle. Areas such as religion and politics can only be speculated. What we do know is that sometime around 1900 B. C. , traits of the Indus Valley Civilization, such as script and use of cubical weights, gradually disappear. Cities were abandoned and long-distance trade vanished (Kenoyer). The reason for this and the decline of the civilization is possibly one of the largest areas of controversy. Since the discovery of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, archeologists have found numerous smaller settlements along the Ganges Basin.
None of these settlements show the sophistication of the earlier large cities, and show evidence of a semi-nomadic lifestyle. One theory is that the civilization was taken over and enslaved by Aryans from the North and ultimately ended up helping lay the foundation for the longest-lasting social caste system, which still divides India today (Sayre, 109). This theory is known as the “Aryan Invasion” and is mostly based on the Rig-Veda, one of the collections from the ancient Hindu texts, the Vedas.
The Vedas were originally transcribed in Sanskrit (the original Aryan language) and brag of war stories between light and dark. British archeologist, Martin Wheeler, used these stories and 37 corpses to support his theory that the light skinned indio-aryan’s invaded, and enslaved the dark-skinned Dravidians – speculated by many to be the original inhabitants of the Indus Valley civilization (Frawley). Simply put, the overall theory summarizes that the Harappans were a highly successful civilization whose downfall was contributed to be outside invaders.
Any time two distinct populations are brought together under circumstances of war or migration, a hierarchy is likely to develop. Therefore, assuming the Aryan invasion, or some invasion from a euro-Aryan tribe was the result of the downfall of the Indus Valley Civilization, these migration shifts probably did contribute to the caste system. The argument of light vs. dark has been around for centuries and has been the cause of conflict in many societies. In the modern world, even the idea of “races” is pretty ferociously fought in academia, and superiority of one race over another is pretty much a forbidden topic.
Also, modern India is very sensitive about its caste system (which still pretty much exists, at least for the lower castes, who have a lot of trouble rising above the level to which they were born). Because of this, research on the topic of the Aryan Invasion Theory as well as research supporting it is hard to find. The theory has long been opposed throughout India; as it threatens the origins and value of its people and in recent years it has become a controversial subject throughout western civilization as well.
So controversial in fact, that the Vedic Foundation (VF) and the Hindu Education Foundation of America filed a lawsuit against a California in 2006 to block new sixth-grade textbooks containing the Aryan Invasion theory among other controversial historical issues (Burress). The VF and the HAF won the lawsuit in changing the material. Modern technology in ecological history, genetic testing, and further research in the remaining evidence of the civilization has made way for stronger arguments against the Aryan Invasion theory.
Many scholars argue that climate change or extreme natural causes resulted in the immigration of civilizations moving east. One suggestion, researched by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, suggests the migration of the inhabitants from the Indus Valley was due to slowly migrating monsoons. As the monsoons weakened, the area became cooler and started to dry up. This would explain the decline in trade, and the smaller settlements found in the Ganges Basin as the inhabitants were forced to move out of their cities and relocate to more habitable areas.
The study showed that rivers in the civilization’s cities filled by nearby monsoon rains were the main supply of water. Ironically, this means that the same source that essentially made it possible for the civilization to flourish was the same force that destroyed it. Other research provides evidence that the tectonically active area (then and now), resulted in river course change, extreme flooding, and earthquakes (McIntosh, 4). Geologists have speculated the ancient Saraswati River dried up due to the shifting of plates sometime in the second millennium. Sintubin, 119-121) Theoretically, this would have played a major role in the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization. In his book, “Saraswati: The River That Disappeared”, tectonic specialist and internationally known scientist K. S. Valdiya writes (in reference to the Indus Valley Civilization): “As a result of the natural calamity that raved northwest India, the inhabitants of the Saraswati floodplain were compelled to move out of the regions where water, food, and trade opportunities were available. He proceeds to point out the settlements excavated along new-born rivers in the Ganges Valley and that the valley of the Indus Civilization was nearly depopulated. (69) Genetic testing of the bodies Wheeler used to support his earlier theory of battle amongst the indo-Aryans and the Dravidians has been proven invalid in the last decade by paleontologists. These recent tests and research on the ecological history of India have given rise to the continual argument against the Aryan invasion theory. As more evidence comes to light, more and more researchers are siding with newer theories and discrediting the Aryan invasion theory as a myth.
Today, the latter in theories is an extreme minority in research and development. Perhaps we will never know the truth behind the Indus Valley Civilization, or agree upon a general consensus, but the information acquired through research and discovery will no doubt be useful in the greater discovery of ancient civilizations. Works Cited Burress, Charles. “CALIFORNIA / Lawsuit challenges how Hinduism is taught / Board had rejected textbook changes foundation sought – SFGate. ” SFGate: San Francisco Bay Area – News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Classifieds – SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Mar. 006. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. Choi, Charles. “Collapse of Mythical River Civilization Explained | Harappan Culture & Climate Change | LiveScience. ” Science News – Science Articles and Current Events | LiveScience. www. livescience. com, 28 May 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. <http://www. livescience. com/20614-collapse-mythical-river-civilization. html>. “Climate Change Led to Collapse of Ancient Indus Civilization, Study Finds : Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. ” Home : Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 28 May 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. Frawley, David. Veda Academy – The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India. ” Veda Academy – Startseite. www. Veden-Akadamie. de, n. d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. <http://veden-akademie. de/index. php? article_id=144&clang=1>. Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark. “Indus Valley Civilization. ” Encyclopedia of India. Ed. Stanley Wolpert. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 258-267. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 28 Oct. 2012 McIntosh, Jane. The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2008. Print. “Millennium Web Catalog. ” Millennium Web Catalog. N. p. , n. d. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. Rodda, J C, and L.
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