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Contacts and Conquests: How Did They Contribute to Historic and Cultural Changes on the Subcontinent?

  • The geography of the subcontinent fostered development of many early civilizations of great importance and vitality.
  • Successive contacts and conquests changed the face of the subcontinent.


Performance Objectives

  • Students will identify and discuss early South Asian empires and societies.
  • Students will be engaged in a case study of contact and conquest on the subcontinent.
  • Students will evaluate the degree to which successive contacts and conquests brought about change on the subcontinent.

Teacher Background

Early South Asian civilization, specifically the Indus Valley civilization, is contemporary with the civilization of ancient Egypt, the civilization of ancient Mesopotamia and early Chinese civilization located in the Yellow River Valley. All of these regions shared the geographic characteristic as major river valleys. The abundance of water allowed for irrigation even in terms of scarce rainfall. The two most important sites in the Indus Valley were Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, an area which today is in northwestern India and Pakistan. The two capitals Of the Indus spread over 1000 miles along the floor of the valley.

Other civilizations developed on the subcontinent. By the third century A.D., the Gupta Empire was developed from the Himalayas to the Krishna River in the south. lit the Deccan, the Pallavas and the cholas ruled from 600 to 1300 A.D.


In our study of the Middle East, we examined the "birthplace of civilization," the great river valley civilization of Mesopotamia at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. We now know that civilization had many "birthplaces", including the, Indus River Valley in India.

Distribute Worksheet 1: A Visitor Returns from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Allow students time to read selection and complete exercise

  • What surprises did you discover when you read about Mohenjo-Daro?
  • How did this society compare and contrast with the society of Mesopotamia?


We know that throughout history societies have come into contact with and had conflict with other groups. We also know that societies sprang up at approximately the same time around the world - the Tigris River Valley in Mesopotamia, The Nile River Valley in Egypt, the Yellow River valley in China and the Indus River valley in what is now Pakistan.

  • Why is it important that we study all these ancient civilizations?

  • What evidence do we have that these civilizations were in contact with each other?

Distribute Worksheet 2: Artifacts from the Indus Valley

  • What additional information does this worksheet give us?
  • How does this information show the Indus Valley civilization to have had contact with other ancient civilizations)

Distribute Worksheet 3: Progress Reported in Struggle to Save imperiled Ruin

  • What do we learn about Mohenjo-daro? What would it be like to live there?
  • Do you think that Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa are worth saving?
  • Based upon the two readings, how did Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa contribute to establishing a cultural pattern on the Indian subcontinent?

From the period of 2500 B.C. until 1300 A.D. (approximately 4,000 years) India had contact with many different cultures.

Distribute Worksheet 4: A Time Line of Contacts and Conquests. Review timeline with class, identifying the empire and the contribution.


In each case, do you think the contact and conquest was a positive or negative
experience for the peoples of the subcontinent?

  • How would you determine what lasting changes came from contact with other peoples over a 4000 year time span?
  • We in the United States have had many contacts and conquests. Do you think we are better off or worse off from the experience? Explain.

Summary / Application

Working in dyads, students will select one ancient culture previously studied and analyze how the society was affected by contact and conquest with other cultures.

Expanding the Activities

Because of the length and complexity of the lesson, it might be advisable to distribute some of worksheets as homework assignments.


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