Uncovering the Keys to the Lost Indus Cities

Above: Standardized ancient Indus stone weights

In an ongoing attempt to understand how the now vanished people of the Indus culture ordered their society and to determine the sources of political, economic, military and ideological (religious) power in this remarkably extensive and urbanized state, the authors draw clues from the miscellaneous material they dig up and from the layout and architecture of the cities and settlements that were excavated in this article originally published in Scientific American.

Although unable to translate the symbols that artisans and others inscribed on objects has prevented experts from learning directly how certain individuals and communities gained and maintained power, they have gleaned insights from examining the context of the writing’s use. These studies, together with recent analyses of the advanced crafts that have survived the centuries at Harappa, have begun to yield a new understanding of the social power structure in the Indus civilization.