The people of the Indus valley used different kinds of stone
such as limestone and alabaster for everyday objects and
decorative stones like agate, amethyst, turquoise, jasper,
bloodstone and chalcedony. Clay for pottery came from the alluvium
deposited by the Indus. Clay objects were fired in circular kilns.
The seals from which much about the civilisations has been learnt
were made from steatite rock. The pattern was carved, buffed and
then fired for hardening. Shells, pearl and ivory were used in
ornaments and inlay work on wood.
Being a Bronze Age civilisation, the Indus valley people had
metallurgical skills. Gold was used for ornaments. Silver, which
probably came from Afghanistan, Armenia and Persia, was used for a
similar purpose. These people were ahead of Mesopotamia in the
knowledge of smelting bronze from copper and tin. However, their
metal work skills are inferior to that of the Sumerians. Copper
vessels were made of hammered sheet; rings were made of coiled
wire. The Indus valley civilisation did not attain the knowledge
of smelting iron.
The Vedic Times
Accounts exist of professional metalworkers who used the wing
of a bird to fan the flames of the furnace in lieu of bellows. By
now, metallurgy became so common that most household utensils were
made of copper, bronze or iron. Clothes were made of cotton, wool,
linen, silk and hemp.
The Gupta Dynasty
A unique work of metallurgy is the Iron Pillar at Delhi, built
in memory of Emperor Chandragupta (ca. 376-415 CE). Over
twenty-tree feet high, it is a solid piece of metal whose
magnitude could not be matched by western technology until a few
hundred years ago. Though almost pure iron in composition, it has
withstood 1500 years to the elements without any sign of rusting.
The method of building this pillar is lost, but it probably
required immense effort in casting, heating and setting the metal.1
1. A. L. Basham, "The Wonder that
was India", (Sidgwick and Johnson Limited, 1967), p. 219-220.