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Early India: Economy of Indus Valley Civilization

Subsistence and Economic Production

  • Agriculture was an important source of subsistence for the Harappans.
  • The Harappans cultivated diverse crops such as wheat, barley, lentil, chickpea, sesame and various millets.
  • Agricultural surplus was an important stimulus for a number of developments.
  • They adopted a double cropping system.
  • The Harappans used ploughs.
  • They perhaps ploughed the land and then sowed the seeds.
  • Ploughed fields have been found at Kalibangan.
  • They used both canal and well irrigation.

Archaeobotanists study ancient agriculture, and human and environmental relationships.

Animal Domestication

  • Pastoralism was also practised by the Harappans.
  • They domesticated sheep, goat and fowl.
  • They had knowledge of various other animals including buffalo, pig and elephant. But horse was not known to them.
  • The Harappan cattle are called Zebu.
  • It is a large breed, often represented in their seals.
  • They also ate fish and birds.
  • Evidence of boar, deer and gharial has been found at the Harappan sites.

Craft Production

  • Craft production was an important part of the Harappan economy.
  • Bead and ornament making, shell bangle making and metalworking were the major crafts.
  • They made beads and ornaments out of carnelian, jasper, crystal, and steatite, metals like copper, bronze and gold and shell, faience and terracotta or burnt clay.
  • The beads were made in innumerable designs and decorations.
  • They were exported to Mesopotamia and the evidence for such exported artefacts have been found from the excavations in Mesopotamian sites.
  • Certain Harappan sites specialised in the production of certain craft materials.
  • The following table presents the major centres of craft production.


  • The Harappans used diverse varieties of pottery for daily use.
  • They use well-fired pottery.
  • Their potteries have a deep red slip and black paintings.
  • The pottery are shaped like dish-on-stands, storage jars, perforated jars, goblets, S-shaped jars, plates, dishes, bowls and pots.
  • The painted motifs, generally noticed on the pottery, are pipal leaves, fish-scale design, intersecting circles, zigzag lines, horizontal bands and geometrical motifs with floral and faunal patterns.
  • The Harappan pottery is wellbaked and fine in decorations.

Metals, Tools and Weapons

  • The Harappan civilisation belongs to the Bronze Age civilisation and Harappans knew how to make copper and bronze tools.
  • Although they produced bronze implements, they needed various kinds of tools for agriculture and craft production.
  • The Harappans used chert blades, copper objects, and bone and ivory tools.
  • The tools of points, chisels, needles, fishhooks, razors, weighing pans, mirror and antimony rods were made of copper.
  • The chert blades made out of Rohrichert was used by the Harappans.
  • Their weapons include arrowheads, spearhead, celt and axe.
  • They did not have the knowledge of iron.

Rohri chert : The chert, a fine grained sedimentary rock, was found in the region of Rohri in Pakistan. It was used by the Harappans for making stone blades and tools.

Textiles and Ornaments

  • The Harappans wore clothes and used metal and stone ornaments.
  • They had knowledge of cotton and silk.
  • The image identified as a priest is depicted wearing a shawl-like cloth with flower decorations.
  • The terracotta images of women are shown wearing different types of ornaments.
  • The image of dancing girl found at Mohenjo-Daro is shown wearing bangles in large numbers up to the upper arm.
  • They made carnelian, copper and gold ornaments.
  • Some of them had etched designs and they exported them to the Mesopotamian world.
  • Faience, stoneware and shell bangles were also used.
  • The ornaments produced were either sold or exchanged as part of the trade activities.

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