Ancient Civilizations

Mohenjodaro - The Ancient Civilization

Mohenjodaro, Pakistani

Mohenjo-daro is situated in the province of Sindh, Pakistan, was one of the largest city-settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization. Built around 2600 BCE, it was one of the early urban settlements in the world, existing at the same time as the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete. The archaeological ruins of the city are designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is sometimes referred to as "an ancient Indus valley metropolis".

Mohenjo-daro was built around 2600 BCE and abandoned around 1500 BCE. It was rediscovered in 1922 by Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India. He was led to the mound by a Buddhist monk, who believed it to be a stupa. In the 1930s, massive excavations were conducted under the leadership of John Marshall, K. N. Dikshit, Ernest Mackay, and others. John Marshall's car, which was used by the site directors, is still in the Mohenjo-daro museum, showing their struggle and dedication to Mohenjo-daro. Further excavations were carried out in 1945 by Ahmad Hasan Dani and Mortimer Wheeler. The last major excavations were conducted in 1964-65 by Dr. George F. Dales. After this date, excavations were banned due to damage done to the exposed structures by weathering. Since 1965, the only projects allowed at the site have been salvage excavation, surface surveys and conservation projects. Despite the ban on major archaeological projects, in the 1980s, teams of German and Italian survey groups, led by Dr. Michael Jansen and Dr. Maurizio Tosi, combined techniques such as architectural documentation, surface surveys, surface scraping and probing, to determine further clues about the ancient civilization.

Mohenjo-daro is located in Sindh, Pakistan on a Pleistocene ridge in the middle of the flood plain of the Indus River Valley. The ridge is now buried by the flooding of the plains, but was prominent during the time of the Indus Valley Civilization. The ridge allowed the city to stand above the surrounding plain. The site occupies a central position between the Indus River valley on the west and the Ghaggar-Hakra river on the east. The Indus still flows to the east of the site, but the Ghaggar-Hakra riverbed is now dry. Anthropogenic construction over the years was precipitated by the need for more room. The ridge was expanded via giant mud brick platforms. Ultimately, the settlement grew to such proportions that some buildings reached 12 meters above the level of the modern plain, and therefore much higher than this above the ancient plain.

Mohenjo-daro has a planned layout based on a street-grid of rectilinear buildings. Most are of fired and mortared brick; some incorporate sun dried mud-brick and wooden superstructures. The sheer size of the city, and its provision of public buildings and facilities, suggests high levels of social organisation. At its peak of development, Mohenjo-Daro could have housed around 35,000 residents. The city had a central marketplace, with a large central well. Individual households or groups of households obtained their water from smaller wells. Waste water was channelled to covered drains that lined the major streets. Some houses, presumably those of wealthier inhabitants, include rooms that appear to have been set aside for bathing, and one building had an underground furnace (hypocaust), possibly for heated bathing. Most house have inner courtyards, with doors that opened onto side-lanes. Some buildings were two-storey.

In 1950, Sir Mortimer Wheeler designated one large, probably public facility as a "Great Granary". Certain wall-divisions in its massive wooden superstructure appeared to be grain storage-bays, complete with air-ducts to dry the grain. According to Wheeler, carts would have brought grain from the countryside and unloaded them directly into the bays. However, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer note the complete lack of evidence for grain at "granary", which might therefore be better termed a "Great Hall" of uncertain function. Close to the "Great Granary" is a large and elaborate public bath, sometimes called the Great Bath. From a colonnaded courtyard, steps lead down to the brick-built pool, which was waterproofed by a lining of bitumen. The pool is large – 12m long, 7m wide and 2.4m deep. It may have been used for religious purification. Other large buildings include a "Pillared Hall", thought to be an assembly hall of some kind. Near the Great Bath is the so-called "College Hall", a complex of buildings comprising 78 rooms and thought to have been a priestly residence.

Mohenjo-daro had no circuit of city walls but was otherwise well fortified, with towers to the west of the main settlement, and defensive fortifications to the south. Considering these fortifications and the structure of other major Indus valley cities like Harappa, lead to the question of whether Mohenjo-daro was an administrative center. Both Harappa and Mohenjo-daro share relatively the same architectural layout, and were generally not heavily fortified like other Indus Valley sites. It is obvious from the identical city layouts of all Indus sites, that there was some kind of political or administrative centrality, however the extent and functioning of an administrative center remains unclear. Mohenjo-daro was successively destroyed and rebuilt at least seven times. Each time, the new cities were built directly on top of the old ones. Flooding by the Indus is thought to have been the cause of destruction. The city is divided into two parts, the so-called Citadel and the Lower City. Most of the Lower City is yet to be uncovered, but the Citadel is known to have the public bath, a large residential structure designed to house 5,000 citizens and two large assembly halls. Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and their civilization vanished from history until rediscovered in the 1920s. It was extensively excavated in the 1920s, but no in-depth excavations have been carried out since the 1960s.

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