The City of Mohenjo-Daro

One of the largest city-settlements of the Indus Valley region, the city of Mohenjo-Daro, also known as the Mound of the Dead, is rich in cultural finds and is of world-wide interest to both historians and the general public.

Archaeological evidence has shown that Mohenjo-Daro was founded around 2600 BCE, in what is present day Pakistan. Situated on the right bank of the Indus roughly 400km north of Karachi, Pakistan, the present site covers an area of at least 100 hectares, but current discoveries adjacent to the Indus prove that structural ruins extend at least one mile further east beyond the current site area. Following its discovery in 1922 by R. D. Banerji of the Archaeological Survey of India, the location, known locally as Mohenjo-Daro or Mound of the Dead, soon proved to be a rich source of archaeological artefacts (Jansen, p.177).

Architecturally speaking, the inhabitants of Mohenjo-Daro rivalled that of their contemporaries in Egypt or Sumer. The city layout is of particular interest. While the houses are generally well aligned, the two sides of the street are usually not exactly parallel. The street widens slightly, then a corner but as in, encroaching on the width, and then the next wall again slightly slopes back (Blumenfeld, p.24).

Excavations have unearthed evidence of a complex system for supplying water and ejecting sewage. Water came from more than 700 wells and provided for not only household requirements, but also a system of private baths and a Great Bath for public use. The sewers and rains were meticulously assembled to aid the ejection of waste, testament to the technological skilfulness of the people who lived in the region (Jansen, p. 192).

There has been a mass of artefacts that have been found at the site, including clay figurines. Many have been dated to around 200 BCE to 300 CE. These were described by Dr. Mackay as ‘eyes of the figurines are represented by little flat pellets of clay which are generally slightly oval in shape’ (Gordon, p.2) and were fashioned in pink-coloured terracotta with a red wash – only two are shaped in grey terracotta. It has been suggested that the red wash was applied to the figures in order to give it a finish, instead of a religious context, but it should be noted that this theory has no actual evidence to support either side.

There were several reasons that contributed to the decline of the Indus Valley civilization, one being continuing flooding in the region. In spite of its recent emergence, Mohenjo-Daro has proved to be one of the most illuminating sites in Indus Valley archaeology.


Blumenfeld, Hans (1942) On a Peculiar Feature of the City Plan of Mohenjo-Daro, The Journal of the American Society of Architectural Historians, Society of Architectural Historians.

Gordon, M. E. (1940) Some Observations on Indian Prehistory, Iraq, British Institute for the Study of Iraq.

Jansen, M. (1989) Water Supply and Sewage Disposal at Mohenjo-Daro, World Archaeology, Taylor & Francis.