There are lots of stories about lost cities. I like to read about them after the archeologists have had some time to dig them up. So this time, I went out looking for what was known about Mohenjo-Daro.
This city was founded around 2500 BC in what is now Pakistan, and was one of the largest cities of the ancient Indus Valley civilization. But that civilization declined, and the city was abandoned sometime during the 19th century BC. It was discovered in the 1920s, so I figure they’ve had time to find some interesting tidbits about who lived there. Let’s see what they’ve found.
Mohenjo-Daro is what it is called now, and that either means “Mound of Dead Men” or “Mound of Mohan”, where Mohan is apparently another name for Krishna. Examination of a city seal found during excavation suggests the city’s name was originally Kukkutarma, the “City of the Cockerel”. It is possible that cock-fighting was a ritual and religious activity here, with chickens bred and raised for that purpose, rather than as food. This city may also be where chicken domestication began, and was then introduced to the rest of the world.
Whatever it was called at the time, the city was built on a ridge between 2 rivers. It was an advanced city, with sophisticated civil engineering and urban development. It was one of the known merchant cities of the Indus Valley civilization.
Mohenjo-Daro was built on a grid pattern, with buildings made of fired bricks, sun-dried mud bricks, and wooden superstructures. One estimate of its maximum population is 40,000 people. It covered about 300 hectares, which is a little more than 741 acres.
The city had 2 sections: the Citidel and the Lower City. The Citidel was built on a 39-foot-tall mound made of mud bricks. It included baths, a residential structure to house 5,000 people, and 2 large assembly areas. The city as a whole had a central market with a big well. Households got their water from smaller wells scattered around town. Waste water flowed into covered drains that lined the major streets. Some houses had their own room set aside for bathing, and 1 even had a furnace to heat bath water! Almost every house had an inner courtyard that included a door to a side street. Some houses were 2 stories tall.
One archeologist found a large building that he thought looked like a place to store grain, calling it The Great Granary. A later archeologist pointed out there was no indication of grain being stored there, and he referred to it as a Great Hall of Unknown Function. Not far away is a large and elaborate bath, waterproofed with a lining of bitumen, which may have been used for religious purification. The city also included “College Hall”, 78 rooms in several buildings that may have been priestly residences.
The city had no walls surrounding it, only guard towers on the west and defensive fortifications on the south. Likewise, no weapons have been found there. It was destroyed 8 times, probably by floods. Each time, it was rebuilt directly on top of the previous city.
Artifacts they found include standing and sitting figures, copper and stone tools, balance scales and their weights, gold and jasper jewelry, beads of ivory, lapis, carnelian and gold, and children’s toys. One bronze figurine depicts a young girl dancing. Since it was bronze, the Indus Valley people knew how to blend metals, casting and other methods of using metal. It also shows that entertainment – such as dancing – was important to them. One of the toys was a cart pulled by oxen, so they did use wheels.
What hasn’t been found is any obvious palace or place of government, although it is suspected that Mohenjo-daro was an administrative center of the Indus Valley civilization. The many baths and grid structure of the streets have implied to some that the culture was more interested in order and cleanliness than they were in rulers.
This is the kind of information I like. I can almost see the city and hear the people living their lives.