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The Indus: Lost Civilizations

Andrew Robinson








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(Hardback | ISBN 9781780235028 | 208 pp + 78 illustrations pages)


When the Greek army of Alexander the Great invaded the valley of the Indus river in the fourth century BC, it was wholly unaware that this region of northwest India had once been the centre of a civilization worthy of comparison with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Indus civilization flourished for half a millennium from about 2600 to 1900 BC, when it mysteriously declined and vanished from view. It remained invisible for almost four thousand years, until its ruins were discovered in the 1920s by British and Indian archaeologists. Today, after almost a century of excavation, it is regarded as the beginning of Indian civilization and possibly the origin of Hinduism.

More than a thousand Indus settlements covered at least 800,000 square kilometres of what is now Pakistan and India: it was the most extensive urban culture of its age, with a vigorous maritime export trade to the Persian Gulf and cities such as Ur. The two largest Indus cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – boasted street planning and house drainage worthy of the twentieth century AD, including the world’s first toilets, along with complex stone weights, finely drilled gemstone necklaces and an exquisite part-pictographic writing system, which was carved on seal stones and has defied numerous attempts at decipherment. Astonishingly, there is no evidence for armies or warfare.

The Indus: Lost Civilizations is an accessible introduction to every significant aspect of an extraordinary and tantalizing ‘lost’ civilization, which apparently combined artistic excellence, technological sophistication and economic vigour with social egalitarianism, political freedom and religious moderation. The book also discusses the vital legacy of the Indus civilization in modern India and Pakistan.


‘[a] wonderfully eloquent and informative new book . . . Robinson examines by chapter every aspect of this deliciously intriguing civilisation, from religion, society, art, trade, and agriculture, to their origins, disappearance and rediscovery . . . a comprehensive account of the Indus people, condensed into a highly accessible volume – and a very good read indeed.’
Current World Archaeology

‘a very well-written, well-illustrated popular account of the Indus civilization. . . . This new work is an important addition to the literature because of the author’s extensive knowledge of the subject, his use of the most recent sources, and his succinct but engaging style.’
– Choice

‘Robinson’s detailed, yet gripping and clear, portrait of this important cultural ancestor is highly recommended.’
– Fortean Times

‘Andrew Robinson’s new book is a clear summary of what we know, and a tantalising account of what we might yet know . . . Robinson does a commendable job of laying out the evidence in all its incompleteness and ambiguity.‘
– Minerva

‘Robinson writes with an elegant clarity which comes from a masterly overview of the subject and transmits some of the mysterious excitement which this enigmatic civilisation evokes.’
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

‘Andrew Robinson does an excellent job of condensing key Indus issues to their core, framing them in terms accessible to the intelligent enthusiast and archaeologist alike. Robinson is a superb writer. With numerous other books on ancient civilizations to his credit, he knows how to make things interesting without going into numbing detail, always keeping the narrative thread alive . . . well-illustrated and highly recommended.’
– Omar Khan,

‘A brief but excellent introduction to the Indus Civilisation.’
Indian Historical Review

The Indus is very well written and eminently readable . . . Andrew Robinson deals with all the unsolved problems in a fair manner and with balanced judgement . . . a valuable contribution to the literature on the Indus Civilization.’
– Iravatham Mahadevan, epigraphist of the Indus Valley Civilization