Indus Valley Civilisation

Chapter Two of my upcoming book, “Water: A Visual and Scientific History“, is all about water on Earth: how it got here, how it behaves here and how we interact with it and depend upon it.

Towards the end of the chapter, I dwell on the importance of rivers in the development of human civilisation. Rivers provide water not only for drinking, but also for growing crops, for washing and for flushing away waste. The seasonal changes, in particular flooding and the fertilisation of the land that results, were very important in the development of calendars as well as technology with which humans could gain control of the water – for example, irrigation, pumping, reservoirs, canals, drainage.

Perhaps the most advanced of the great early civilisations, in terms of their management of water at least, was the Indus Valley Civilisation. Not anywhere near as well known as Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia, the great cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation had sophisticated, brick-built public and private sewage systems, and its agricultural land had extensive levees that ensured the shifting meanders of the great Indus River would not destroy crops. Their mastery of water was one of the main reasons the civilisation lasted for as long as it did: from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE.

The image here is an artist’s conception of “Gateway at Mound E, Harappa”. The drawing, by Chris Sloan (courtesy J.M. Kenoyer/, features in my book. You can find out more about the fascinating story of Harappa and the other cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation at

You can find out water on Earth in general, in Chapter Two of “Water: A Visual and Scientific History“, out in August 2021.

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