Mohenjo-Daro (also spelled as Mohenjodaro or Moenjodaro), meaning “Mound of the Dead,” is an archaeological site in Sindh province of Pakistan. It was one of the largest and advanced settlements and probably the best known of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) built around 2600 BC. Mohenjo-Daro, however, went to a sudden decline in 1700 BC for unknown reasons. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pakistan in 1080. The original name of the city is still unknown.
The melting waters from the mountains flowing southwards merged into the Indus River before meeting the Arabian Sea. About 5500 B.C. settled a nomadic tribe of people into the villages west of the Indus River. They learned to use tools, built small houses, cultivated crop, and domesticated animals. The gradual climate change helped grow jungles and wildlife.
With the passage of time, they grew in population and began to trade with people in the remote areas of Central Asia and in the nearby western regions. Gradually they also improved their skills in making and using sophisticated tools. By around 2600 BC, it turned out to be a civilization almost as modern as that in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization (also called Indus Civilization or Harappan Civilization) is known to have consisted of two large cities called Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro besides more than 100 small towns and villages. It was the primitive metropolitan culture of the subcontinent.
The population lived prosperously on the flat alluvial plains along the Indus basin from 2600 B.C. to 1700 B.C. It was a literate civilization having their own script of 250-500 characters of the Dravidian language. It is also one of the world’s three great civilizations. It was initially identified at Harappa in 1921 and in Mohenjo-Daro in 1922.
Rediscovery and Excavations
Mohenjo-Daro was discovered in 1922 by R.D. Banerji of the Archaeological Survey of India. Following its discovery, large-scale excavations were carried out at the site under the supervision of famous archaeologists till 1930s. Excavations resumed for a short time in 1964-65 and then banned again due to problems related to conservation.
The ruins of the city of Mohenjo-Daro lie on the bank of Indus Valley. In a region as wide as 300 hectares (about 750 acres) with a peak population of about 40,000, Mohenjo-Daro was one of the largest and highly developed cities in the world during its time. It was all built with unbaked bricks set on high mounds, the ramparts, and the lower town. The whole construction illustrates an early system of town planning according to a strict rule.
Construction and Planning
Mohenjo-Daro was laid out systematically. It’s planned layout is based on a street grid of rectilinear buildings. Most of the city was built by standardized fire and mortared brick while there is also evidence of unbaked sun-dried brick and wooden superstructures.
The city is divided into two major parts – the 12 meters high Citadel and the Lower City. The Citadel was constructed with mud bricks and had two large assembly halls and attached public baths. The Citadel was believed to a place for religious ceremonies. Its large public residential structure could accommodate about 5,000 people.
The lower town courtyard houses were built for middle class. These houses had brick stairs to the flat roves and had small bathrooms with drains and sanitation. The houses were originally mud plastered to reduce the harmful effect of salts and react to unstable heat and humidity.
The Great Baths
One of the most spectacular structures at Mohenjo is the ‘Great Bath’, which is astonishingly well preserved and measures 180 feet north to south and 108 feet east to west. The outer walls of the Great Bath measure between 7 and 8 feet in thickness and were lined with bitumen.
Other important constructions also included the swimming pool, a waterproof pool of bricks lined with pitchmen, is still in good shape and it may have been used for religious purification. It sizes 39 feet long, 23 feet wide and 8 feet deep.
Water Management system
Mohenjo-Daro had a complex water management system. The city had a central grand marketplace, with a large central well. For households, there were smaller wells to obtain water. There was a complete sophisticated and covered drainage system for wastewaters.
High-status residents had spacious houses with attached baths with the covered drainage system. Most houses had inner courtyards with doors open to side-lanes. Some of the buildings found were a double story.
The people of Mohenjo-Daro had an advanced system of weights and measures using arithmetic with decimals. They produced pottery with fine geometric designs as decoration. They also made figurines as a reflection of their attitudes. Major crops produced included wheat, rice, mustard, dates, and cotton. Likewise, they had dogs, cats, camels, sheep, pigs, goats, water buffaloes, elephants, and chickens.
The west part of the main settlement is fortified with guard towers and the south has defensive fortification. This type of layout indicates that Mohenjo-Daro might have been an administrative centre. Archaeologists believed that the city was successively destroyed and built almost seven times. The cause of destruction was either massive flooding by the Indus or encroaching. Each new construction was carried out on the old one.
Numerous antiquities found during excavation at Mohenjo-Daro include seated and standing sculptures, clay toys, pottery, stone axes, and flake knives, coins, and a number of copper and bronze objects. The famous “Dancing girl”, the 10.8 cm long bronze statue, found here in 1926 is believed to be 4500 years old. The circular space at the statue of the priest-king and the gold disc found from the same location perfectly matching the space on the forehead is suggestive of a third-eye or “Bindi” of Hindu myth.
A variety of copper and bronze objects discovered at Mohenjo-Daro suggest the city witnessed the transition period from stone-age to bronze-age. Some of these antique items are preserved in the Mohenjo-Daro museum. However, many important objects found earlier from Mohenjo-Daro are conserved at the National Museum of India in Delhi and the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi. The artefacts found in 1939 as representative collection excavated at the site were transferred to the British Museum.
Extinction of Mohenjo-Daro
In around 1700 B.C. the whole Indus Valley Civilization, including Mohenjo-Daro, Vanished. The reason for their extinction is still unknown. Speculations behind the cause of extinction are either shift in the Indus River or ruinous flooding of dammed waters. Still, another suspected cause is a possible decline in rainfall which led to agriculture decline and people abandoned the place in search of food.
A dry core drilling conducted in 2015 revealed that the site is larger than the unearthed area.
Location and Access:
The archaeological ruins of Mohenjo-Daro are located about 510 km north-east from the metropolitan city of Karachi, 110 km to the southwest of Sukkur city, and about 28 km from Larkana. The city can be reached by road from Karachi, Bahawalpur, and Multan in one day.
The ruins of Mohenjo-Daro are just adjacent to the Mohenjo-Daro airport. One can fly from Karachi for an overnight stay and return the same way. There is another possibility of flying to Sukkur from Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore and proceed by road to Moenjo-Daro.