In the nineteenth century, British engineers searching for ballast for a railway line in what was then northwestern India and is now Pakistan stumbled upon the remains of an ancient city known only to locals. The engineers were only interested in the well-fired bricks from the ruins, and they proceeded to quarry the city for that resource. It was not until the early twentieth century, as other similar sites were uncovered, that archaeologists appreciated the full significance of this unwitting discovery. They determined that the ancient city, now reduced to railroad ballast, was part of a vast network of villages and towns constituting an entire civilization long forgotten by the rest of humanity. The discovery of this ancient culture, one of the most remarkable archaeological finds of modern times, compelled scholars to revise their understanding of the earliest history of India and has in recent years sparked a heated debate about the original inhabitants of the Indian Subcontinent.
The Indus Valley Civilization, so named because many of its settlements were situated along the Indus River, turned out to be one of the great cultures of the ancient world.1 What has come to light since the first excavations suggests that the Indus Valley Civilization was as impressive as ancient Egypt and Sumeria. While many Hindus today do not regard the Indus Valley Civilization as part of their sacred history, the evidence suggests that this culture contributed significantly to the grand complex known to many as Hinduism.