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  • Hi, I’m John Green and this is Crash Course World History.

  • Let’s begin today with a question.

  • Why am I alive? Also, why don’t I have any eyes? Ah, That’s better.

  • The way we answer that question ends up organizing all kinds of other thoughts, like what we

  • should value, and how we should behave, and if we should eat meat, and whether we should

  • dump that boy who is very nice, but insanely clingy, in a way that he cannot possibly think

  • is attractive. All of which adds up-

  • Uh, Mr. Green, Mr. Green, uh, are you talking about me?

  • Yes, I’m talking about you, me from the past. I’m telling you that one of the reasons

  • we study history is so that you can be a less terrible boyfriend, but more on that momentarily.

  • [intro music]

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  • ;)

  • Today were going to talk about civilizations, but in order to do that, we have to talk about

  • talking about civilizations, because it’s a problematic word. So problematic, in fact,

  • that I have to turn to camera 2 to discuss it.

  • Certain Conglomerations of humans are seen as civilizations, whereas, say, nomadic cultures

  • generally aren’t, unless, you are--say it with me--

  • the mongols

  • By calling some groups civilizations, you imply that all other social orders are uncivilized,

  • which is basically just another way of saying that theyre savages or barbarians.

  • side note: originally Greek, the word Barbarian denoted anyone who did not speak ancient Greek,

  • because to the Greeks, all other languages sounded like bar bar bar bar bar bar.

  • So, that is to say that we are all essentially barbarians, except for the classics majors,

  • which is worth remembering when were discussing civilizations.

  • Civilizations are like most of the things we like to study, theyre intellectual constructs.

  • No one woke up in the city of Thebe’s in Egypt one morning and said, “what a beautiful

  • morning, I sure am living at the height of Egyptian civilization.” Still, theyre

  • useful constructs, particularly when youre comparing one civilization to another. Theyre

  • less useful when youre comparing a civilization to a non-civilization type social order, which

  • is why we will try to avoid that.

  • And yes, I am getting to the good boyfriend stuff. Patience, grasshopper.

  • So what is a civilization? Well, diagnosing a civilization is a little like like diagnosing

  • an illness. If you have four or more of the following symptoms, you might be a civilization.

  • Surplus production. Once one person can make enough food to feed several people, it becomes

  • possible to build a city, another symptom of civilization.

  • It also leads to the specialization of labor, which in turn leads to trade. Like, if everybody

  • picks berries for a living, there’s no reason to trade, because I have berries, and you

  • have berries,  but if I pick berries for a living and you make hammers, suddenly, we

  • have cause to trade.  

  • Civilizations are also usually associated with social stratification, centralized government,

  • shared values, generally in the form of religion, and writing. And at least in the early days,

  • they were almost always associated with rivers.

  • These days you can just bisect a segment of land horizontally and vertically, and boom,

  • build a city. But 5000 years ago, civilizations were almost always associated with rivers.

  • Whether that’s the Tigris and Euphrates, the Yellow River, The Nile, the Amazon Basin,

  • the Coatzacoalcos -

  • Gaaah! I was doing so good until I got to Coatzacoalcos!

  • (computer says: Coatzacoalcos) Coatzacoalcos. Maybe.

  • Why river valleys? Theyre flat, theyre well watered, and when they flood, they deposit

  • nutrient-rich silt.

  • Well have more to say about most of these civilizations later, but let’s talk about

  • this guy, the Indus Valley Civilization, ‘cause it’s my all time favorite.

  • The Indus Valley Civilization was located in the flood plain of the Indus and Sarawati

  • rivers, and it was about the best place in the world to have an ancient civilization

  • because the rivers flooded very reliably twice a year, which meant that it had the most available

  • calories per acre of pretty much anywhere on the planet.

  • We know the Indus Valley Civilization flourished a long time ago. Probably around 3000 BCE.

  • Why is that question literally hanging over my head?

  • But people of the Indus valley were trading with Mesopotamians as early as 3500 BCE. We

  • also know that it was the largest of the ancient civilizations. Archaeologists have discovered

  • more than 1500 sites.

  • So what do we know about this civilization? Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • Everything we know about the Indus Valley Civilization comes from archaeology, because

  • while they did use written language, we don’t know how to read it, and no Rosetta Stone

  • has thus appeared to help us learn it.

  • I meant the other Rosetta Stone, Thought Bubble, yeah. Although, come to think of it, either

  • would be acceptable.

  • So here’s what we know, they had amazing cities. Harappa and Mohenjo Daro are the best

  • known, with dense, multi-story homes constructed out of uniformly sized bricks along perpendicular

  • streets. I mean this wasn’t some ancient world version of Houston, more like Chicago.

  • This means they must have had some form of government and zoning, but we don’t know

  • what gave this government its authority.

  • Cities were oriented to catch the wind and provide a natural form of air conditioning.

  • And they were clean. Most homes were connected to a centralized drainage system that used

  • gravity to carry waste and water out of the city in big sewer ditches that ran under the

  • main avenues, a plumbing system that would have been the envy of many 18th century European

  • cities.

