IN a rare piece of good news, last week, the world and Pakistan learnt that France will be returning some 445 relics of the Indus Valley Civilisation that were smuggled out over the years and were meant to end up in museums, galleries and private collections in the West.

The network came to light in 2006, when French authorities intercepted a parcel containing terracotta pots claimed to be about 100 years old. On examination, they turned out to be thousand years older   -burial objects likely stolen from Balochistan.

The investigation led to a gallery which yielded even older stolen artifacts as old as 6,000 years - belonging to the Mehrgarh civilisation which was a precursor, or perhaps a part of, the larger Indus Valley Civilisation.

Now, when we think of Indus Valley Civilisation itself, we usually think of this wonder of the ancient world, we think of Moenjodaro, and Harappa, and perhaps Mehrgarh.

But - and research is constrained here - in actuality the entire civilisation encompassed in area roughly the size of [and perhaps a little larger] than modern-day Pakistan.

Take the archaeological site at kalibangan in the Indian state of Rajasthan where we find evidence of the world's first furrowed field.

Or Rakhigarha in Haryana which displays the same incredible urban planning - wide roads and an organised sewage system - that is a hallmark of this lost civilisation.

Then there is Dholavira in Gujarat which boasts reservoirs that give us a tantalising glimpse how advanced their water management system was. Along with this a  step-well  has been discovered which is said to be three times the size of the Great Bath at Moenjodaro.

Perhaps the most fascinating of these sites is the site at Lothal  in the Indian state of Gujarat.

In an echo of Moenjodaro, 'Lothal' also means 'hill of the dead' and is the site of the first known dock in the entire world, which connected Lothal to the Arabian Sea via the  Sabarmati river.

And this is when it gets really fascinating; as wide as the spread of the Indus Valley Civilsation was, its trade trade routes went even further, reaching all the way to ancient Mesopotamia in the West, who knew these proto-Dravadians as the 'Meluhans' [the world is likely derived from the Dravidian words  'mel-akam' meaning 'highland country.

Archaeologist Jane McIntosh writes : ''ships from Meluhha docked in Mesopotamian ports; some Meluhhans settled in Sumer, and there is a seal belonging to a Mesopotamian whose job it was to act as an interpreter of the Meluhhan language.

On the other hand, there is nothing to suggest that people from Mesopotamia reached  the Indus, so it is clear that the Harappans conducted the trade between the two civilisations.''

The honor and serving of this great research work, on past civilisations, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Zarrar Khuhro.


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