A well-planned street grid and an elaborate drainage system hint that the occupants of the ancient Indus civilization city of Mohenjo Daro were skilled urban planners with a reverence for the control of water. But just who occupied the ancient city in modern-day Pakistan during the third millennium B.C. remains a puzzle.
"It's pretty faceless," says Indus expert Gregory Possehl of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The city lacks ostentatious palaces, temples, or monuments. There's no obvious central seat of government or evidence of a king or queen. Modesty, order, and cleanliness were apparently preferred. Pottery and tools of copper and stone were standardized. Seals and weights suggest a system of tightly controlled trade.
The city's wealth and stature is evident in artifacts such as ivory, lapis, carnelian, and gold beads, as well as the baked-brick city structures themselves.
A watertight pool called the Great Bath, perched on top of a mound of dirt and held in place with walls of baked brick, is the closest structure Mohenjo Daro has to a temple. Possehl, a National Geographic grantee, says it suggests an ideology based on cleanliness.
Wells were found throughout the city, and nearly every house contained a bathing area and drainage system.
City of Mounds
Archaeologists first visited Mohenjo Daro in 1911. Several excavations occurred in the 1920s through 1931. Small probes took place in the 1930s, and subsequent digs occurred in 1950 and 1964.
The ancient city sits on elevated ground in the modern-day Larkana district of Sindh province in Pakistan.
During its heyday from about 2500 to 1900 B.C., the city was among the most important to the Indus civilization, Possehl says. It spread out over about 250 acres (100 hectares) on a series of mounds, and the Great Bath and an associated large building occupied the tallest mound.
According to University of Wisconsin, Madison, archaeologist Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, also a National Geographic grantee, the mounds grew organically over the centuries as people kept building platforms and walls for their houses.
"You have a high promontory on which people are living," he says.
With no evidence of kings or queens, Mohenjo Daro was likely governed as a city-state, perhaps by elected officials or elites from each of the mounds.
A miniature bronze statuette of a nude female, known as the dancing girl, was celebrated by archaeologists when it was discovered in 1926, Kenoyer notes.
Of greater interest to him, though, are a few stone sculptures of seated male figures, such as the intricately carved and colored Priest King, so called even though there is no evidence he was a priest or king.
The sculptures were all found broken, Kenoyer says. "Whoever came in at the very end of the Indus period clearly didn't like the people who were representing themselves or their elders," he says.
Just what ended the Indus civilization—and Mohenjo Daro—is also a mystery.
Kenoyer suggests that the Indus River changed course, which would have hampered the local agricultural economy and the city's importance as a center of trade.
But no evidence exists that flooding destroyed the city, and the city wasn't totally abandoned, Kenoyer says. And, Possehl says, a changing river course doesn't explain the collapse of the entire Indus civilization. Throughout the valley, the culture changed, he says.
"It reaches some kind of obvious archaeological fruition about 1900 B.C.," he said. "What drives that, nobody knows."
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Mohenjo-daro was one of the largest city-settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization of south Asia.
It is in province of Sindh, Pakistan. The city was built around 2600 BC. It was one of the early urban settlements in the world. Mohenjo-daro existed at the same time as the civilisations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece. The archaeological ruins of the city are designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Pakistan, it is one of the national icons of the distant past.
Historical context[change | change source]
Mohenjo-daro was built in the 26th century BC. It was one of the largest cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, which developed around 3000 BC from the prehistoric Indus culture. At its height, the Indus Civilization spanned much of what is now Pakistan and North India, extending westwards to the Iranian border, south to Gujarat in India and northwards to an outpost in Bactria. There were major urban centers at Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Lothal, Kalibangan, Dholavira and Rakhigarhi.
Mohenjo-daro was the most advanced city of its time, with remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning. When the Indus civilization went into sudden decline around 1900 BC, Mohenjo-daro was abandoned.
Artifacts[change | change source]
The Dancing girl found in Mohenjo-daro is an artifact that is some 4500 years old. The 10.8 cm long bronze statue of the dancing girl was found in 1926 from a house in Mohenjo-daro. She was British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler's favorite statuette, as he said in this quote from a 1973 television program:
- "There is her... pouting lips and insolent look in the eyes. She's about fifteen years old I should think, not more, but she stands there with bangles all the way up her arm and nothing else on. A girl perfectly, for the moment, perfectly confident of herself and the world. There's nothing like her, I think, in the world".
John Marshall, one of the excavators at Mohenjo-daro, described her as a vivid impression of the young ... girl, her hand on her hip in a half-impudent posture, and legs slightly forward as she beats time to the music with her legs and feet.
A seated male sculpture is the so-called "Priest King" (even though there is no evidence that either priests or kings ruled the city). Archaeologists discovered the sculpture in Lower town at Mohenjo-daro in 1927. It was found in an unusual house with ornamental brickwork and a wall niche and was lying between brick foundation walls which once held up a floor.
This bearded sculpture wears a fillet around the head, an armband, and a cloak decorated with trefoil patterns that were originally filled with red pigment.
Notes[change | change source]
- ↑Urdu: موئن جودڑو, Sindhi: موئن جو دڙو, English: Mound of the Dead
- ↑Aitzaz Ahsan 1997. Indus saga and the making of Pakistan Karachi: Oxford University Press.
- ↑ 3.03.1Ancientindia.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- ↑Beck, Roger B. et al 1999. World History: patterns of interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN 0-395-87274-X.
- ↑Dani A.H. 1992. Critical assessment of recent evidence on Mohenjo-daro. Second International Symposium on Mohenjo-daro, 24–27 February 1992.
- ↑Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark 1998. Indus cities, towns and villages. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Islamabad: American Institute of Pakistan Studies. p.65
- ↑Possehl, Gregory (2002). The Indus Civilization: a contemporary perspective. AltaMira Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0759101722.