Mohenjo Daro

Experts say Mohenjodaro may disappear in 20 years

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When the ancient ruins of Mohenjo Daro (which means Mound of the Dead) were first uncovered in Pakistan in 1922, its significance was not fully realised.  Dating back 5,000 years, Mohenjo Daro is the world’s only surviving Bronze Age metropolis and it gave the first clue to the existence of a civilization in the Indus Valley to rival those known in Egypt and Mesopotamia.  But now, the most important site of the Indus civilisation is at great risk of destruction .

What archaeologists discovered was unprecedented in the region – the city demonstrated an exceptional level of civic planning and amenities. The houses were furnished with brick-built bathrooms and many had toilets. Wastewater from these was led into well-built brick sewers that ran along the centre of the streets, covered with bricks or stone slabs. Cisterns and wells finely constructed of wedge-shaped bricks held public supplies of drinking water. Mohenjo Daro also boasted a Great Bath on the high mound (citadel) overlooking the residential area of the city. Back in its day, the city would have been home to around 40,000 inhabitants.

More than 40,000 artefacts recovered from the excavations have helped researchers piece together the lives of the Mohenjodarans. They include a celebrated bronze statue of a semi-naked dancing girl, perfectly shaped clay urns, platters, ovens and stone weights and measures. A set of carved seals hints at a revenue collection system, while hand-carved figures such as chess pieces and clay toy animals reveal the city’s more playful side.

Peculiar findings , such as high radiation readings, the discovery of more than 40 sprawled skeletons seemingly frozen in time, and sections of wall that appear fused or melted as though they were exposed to a massive blast, have fuelled speculation that a strange event led to the destruction of the city and the disappearance of its people.

Such findings make the preservation of the city even more important. However, the once lost city is in danger of disappearing again, a victim of government neglect, lack of funding, public indifference and environmental degradation. The site is suffering under the area’s hostile elements including summer temperatures which reach 51C, winter frosts, torrential monsoon rains and humid air, all of which combine to leave the clay bricks with a coating of salt crystals which is rapidly corroding them away. It is estimated that at its current rate of degradation, the UNESCO World Heritage listed site could be gone within 20 years.

International experts and Pakistani officials met in Karachi to draw up a plan to save the site, stabilise its funding and promote awareness of a wonder of the ancient world. They now plan to undertake an intensive conservation programme, a survey to establish how much of the ancient city is still underground and a plan to rebury those sections of the recovered ruins most under threat. 

There is no time for government red tape here; according to experts, there is a need to act fast to save this valuable historical city from being lost forever.

By April Holloway

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