  • Also, in Mohenjo Daro, the largest public building was not a temple or a palace, but

  • a public bath, which historians call the Great Bath. We don’t know what the great bath

  • was used for, but since later Indian culture placed a huge emphasis on ritual purity, which

  • is the basis for the caste system, some historians have speculated that the bath might have been

  • like a giant baptismal pool.

  • Also, they traded. One of the coolest things that the Indus Valley Civilization produced

  • were seals used as identification markers on goods and clay tablets. These seals contained

  • the writing that we still can’t decipher, and a number of fantastic designs, many featuring

  • animals and monsters.

  • One of the most famous and frightening is of a man with what looks like water buffalo

  • horns on his head, sitting cross-legged between a tiger and a bull. We don’t know what’s

  • really going on here, but it’s safe to say that this was a powerful dude, because he

  • seems to be able to control the tiger.

  • How do these seals let us know that they traded? Well, because we found them in Mesopotamia,

  • not the indus valley. Plus, archaeologists have found stuff like bronze in the indus

  • valley that is not native to the region. So what did they trade? Cotton cloth. Still such

  • a fascinating export, incidentally that it will be the subject of the 40th and final

  • video in this very series.

  • But here’s the most amazing thing about the Indus Valley people. They were peaceful.

  • Despite archaeologists finding 1500 sites, they have found very little evidence of warfare,

  • almost no weapons.

  • Thanks Thought Bubble. OK, before we talk about the fascinating demise of the Indus

  • Valley Civilization. It’s time for the open letter. Magic!

  • I wonder what the secret compartment has for me today? Oh! Fancy clothes.

  • I guess the secret compartment didn’t think I was dressed up enough for the occasion.

  • An open letter to Historians. Dear historians, the Great Bath? Really? THE GREAT BATH? I’m

  • trying to make history fascinating, and you give me a term that evokes scented candles,

  • bath salts and Frederic Fekkai hair products?

  • I know sometimes the crushingly boring names of history aren’t your fault. You didn’t

  • name the federalist papers or the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Adam Smith. But when you do get

  • a chance to name something, you go with THE GREAT BATH? Not the Epic Bath of Mohenjo Daro,

  • or the Bath to End All Baths, or the Pool That Ruled, or the Moist Mystery of Mohenjo

  • Daro or the Wet Wonder? The Great Bath? Really? You can do better. best wishes, John Green.

  • So what happened to these people? Well, here’s what didn’t happen to them. They didn’t

  • morph into the current residents of that area of the world, Hindu Indians or Muslim Pakistanis.

  • Those people probably came from the Caucasus.

  • Instead, sometime around 1750 BCE, the Indus Valley Civilization declined until it faded

  • into obscurity. Why? Historians have three theories.

  • One: Conquest!  

  • Turns out to be a terrible military strategy not to have any weapons, and it’s possible

  • people from the Indus Valley were completely overrun by people from the Caucasus.

  • Two: Environmental Disaster!

  • It’s possible they brought about their own end by destroying their environment.

  • Three: Earthquake!

  • The most interesting theory is that a massive earthquake changed the course of the rivers

  • so much that a lot of the tributaries dried up.

  • Without adequate water supplies for irrigation, the cities couldn’t sustain themselves,

  • so people literally picked up and headed for greener pastures.

  • Well, probably not pastures, it’s unlikely they became nomads. They probably just moved

  • to a different plain an continued their agricultural ways. I am already boring you and I haven’t

  • even told you yet how to be a better boyfriend and/or girlfriend. I’m going to do that

  • now.

  • So we don’t know why the Indus Valley Civilization ended, but we also don’t really know why

  • it started. Why did these people build cities, and dig swimming pools, and make unnecessarily

  • ornate seals?

  • Were they motivated by hunger, fear, a desire for companionship, the need to be near their

  • sacred spaces, or a general feeling that city life was just more awesome than foraging?

  • Thinking about what motivated them to structure their life as they did helps us to think about

  • how we structure our own lives. In short, youre clingy because youre motivated

  • by fear and a need for companionship,

  • and she finds it annoying because it’s enough work having to be responsible for herself

  • without having to also be responsible for you.

  • Also, youre not really helping her by clinging, and from the Indus Valley in the bronze age,

  • to school life today, human life is all about collaboration.

  • Trading cloth for bronze, building cities together, and collaborating to make sure that

  • human lives are tilted to catch the wind.

  • Next week we will travel here to discuss the Hot Mess o’ Potamia, but in the meantime,

  • if you have any questions, leave them in comments, and our team of semi-trained semi-professionals

  • will do their best to answer them.

  • Also, youll find some suggested resources in the video info below, he said, pointing

  • at his pants. Thanks for watching, and well see you next week!

Hi, I’m John Green and this is Crash Course World History.

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Indus Valley Civilization: Crash Course World History #2

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    Chi-feng Liu posted on 2013/04/17
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