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Mohenjo-daro (IPA: [muˑənⁱ dʑoˑ d̪əɽoˑ], Urdu: موئن جودڑو‎, Sindhi: موئن جو دڙو, lit. Mound of the Dead; English pronunciation: /mˌhɛn. ˈdɑː.r/), is an archeological site in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. Built around 2600 BCE, it was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, and one of the world's earliest major urban settlements, contemporaneous with the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete. Mohenjo-daro was abandoned in the 19th century BCE, and was not rediscovered until 1922. Significant excavation has since been conducted at the site of the city, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.[1] However, the site is currently threatened by erosion and improper restoration


Mohenjo-daro, the modern name for the site, simply means Mound of the Dead in Sindhi. The city's original name is unknown, but analysis of a Mohenjo-daro seal suggests a possible ancient Dravidian name, Kukkutarma ("the city [-rma] of the cockerel [kukkuta]").[3] Cock-fighting may have had ritual and religious significance for the city, with domesticated chickens bred there for sacred purposes, rather than as a food source.[4]


Mohenjo-daro is located in the Larkana District of Sindh, Pakistan,[5] on a Pleistocene ridge in the middle of the flood plain of the Indus River Valley, around 28 kilometres (17 mi) from the town of Larkana. The ridge was prominent during the time of the Indus Valley Civilization, allowing the city to stand above the surrounding plain, but the flooding of the river has since buried most of the ridge in deposited silt. The site occupies a central position between the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra River. The Indus still flows to the east of the site, but the riverbed of the Ghaggar-Hakra on the western side is now dry.[6]

Historical context

Mohenjo-daro was built in the 26th century BCE.[7] It was one of the largest cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization,[8] which developed around 3000 BCE 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, with 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.[9] When the Indus civilization went into sudden decline around 1900 BCE, Mohenjo-daro was abandoned.[7][10]

Rediscovery and excavation

The ruins of the city remained undocumented for over 3,700 years, until their discovery in 1922 by Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India.[7] He was led to the mound by a Buddhist monk, who reportedly believed it to be a stupa. In the 1930s, major excavations were conducted at the site under the leadership of John Marshall, D. K. Dikshitar and Ernest Mackay.[1] Further excavations were carried out in 1945 by Ahmad Hasan Dani and Mortimer Wheeler.
The last major series of excavations were conducted in 1964 and 1965 by Dr. George F. Dales. After this date, excavations were banned due to weathering damage to the exposed structures, and the only projects allowed at the site since have been salvage excavations, surface surveys, and conservation projects. However, in the 1980s, German and Italian survey groups led by Dr. Michael Jansen and Dr. Maurizio Tosi used less invasive archeological techniques, such as architectural documentation, surface surveys, and localized probing, to gather further information about Mohenjo-daro.[1]

Architecture and urban infrastructure 

Mohenjo-daro has a planned layout based on a street grid of rectilinear buildings. Most were built of fired and mortared brick; some incorporated sun-dried mud-brick and wooden superstructures. The sheer size of the city, and its provision of public buildings and facilities, suggests a high level of social organization. At its peak of development, Mohenjo-daro could have housed around 35,000 residents. The city is divided into two parts, the so-called Citadel and the Lower City. The Citadel – a mud-brick mound around 12 metres (39 ft) high – is known to have supported public baths, a large residential structure designed to house 5,000 citizens, and two large assembly halls.
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 channeled 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 (known as a hypocaust), possibly for heated bathing. Most houses had inner courtyards, with doors that opened onto side-lanes. Some buildings had two stories.
In 1950, Sir Mortimer Wheeler identified one large building in Mohenjo-daro 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 noted the complete lack of evidence for grain at the "granary", which, he argued, might therefore be better termed a "Great Hall" of uncertain function.[10] 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 measures 12 metres (39 ft) long, 7 metres (23 ft) wide and 2.4 metres (7.9 ft) 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, and the so-called "College Hall", a complex of buildings comprising 78 rooms, thought to have been a priestly residence.
Mohenjo-daro had no circuit of city walls, but was otherwise well fortified, with guard 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, it is postulated that 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, but 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..[2]
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