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Title: Mohenjo-daro  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Indus Valley Civilization, Sindh, Harappa, Lothal, History of Sindh
Collection: 1922 Archaeological Discoveries, 26Th-Century Bc Architecture, 2Nd-Millennium Bc Disestablishments in Asia, 3Rd-Millennium Bc Establishments in Asia, Ancient History of Pakistan, Ancient India, Ancient Indian Cities, Archaeological Sites in Pakistan, Bronze Age, Bronze Age Asia, Buildings and Structures Completed in the 26Th Century Bc, Former Populated Places in Pakistan, History of Sindh, Indus Valley Civilization, Indus Valley Civilization Sites, Larkana District, Major Indus Valley Civilization Sites, Ruins in Pakistan, Sindh, Visitor Attractions in Sindh, World Heritage Sites in Pakistan, World Heritage Sites in Sindh
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


موهن جو دڙو (Sindhi)
موئن جو دڑو (Urdu)
The excavated ruins of Mohenjo-daro in Sindh, Pakistan, in 2010.
Mohenjo-daro is located in Pakistan
Shown within Pakistan
Location Larkana, Sindh, Pakistan
Type Settlement
Area 200 ha (490 acres)[1]
Founded 25th century BCE
Abandoned 19th century BCE
Cultures Indus Valley Civilization
Official name Archaeological Ruins of Mohenjo-daro
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii
Designated 1980 (4th session)
Reference no. 138
State Party  Pakistan
Region Asia-Pacific

Mohenjo-daro (Sindhi: موهن جو دڙو‎, Urdu: موئن جو دڑو‎, IPA: , lit. Mound of the Dead; English pronunciation: ) is an archeological site in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. Built around 2500 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, Crete, and Norte Chico. Mohenjo-daro was abandoned in the 19th century BCE as the Indus Valley Civilization declined, and the site was not rediscovered until the 1920s. Significant excavation has since been conducted at the site of the city, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.[2] The site is currently threatened by erosion and improper restoration.[3]


  • Name 1
  • Location 2
  • Historical context 3
  • Rediscovery and excavation 4
  • Architecture and urban infrastructure 5
  • Notable artefacts 6
    • Dancing Girl 6.1
    • Priest-King 6.2
    • Pashupati seal 6.3
    • Seven-stranded necklace 6.4
  • Conservation and current state 7
    • 2014 Sindh Festival 7.1
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Mohenjo-daro, the modern name for the site, simply means "Mound of the Dead" in Sindhi. The city's original name is unknown. Based on his analysis of a Mohenjo-daro seal, Iravatham Mahadevan speculates that the city's ancient name could have been Kukkutarma ("the city [-rma] of the cockerel [kukkuta]").[4] 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.[5] Mohenjo-daro may furthermore have been a point of diffusion for the eventual worldwide domestication of chickens.


Map showing the major sites and theorised extent of the Indus Valley Civilisation, including the location of the Mohenjo-daro site.

Mohenjo-daro is located in Larkana District on the right bank of the Indus River in Sindh, Pakistan, 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.[6] 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.[7]

Historical context

Mohenjo-daro was built in the 26th century BCE.[8] It was one of the largest cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization,[9] 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.[10] When the Indus civilization went into sudden decline around 1900 BCE, Mohenjo-daro was abandoned.[8][11]

Rediscovery and excavation

The ruins of the city remained undocumented for around 3,700 years until 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.[2]

Architecture and urban infrastructure

View of the site's Great Bath, showing the surrounding urban layout.

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 covered area of Mohenjo-daro is estimated at 300 hectares.[13] The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History offers a "weak" estimate of a peak population of around 40,000.[14]

The sheer size of the city, and its provision of public buildings and facilities, suggests a high level of social organization. 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 about 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 more prestigious 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.[11] Close to the "Great Granary" is a large and elaborate public bath, sometimes called the Great Bath.[15] 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 series of city walls, but was 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.

Notable artefacts

Numerous objects found in excavation include seated and standing figures, copper and stone tools, carved seals, balance-scales and weights, gold and jasper jewellery, and children's toys.[16] Many important objects from Mohenjo-daro are conserved at the National Museum of India in Delhi and the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi. In 1939, a representative collection of artefacts excavated at the site was transferred to the British Museum by the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India.[17]

Dancing Girl

"The Dancing Girl", a bronze statuette at the National Museum of Pakistan collection.

A bronze statuette dubbed the "Dancing Girl", 10.5 centimetres (4.1 in) high [18] and some 4,500 years old, was found in 'HR area' of Mohenjo-daro in 1926.[18] In 1973, British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler described the item as his favorite statuette:

"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, another archeologist at Mohenjo-daro, described the figure as "a 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."[19] The archaeologist Gregory Possehl said of the statuette, "We may not be certain that she was a dancer, but she was good at what she did and she knew it". The statue led to two important discoveries about the civilization: first, that they knew metal blending, casting and other sophisticated methods of working with ore, and secondly that entertainment, especially dance, was part of the culture.[18]


"The Priest-King", a seated stone sculpture at the National Museum, Karachi.

