Home » Science & Technology » Contribution of Indus Civilization to Science and Engineering

Contribution of Indus Civilization to Science and Engineering

The Indus Valley Civilization, which emerged in South Asia during ancient times, stands as a remarkable marvel. Approximately 5,000 years ago, while Europeans inhabited caves in a world shrouded in darkness, an exceptionally organized civilization flourished in ancient India on the opposite side of the globe. This civilization not only enhanced the quality of life for its inhabitants but also made significant strides in commerce. They harnessed the principles of science and engineering to facilitate and adapt daily life, as evident in various artifacts from the Indus Valley Civilization.

Mohenjo-daro in paintings
Mohenjo-daro in paintings; Image Source: Biswarup Ganguly

Architecture, Urban Planning, and Civil Engineering

Several cities and towns within the Indus Valley Civilization were meticulously designed. When examining the urban planning and engineering of Mohenjo-Daro, one cannot help but imagine that it rivaled any contemporary city in the world. Mohenjo-Daro featured a colossal granary that stored the region’s primary agricultural products: wheat and barley. These grains were transported from the countryside via bullock carts and meticulously preserved within well-ventilated granaries. Adjacent to this grand repository, a vast bath complex existed. Houses, constructed from fired mud bricks, predominantly stood as two-story structures. Moreover, Mohenjo-Daro boasted an advanced sewage system that paralleled modern standards, efficiently channeling waste from each household into the city’s sewers.

Mohenjo-daro drainage system
Mohenjo-daro’s sewage system was as modern as it is today

The city’s road network adhered to mathematical principles rather than arbitrary layouts. In Harappa, main sewers ran alongside primary roads, interspersed with road lamps at regular intervals. Walls served as vital defensive structures, often accompanied by deep trenches. “Lothal” earned historical recognition as a significant port during the Indus Civilization. This port featured paved baths, sewage and waste disposal systems, wells for potable water, and storehouses. The inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization demonstrated a profound understanding of tides and currents.


The Indus Valley Civilization displayed remarkable advancements in transportation systems. Applying scientific and engineering principles, they crafted bullock carts and sail-propelled boats. These boats, while modest in size, harnessed wind power. Lothal, serving as an ancient port of immense importance, was likely an inter-port where smaller vessels routinely docked. Although it served as a minor naval port, larger ports lay further out to sea. At this harbor, seafarers from distant lands launched their substantial ships. According to evidence from a Bronze Age map, Lothal was situated in proximity to the sea, connected by a specific small river.

ruins of Lothal harbor
ruins of Lothal harbor

Irrigation System

Research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science indicates that the Harappans practiced season-specific agriculture, cultivating crops such as paddy, maize, and beans during the summer and wheat, barley, and pulses during the winter. They also cultivated a distinct variety of wild rice, scientifically named “Oriza niva,” by hybridizing it with India’s native rice variety, “Oryza sativa indica,” using natural techniques. Despite a lack of modern biotechnology or genetic engineering, they ingeniously developed an advanced irrigation system, including the construction of artificial canals to optimize crop production.

Indus agriculture
Indus Civilization people involved in agriculture; Source: Art Station


Indus ornaments
Ornaments from the Indus Civilization

Compared to their contemporaries, the Harappans possessed a profound understanding of metallurgy. They adeptly fashioned terra cotta bricks with precise weight and shape specifications. Their mastery extended to the cultivation of cotton. Historical records suggest they crafted jewelry from gold, silver, copper, lapis lazuli, sapphire, emerald, white crystal, and other materials. Lime served dual roles as plaster and was produced using thermo-engineering techniques. Archaeological discoveries include pottery crafted from copper ore and bitumen.


Indus pottery
The Harappans were skilled in pottery; Image Source: Biswarup Ganguly

Clay art, the world’s oldest art form, thrived within the Indus Civilization. Skilled potters utilized pottery wheels to create an array of clay pots in diverse shapes and sizes, often adorned with intricate designs. Numerous clay potsherds have been unearthed through excavations at various Indus Civilization archaeological sites.

Measurement and Calculation

scales of the ivory
scales of the ivory

The Indus Civilization people excelled in precise calculations of volume, mass, and time. They pioneered the development of scales for more accurate and error-free measurements. Notably, an ivory scale discovered at Lothal could measure as finely as 1.6 mm, holding the distinction of being the smallest meter from the Bronze Age. Decimal calculations were central to their practical and engineering work.

Indus weights
Weights of various shapes used in the Indus civilization

In weighing, a unit called “Batkhara” was employed, with measurements in the ratios of 5:2:1 for 0.05, 0.1, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 units. It is worth noting that the standard for measuring weight varied from region to region within the Indus Civilization. Their mathematical prowess encompassed addition, multiplication, and various symbols, offering a foundation for modern numerical systems.

Medical Science

Inhabitants of the Indus Civilization possessed knowledge of medicinal and herbal remedies for various ailments. They practiced medical procedures like trephination, which involved cutting the skull to treat brain and skull disorders. Skeletons from Lothal and Kalibangan provide evidence of a medical technique called traction.

Furthermore, research suggests that the pre-Harappan civilization had an understanding of early dentistry. Archaeologists have analyzed remains from the Mehergarh civilization, revealing evidence of dental procedures.

Indus dentistry
The people of the pre-Harappan civilization knew about early dentistry; Image Source: Ancient Origins

In April 2006, the scientific journal Nature reported early Neolithic evidence of tooth bonding in the Mehergarh civilization. This discovery included eleven bonded tooth-crowns from nine adults, dating back 5,500 to 9,000 years ago.

Read more from Science & Technology

Written by:

Morshed Alam
A teacher by profession, a traveler by passion and a netizen by choice.

Have you written on ThoughtMight?Write Today

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *