History

Facts about Mohenjo-daro

26 facts about Mohenjo-daro

The mound of the dead men

More than five thousand years ago, in the Indus Valley (now Pakistan), there was a mysterious civilization, called the Indus Civilization. It was one of the oldest cultures in the world and the first historical civilization on the Indian subcontinent. It was also the most extensive of the four contemporaneous civilizations of antiquity - alongside Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China. The modern world has not known about its existence for a long time. It was not until the first expedition in 1921 that the ancient city was discovered, which was called Mohenjo-daro, which in the local language means “Mound of the Dead Men”.
1
Mohenjo-daro was a proto-city located in the valley of the Indus River.
It is now an archaeological site located west of the Indus River in the Larkana District of Sindh Province, Pakistan.
2
Mohenjo-daro was built in the 26th century B.C.
It was one of the largest cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, which developed around 3000 B.C. from prehistoric Indus culture.
3
At its best, the Indus civilization encompassed much of what is today Pakistan and northern India.
It stretched west to the border with Iran, south to Gujarat (a state on the west coast of India) in India, and north to Bactria (an ancient region of Central Asia).
4
The main urban centers of this civilization were Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Lothal, Kalibangan, Dholavira, and Rakhigarhi.
Mohenjo-daro was the most advanced city of its time, with extraordinary urban planning and infrastructure.
5
The original name of the city is unknown.
There is some speculation, after analyzing the seals found at Mohenjo-daro, that the ancient name of the city may have been Kukkutarma - “city of the cockerel”. It is believed that cock-fighting could have taken place there, which could have ritual and religious significance for the city, and domesticated roosters were bred there not for consumption, but for ritual purposes. Perhaps Mohenjo-daro was the place from which the breeding of domesticated chickens spread into the world. The modern name of this city can be interpreted as “the mound of the dead men”, but also as “Mohan’s mound”, where Mohan is Krishna - the main deity of Hinduism.
6
The Indus Civilization is one of the oldest in the world.
It is believed that it developed parallel to the culture of ancient Egypt, although it is possible that it was older. The research carried out using the radiocarbon method shows that the oldest settlements belonging to this culture come from as many as 8,000 years B.C.
7
The culture of Mohenjo-daro was the most extensive of the modern civilizations of antiquity (along with Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China).
It occupied an area of ​​650 thousand square meters up to 1.5 million square kilometers. Its positions are located throughout the territory of modern Pakistan, in northwest India, and in eastern Afghanistan.
8
The civilization of the Indus Valley was completely unknown until the end of the 19th century - the ruins of the city remained hidden from the world for about 3,700 years.
This was due to the specific cultural conditions under which the Hindus learned about the origins of their native tradition from the collection of ancient Sanskrit hymns of the oldest of Vedas (14th century B.C.) - Rigveda. This book considers the arrival of the Proto-Indo-European Aryans to the subcontinent as the beginning of the historical period, not earlier than in the 13th century B.C., after the fall of the Mohenjo-daro culture.
9
The first excavations were carried out only in the 1920s by the English archaeologist, John Marshall.
But as early as 1856, workers building a railroad that ran along the Indus Valley encountered many fire-burnt bricks. Not realizing they had ancient artifacts in their hands, they used them in the construction. Soon, among the bricks, they also began to find items made of soapstone, some with high artistic value. Without knowing it, these workers stumbled upon traces of the Indus civilization, also known as the Harappan civilization, from Harappa, the first excavated settlement in British India, presently in Pakistan.
10
The last major series of excavations were carried out between 1964 and 1965.
After 1965, the excavations were banned due to the atmospheric destruction of the discovered artifacts. In the 1980s, German and Italian research groups resumed their activities using less invasive archaeological techniques.
11
Archaeological research has revealed that in the fertile Indus Valley, about 5,000 years ago, 5 large and over 30 smaller towns and hundreds of settlements and villages were established.
The civilization inhabiting these areas drew its wealth from the life-giving river that irrigated the fields and provided water. Around the city of Dholavira, one of the largest centers of this civilization, the inhabitants built a system of over a dozen large water tanks, which distributed and at the same time cleaned the tidal water. Water was supplied to the municipal water supply, and residents could use it in their own homes. The tanks were over 7 meters long and about 7 meters deep each. A network of irrigation channels also irrigated the crops, resulting in high yields and prosperous life.
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The main cities of this civilization—Mohenjo-daro and Harappa are characterized by very regular buildings.
Cities were built in a planned manner, with buildings arranged on a grid plan - the streets were perpendicular to each other. Most of the buildings were built of bricks with standardized dimensions. Some contained sun-dried mud-brick and wooden superstructures.
13
The area of ​​Mohenjo-daro is estimated at 300 ha, and the population at its peak at 40,000 people.
The size of the city and the availability of buildings suggest a high level of social organization. The city was divided into two parts - the Upper Town, the so-called Citadel, and the Lower Town. The Citadel - a mud-brick mound approximately 12 meters high - had public baths, a large residential structure designed for approximately 5,000 inhabitants, and two large assembly halls. The town had a central square with a large central well. The city was equipped with a sewage disposal system that was transferred to covered canals running along the main streets. Some houses contained special rooms that could be considered bathing rooms, and one building had an underground stove, known as a hypocaust, a central heating system that circulated hot air under the floor or in the walls, or to heat the bath water. Most of the houses had internal courtyards and doors that opened onto side streets. Some buildings had two floors.
14
One of the large buildings in Mohenjo-daro has been identified as the “Great Granary”.
There were separate rooms that could have been grain storage facilities, equipped with air ducts for drying the grain. But these are only assumptions, since there is no evidence of grain in this “granary” - the building could only be a large hall with an unexplained function. There is a large public bathhouse next to the “granary”. From the colonnaded courtyard, stairs lead down to a brick pool 12 meters long, 7 meters wide and 2.4 meters deep. Other buildings are the “Column Hall”, considered the auditorium and the so-called “Pillared Hall” - a complex of buildings consisting of 78 rooms - it is believed that it could have been a priest’s residence.
15
Mohenjo-daro did not have city walls but was fortified with watchtowers west of the main settlement and defensive fortifications to the south.
It is presumed, given the fortifications and structure of the other major cities of the Indus Valley, that Mohenjo-daro served as the administrative center. Both Mohenjo-daro and Harappa are built similarly, have a similar architectural layout, and both cities were not heavily fortified compared to other towns in the valley. Perhaps their function was different.
16
Compared to other civilizations from that period (i.e., Egypt, Mesopotamia), Mohenjo-daro is distinguished by the number of wells - one well for three houses.
Archaeological excavations so far have revealed the existence of over 700 wells, together with a drainage and bathing system. Scientists concluded that waterworks and wells were the first investments made in the area of ​​the emerging city. This number of wells shows that the inhabitants relied solely on the annual rainfall and the waters flowing near the Indus. It is believed that these wells - round, brick - are the invention of the Indus Valley Civilization (there are no designs of such structures from Egypt or Mesopotamia from this period, or even later). Also, the drainage system along the road, which efficiently removes most human waste and wastewater, was a very innovative project, although the drains drained the wastewater towards the Indus.
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The people who decided to settle in a town near the river were aware of the benefits of such a location.
Archaeological excavations and computer reconstructions confirm that life in Mohenjo-daro was comfortable and peaceful. The mild climate, fertile soil and location at the crossroads of trade routes contributed to the rapid development and prosperity of the city. The locals worked in agriculture, grew wheat, barley, sesame, dates, and cotton. The rich harvest and favorable location allowed the inhabitants to exchange their goods for various other raw materials, such as metal, precious stones, and spices from Central Asia, Afghanistan, Persia, and South India. Everything was going great, up to a point - something unexpectedly catastrophic happened.
18
Scientists do not know what could have caused the destruction of the Mohenjo-daro culture, which occurred around the middle of the second millennium B.C.
There are several hypotheses. The most popular are those with a sudden and rapid climate change, the devastating effects of numerous floods, an epidemic of a mysterious disease, a rapidly declining population, and the invasion of the Aryans from the north and west (allegedly, during the excavations, traces of the battle were found). However, no cemetery has been found in the town itself or in its vicinity.
19
Archaeologists discovered several thousand human skeletons in Mohenjo-daro.
The city was inhabited by 40,000 to 50,000 people. Their skeletons were found in buildings and on the streets. All of them showed signs of sudden death. Some victims had bone injuries, but neither weapons nor ammunition was found in the remains. Archeologists also excluded the robbery as a possible motive, since some of the dead were found with valuables, such as bracelets, earrings, and beads.
20
The cause of their violent death could not have been a volcanic eruption, as there had never been an active volcano in this area.
Scientists are wondering if one day, on a hill near the city, there was a massive explosion, as a result of which all buildings melted, and the skeletons near the site of the explosion became radioactive. In 1987, Professor M. Dmitriev hypothesized that the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro was burned by a gigantic lightning bolt. Such a phenomenon is extremely rare, but it can occur, especially since the Mohenjo-daro ruins are located exactly at the junction of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. There is tremendous stress in the earth’s crust at the junction. The pressure that developed at the junction of the two plates could have caused an electrical voltage to appear in the rock layers containing the quartz. Another kind of tension arises between the earth’s surface and the upper atmosphere. When the two overlapped, lightning of extraordinary dimensions was created (ancient Indian myths mention a certain blinding radiance).
21
Another hypothesis put forward by a team of American geologists is that 140 km north of Mohenjo-daro was the epicenter of a powerful earthquake that changed the Indus Valley.
Powerful tremors caused the ground surface to rise, which blocked the river and its waters changed course. As a result, a powerful wave of mud began to flow into the city, and the city’s population was buried under it. The population tried to defend themselves by building dams (their remains were discovered by archaeologists during the excavations), but they had lost. According to scientists, the influx of mud lasted for 100 years.
22
Unfortunately, at least at this stage of archaeological research, the actual cause of the fall of the Mohenjo-daro civilization has not been established.
Excavations have only revealed many outstanding artifacts, such as sitting and standing figurines, copper and stone tools, carved seals, scales, weights, gold and jasper jewelry, and children’s toys. The townspeople knew and used the lost-wax casting. They owned copper smelters. Archaeologists have found copper tablets containing examples of Indus script and iconography - to this day, the script has not yet been deciphered. Many pots were also found, which are believed to have been used for storing human ashes (perhaps that is why no cemeteries were found) or for heating houses. They were probably used for other purposes, such as cooking. A total of 12 thousand artifacts were found, mostly pottery shards. Some of them are now at the National Museum of India in New Delhi, and some at the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi. A number of artifacts are housed in a museum now established in Mohenjo-daro itself.
23
Of all the artifacts found in Mohenjo-daro, the most valuable are two sculptures: of a Priest-King, which is located in Pakistan, and of the Dancing Girl, in a museum in New Delhi.
Among the archaeological materials found, there are also images of pregnant women and a female deity in the type of the Mother Goddess, which may indicate the existence of a fertility cult there.
24
Mohenjo-daro was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
Currently, this archaeological site is under threat of erosion and inadequate restoration.
25
A rainstorm that hit Pakistan in the second half of 2022 caused damage to Mohenjo-daro.
The outer walls of the city were severely damaged as a result of historic downpours. It is estimated that the repair of the facility could cost approximately $45 million.
26
Due to a natural disaster, the facility was made available to Pakistanis for protection.
Monsoon rains and melting glaciers led to tragic floods, destroying the possessions of over 30 million Pakistanis. The inhabitants of Sindh Province, one of the most severely hit by the floods, found shelter from the rain in the walls of Mohenjo-daro.