In 1927, a seated male soapstone figure was found in a building with unusually ornamental brickwork and a wall-niche. Though there is no evidence that priests or monarchs ruled Mohenjo-daro, archaeologists dubbed this dignified figure a "Priest-King." The sculpture is 17.5 centimetres (6.9 in) tall and depicts a bearded man with a fillet around his 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. The hair is carefully combed towards the back of the head but no bun is present. The flat back of the head may have held a separately carved bun, 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 center of each circle indicate they were made with a specialized drill and then touched up with a chisel. The eyes are deeply incised and may have held inlay. The upper lip is shaved, and a short combed beard frames the face.[20]

The Shiva Pashupati seal.

Pashupati seal

A seal discovered at the site bears the image of a seated, cross-legged and possibly ithyphallic figure surrounded by animals. The figure has been interpreted by some scholars as a yogi, and by others as a three-headed "proto-Shiva" as "Lord of Animals".

Seven-stranded necklace

Mortimer Wheeler held a special fascination for this artifact, which he believed to be at least 4,500 years old. The necklace has an S-shaped clasp with seven strands, each over 4 ft long, of bronze-metal bead-like nuggets which connect each arm of the “S” in filigree. Each strand has between 220 to 230 of the many-faceted nuggets, and there are about 1,600 nuggets in total. The necklace weighs about 250 grams in total, and is presently held in a private collection in India.

Conservation and current state

Surviving structures at Mohenjo-daro.

Preservation work for Mohenjo-daro was suspended in December 1996 after funding from the Pakistani government and international organizations stopped. Site conservation work resumed in April 1997, using funds made available by the flooding. In 2011, responsibility for the preservation of the site was transferred to the government of Sindh.[21]

Currently, the site is threatened by groundwater salinity and improper restoration. Many walls have already collapsed, while others are crumbling from the ground up. In 2012, Pakistani archaeologists warned that, without improved conservation measures, the site could disappear by 2030.[3][22]

2014 Sindh Festival

The Mohenjo-daro site was further threatened in January 2014, when Bilawal Bhutto Zardari chose the site for Sindh Festival's inauguration ceremony. By doing so, the Peoples Party government exposed the site to mechanical operations, including excavation and drilling. Archaeologists warned against the proceedings with Farzand Masih, head of the Department of Archaeology at Punjab University, stating that such activity was banned under the Antiquity Act. “You cannot even hammer a nail at an archaeological site,” he said. On 31 January 2014, a case was filed in the Sindh High Court to bar the Sindh government from continuing with the event plan.[23][24]

See also


  1. ^ "Haryana's Bhirrana oldest Harappan site, Rakhigarhi Asia's largest: ASI". 
  2. ^ a b "Mohenjo-Daro: An Ancient Indus Valley Metropolis". Retrieved 19 May 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "Mohenjo Daro: Could this ancient city be lost forever?". BBC. 27 June 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  4. ^ Iravatham Mahadevan. "'Address’ Signs of the Indus Script" (PDF). Presented at the World Classical Tamil Conference 2010. 23–27 June 2010. The Hindu.
  5. ^ Poultry Breeding and Genetics. R. D. Crawford (1990). Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 10-11, 44.
  6. ^ "Lost City of Mohenjo Daro". National Geographic. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Sarasvati: Tracing the death of a river". DNA India. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Retrieved 2012-05-02.
  9. ^ Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black; Larry S. Krieger; Phillip C. Naylor; Dahia Ibo Shabaka (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell.  
  10. ^ A H Dani (1992). "Critical Assessment of Recent Evidence on Mohenjo-daro". Second International Symposium on Mohenjo-daro, 24–27 February 1992.
  11. ^ a b Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark (1998). “Indus Cities, Towns and Villages”, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Islamabad: American Institute of Pakistan Studies. p. 65.
  12. ^ Possehl, Gregory L (2010). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. AltaMira. p. 12.  
  13. ^ T.S. SUBRAMANIAN, Harappan surprises. June 13, 2014 --
  14. ^ Peter Clark (editor), The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 158–59; "since it is impossible to ascertain what proportion of the city was used for habitation the basis for this [population] estimate is weak." For lower area estimate of 85 hectares, see note 25, citing U. Singh, A History of Ancient and Medieval India, Delhi, Pearson Education, 2008, p. 149. See also FR Alchin and G Erdosy, The Archaeology of Early Historic Asia: The Emergence of Cities and States, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 57.
  15. ^ Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2011. Mohenjo-daro’s Sewers. World History Encyclopedia, Vol. 3. Ed: Kevin Murray McGeough. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, pp. 121-122.
  16. ^ Mohenjo-daro Tools and Artifacts Photo Gallery. Archaeology Online; retrieved 8 April 2012.
  17. ^ British Museum Collection
  18. ^ a b c "Collections:Pre-History & Archaeology". National Museum, New Delhi. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  19. ^ Possehl, Gregory (2002). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. AltaMira Press. p. 113.  
  20. ^ "Priest King, Mohenjo-daro". Glimpses of South Asia before 1947. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  21. ^ "Responsibility to preserve Mohenjodaro transferred to Sindh",, 10 February 2011; retrieved 14 May 2012.
  22. ^ "Moenjodaro in Danger of Disappearing, Says Pakistani Archaeologist". Global Heritage Fund blog article; accessed 8 February 2014.
  23. ^ "Bilawal's 'cultural coup' threatens ancient ruins". AFP. Daily Dawn. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Sahoutara, Naeem. "Preserving heritage: Court instructs to take ‘utmost’ care in holding festival at Moen Jo Daro". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 

External links

  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites
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