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The Indus civilization exemplifies “the vastest political experiment before the advent of the Roman
Empire.”

                                                              – Sir Mortimer Wheeler

The economy of Indus valley civilisation flourished due to advancement in transport technology and trade methods. During the Harappan age, which is named after one of its most famous cities other than Mohenjo-Daro, trade and commerce were flourishing.

Trade

  1. Gold was imported from the northern parts of Karnataka like Mysore, while northwestern India (Rajasthan and Gujarat) provided a more local source for copper than Afghanistan and faraway Oman (ancient Magan) on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Lead may have been obtained from either East or South India and fuchsite from north Karnataka. Alabaster was possibly obtained from a number of local sources both east and west, but Shahr-i Sokhta, a large-scale manufacture of alabaster vessels, was also a probable source for the Indus merchants.
  2. Timber also played an important part in the Indus trade, both local and long-distance. As a
    natural resource that was “harvested in the Western Ghats, the Jammu ranges, and the Punjab piedmont”, Harappan timber was a major export to Mesopotamia for building and home construction. The Indus- Mesopotamian trades were mostly carried out through sea routes.
  3. There also existed “trading posts for the exchange of Harappan manufactured goods and some agricultural products”. This essentially describes “the trading and production mechanisms circumscribing the exchange between the Harappans and its vast hinterland” in what is termed as “center-hinterland exchanges” that may have extended as far as Southeast Asia and East Africa. These commercial networks existed alongside the Indus center-center exchanges which occurred during the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC.
    Clearly the most remarkable of these Indus trading “outposts” or colonies is the lapis lazuli
    settlement discovered at Shortughai on the southern plain of the Oxus in north-eastern Afghanistan.
  4. There existed a complex organizational structure surrounding the mining industries
    of semi-precious stones along with gold, lead, silver, copper, and tin. In many of these areas
    where these natural resources were exploited by the Indus traders.

Source: https://ruor.uottawa.ca/bitstream/10393/26166/1/Leblanc_Paul_2013_thesis.pdf

Transportation

  • Early Harappan, Kot Diji Phase Carts, and Wheels (2800-2600 BC)
    As settlements in the alluvium grew larger it is not surprising to see the emergence of more efficient technologies for transport of heavy and bulk commodities. Larger populations would have stimulated the demand for basic raw materials, tools, and commodities, as well as for low high-value items from distant areas.
Indus Valley Seals
  • Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic Transport
    The earliest settlement with domesticated cattle and the cultivation of field crops such as wheat and barley has been documented at the site of Mehrgarh. Prior to the Harappan Period, economic and cu1turallinks at Mehrgarh and Nausharo seem to have been oriented primarily to the western highlands where wheeled vehicles may have been impractical for the transport of raw materials or for human travel.
  • Wheels
    Numerous different types of wheels have been reported from the Harappan Period at sites throughout the Indus valley, but the most common form is flat on one side with a short truncated conical hub on the other. At Harappa, this is the predominant wheel form; out of 552 wheels with the hub portion preserved 488 (88.41%) have this form.
  • Carts
    Although the earlier excavators found many different types of carts at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, they did not carry out any stylistic analyses or quantitative studies. Excavations at Harappa have recorded almost 2800 terracotta cart fragments from the Harappa Phase occupation levels.
  • Flat solid chassis
    This type of cart frame is the simplest form having a solid, flat rectangular body with square or rounded edges. A series of four to six holes along each side of the cart allows for the attachment of sidebars and axle holder. The flat chassis and solid frame may indicate this type of cart was used for carrying heavy loads, such as stone or large storage jars filled with oil, that would not be supported as easily on a hollow frame with matting.
  • Double side frame chassis
    The double side frame chassis is made from two separate side pieces that would have been joined with small wooden dowels. Ekka is a cart drawn by one animal, usually a horse,
    and there is no clear evidence for carts drawn by a single animal and no conclusive evidence that the horse was used for traction or any other purpose by people of the Indus cities.

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