Image: Ceramic model cart (Kalam-Deeba, 2017; Courtesy of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, 48.14/7).

3D view

Catalogue Information

This object consists of a collection of items, compiled together to depict a wheeled cart being pulled by two bulls, alongside other figurines:

Ceramic cart body, Accession no.: 48.14/7.
Ceramic bull figurine, Accession no.: 48.14/4
Ceramic animal figurine, Accession no.: 48.14/8
Ceramic (human) figurine, Accession no.: 48.14/9
Ceramic model wheel, Accession no.: FIII.6a/2

Accessioned and presented to the Institute of Archaeology by the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler, on behalf of the Government of India in 1947.

Material: Clay/ceramic

Origin: The set is from Harappa, modern-day Pakistan, with the exception of one of the wheels, which is actually from Tell Brak, modern-day Syria.

Dimensions: approx. 24cmx13cm

Condition: Mostly well preserved. Some gap-filling has been undertaken; one of the bulls and one of the wheels have been largely reconstructed.


This model cart is thought to be a toy, or a ritualistic object. It is just one of the thousands of ceramic objects that have been found in the Indus Valley. In fact, it was the excavation of clay craftworks that sparked the discovery of this ancient civilisation that had been dead and long forgotten for thousands of years.

Death of a civilisation

This object is thought to be a model-scale depiction of the real-life carts that existed in the Harappan area thousands of years ago (Kenoyer, 2004). As such, it gives us insight into what life could have been like in a society that is long dead. Despite being considered a contemporary of the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations, not much is known about the Indus Valley peoples; it had remained undiscovered and forgotten until the late 19th century (Hays, 2012). Now, having excavated thousands of objects such as the model cart above, we have a greater understanding of the Indus Valley – its culture, its economy and trade, its agriculture and its architecture. However, this begs the question – how did such a vast and successful civilisation die out? One theory is that due to climate change, the Indus river and its tributaries changed course and caused floods (Parpola, 2015). This would have affected agriculture and farming. Although it would be naïve to assume the civilisation came to an abrupt ‘death’, these events would have significantly affected them and contributed to its eventual demise.

Innovation in early civilisation

The model cart is an example of craft and artwork in early human civilisations. Studies of similar ceramic objects, such as figurines and seals, have demonstrated that the specific techniques and stylistic detail were the due to the cultural developments of the area, and not necessarily ideas adopted from other civilisations (Meadow and Kenoyer, n.d.). The Indus Valley people were also skilled in metallurgy. Not only did the Indus Valley people demonstrate innovation in their craft, but displayed technological advancement in their building and architecture. The uniformity in the size of the bricks they used in their buildings is impressive and suggested they had accurate measuring tools. In fact, what is considered to be the oldest measuring tool was found in the Indus Valley, with increments that correspond to the size of the bricks. They also had extensive sewage systems as well as the earliest public water vessel in the ancient world - known as 'the Great Bath' (Kenoyer, n.d.). The Great Bath is an impressive structural feat which would have required an immense amount of skill and innovative thinking to create, from the creation of evenly sized bricks, to the waterproofing of the vessel. These demonstrate both the extent of innovation in the Indus Valley civilisation, and how a study of their objects tell the stories of their lives.


Hays, J. (2012). Indus Civilization and Culture [online]. Available at:

Meadow, R. and Kenoyer, J. (n.d.). Early Developments of Art, Symbol, Technology in the Indus Valley Tradition. [online] Available at:

Kenoyer, J. (n.d.). "Great Bath" Mohenjo-Daro. [online] Available at:

Kenoyer, J. (2004). Wheeled Vehicles of the Indus Valley Civilization of Pakistan and India. In: M. Fansa and S. Burmeister, eds., Wheel and Wagon - origins of an innovation. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, pp.87-106.

Parpola, A. (2015). The Indus Civilization. In: A. Parpola, ed., The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and The Indus Civilization [online]. New York: Oxford University Press. Available at: doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190226909.003.0004.

Qayyum, S. (2014). Panoramic view of the stupa mound and great bath. [image] Available at:

Further reading

Hays, J. (2012). Indus Civilization and Culture [online]. Available at:

Kenoyer, J. (1997). Trade and technology of the Indus Valley: New insights from Harappa, Pakistan. World Archaeology, 29(2), pp.262-280.

Kenoyer, J. (1998). Birth of a Civilization. Archaeology, 51(1), pp.54-61. Available at:

Thapar, B. (1993). The Harappan Civilization: Some Reflections on Its Environments and Resources and Their Exploitation. In: G. Possehl, ed., Harappan civilization: a recent perspective [online]. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies and Oxford & IBH Pub. Co., pp.3-14. Available at:,

Wheeler, R. (1968). The Indus Civilization. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Indus Valley Civilisation

Did You Know?

The Great Bath at Mohenjo-Daro (Qayyum, 2014)