Rediscovery and excavation
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 excavation of Mohenjo-daro was conducted in 1964-65 by Dr. G. 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. 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 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 in ancient times was most likely one of the administrative centers of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. It was the most developed and advanced city in South Asia, and perhaps the world, during its peak. The planning and engineering showed the importance of the city to the people of the Indus valley.
The Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300–1700 BCE, flowered 2600–1900 BCE), abbreviated IVC, was an ancient riverine civilization that flourished in the Indus river valley in ancient India (now Pakistan and the present north-west India). Another name for this civilization is the "Harappan Civilization."
The Indus culture blossomed over the centuries and gave rise to the Indus Valley Civilization around 3000 BCE. The civilization spanned much of what is now Pakistan and North India, but suddenly went into decline around 1900 BCE. Indus Civilization settlements spread as far south as the Arabian Sea coast of India in Gujarat, as far west as the Iranian border, with an outpost in Bactria. Among the settlements were the major urban centers of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as Lothal.
The Mohenjo-daro ruins were one of the major centers of this ancient society. At its peak, some archaeologists opine that the Indus Civilization may have had a population of well over five million.
To date, over a thousand cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the Indus River valley in Pakistan and northwestern India.
Architecture and urban infrastructure
Mohenjo-daro, 25 km southwest of Larkana, was center of the Indus Valley Civilization 2600 BC-1900 BC
Mohenjo-daro is a remarkable construction, considering its antiquity. It has a planned layout based on a grid of streets, which were laid out in perfect patterns. At its height the city probably had around 35,000 residents. The buildings of the city were particularly advanced, with structures constructed of same-sized sun dried bricks of baked mud and burned wood.
The public buildings of these cities also suggest a high degree of social organization. The so-called Great Granary at Mohenjo-daro as interpreted by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1950 is designed with bays to receive carts delivering crops from the countryside, and there are ducts for air to circulate beneath the stored grain to dry it. However, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer has noted that no record of grain exists at the "granary." Thus Kenoyer suggests that a more appropriate title would be "Great Hall."
Close to the granary, there is a building similarly civic in nature - a great public bath (sometimes called the Great Bath), with steps down to a brick-lined pool in a colonnaded courtyard. The elaborate bath area was very well built, with a layer of natural tar to keep it from leaking, and in the centre was the pool. Measuring 12m x 7m, with a depth of 2.4m, it may have been used for religious or spiritual ceremonies.
Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. Some of the houses included rooms that appear to have been set aside for bathing, and waste water was directed to covered drains lining the major streets. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and smaller lanes. A variety of buildings were up to two stories high.
Being an agricultural city, it also featured a large well, and central marketplace. It also had a building with an underground furnace (hypocaust), possibly for heated bathing.
Mohenjo-daro was a well fortified city. Lacking actual city walls, it did have 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 centre. 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 centre 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 was 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 without trace from history until discovered in the 1920s. It was extensively excavated in the 1920s, but no in-depth excavations have been carried out since the 1960s.
"The Dancing girl" artifact found in Mohenjo-daro
The "Priest-king" statue
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 little Baluchi-style face with 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.
The artistry of this statuette is recognizable today and tells of a strange, but at least fleetingly recognizable past. As the archaeologist Gregory Possehl says, "We may not be certain that she was a dancer, but she was good at what she did and she knew it". The statue could well be of some queen or other important woman of the Indus Valley Civilization judging from the authority the figure commands.
Seated male sculpture, the so-called "Priest King" (even though there is no evidence that either priests or kings ruled the city). This 17.5 cm tall statue is another artifact which has become a symbol for the Indus valley civilization. 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.
The two ends of the fillet fall along the back and though the hair is carefully combed towards the back of the head, no bun is present. The flat back of the head may have held a separately carved bun as is traditional on the other seated figures, or it could have held a more elaborate horn and plumed headdress.
Two holes beneath the highly stylized ears suggest that a necklace or other head ornament was attached to the sculpture. The left shoulder is covered with a cloak decorated with trefoil, double circle and single circle designs that were originally filled with red pigment. Drill holes in the centre of each circle indicate they were made with a specialized drill and then touched up with a chisel. Eyes are deeply incised and may have held inlay. The upper lip is shaved and a short combed beard frames the face. The large crack in the face is the result of weathering or it may be due to original firing of this object.
Current UNESCO status
Preservation work for Mohenjo-daro was suspended in December 1996 after funding from the government and international organisations stopped. However, in April 1997 the U. N. Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) funded a $10 million project to be conducted over two decades to protect the standing structures and the site from flooding.