Saturday, 30 January 2010

NatGeo Indus Feature

This is just a little piece on the Indus that National Geographic did a while ago. I'm linking to it for two reasons: Firstly, the Indus is not a hot topic in archaeology, compared to Egypt, Mesopotamia etc, so it tends not to get featured in popular media, which cuts me real deep. So I like to take advantage when it happens. And secondly, this being NatGeo, they've spoken to two excellent Indus archaeologists, among the biggest names today (both are American), and it's good to hear what they have to say about this stuff.

The second link is a wonderful photo of the Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro. It's interesting because it's one of the few monumental structures found in the city, and in the wider Indus. If you compare the Indus to its contemporaries, and everyone inevitably does, this is pretty damn weird. They had the resources, labour and technology to construct big temples or palaces if they wanted to, but these monuments are noticeably absent when you study the cities. This makes Mohenjo-daro unusual among Indus cities, and may mean it was a religious centre of some sort. The Great Bath was made of bricks and lined with bitumen (bit like tar) to prevent leaking. Bathing in it may have been of religious significance, as some kind of ritual cleansing. Many archaeologists believe that there was an element of reverence towards water, perhaps even water-worship, in the Indus religion.

Mohenjo-daro has also been described as a city of wells because of the stunning density of domestic wells throughout the city. No matter what the house size, nearly all structures had access to wells and drains; clearly it was an important part of their way of life.

This post is without a central theme, because I'm still working on the main pieces on the Indus. I did my Master's dissertation on Mohenjo-daro, so always get a bit carried away. The topics of religion and water at Mohenjo-daro will pop up again. Hopefully it'll whet (haha) your appetites for the Indus-tastic posts to come.

Oh, and under the photo it says 'Mohenjo-daro and its sister city, Harappa', which is total rubbish. They were the first big ones discovered, and the only ones for a long time, so everyone thought they were 'twin capitals' or 'sister cities', but we now know that there are five large Indus cities, spread out over a very large area. They are Mohenjo-daro (Sindh, Pakistan), Harappa (Punjab, Pakistan), Ganweriwala (Punjab, Pakistan), Rakhigarhi (Haryana, India) and Dholavira (Gujarat, India).

For more photos of Mohenjo-daro, use the link on the right hand side of the page for the website.


  1. I guess I am one of "everyone" because grade school history did clearly tell us that Mohenjodaro and Harrapa were the twin bastions of the Indus civilisation! I did recently hear about Dholavira and Ganveriwala, but Rakhigarhi is new to me. I wanted to know if
    a. Would it be possible for a layman to access the site?
    b. Is there any simple bibliography (Indus for dummies, if you will) which I could look up?

  2. So am I! I don't remember clearly, but I'm pretty sure that's what I learnt in school!

    There are several mounds that form the site of Rakhigarhi, some of which are currently occupied, and some of which are under cultivation. It's certainly not impossible to visit it, but there are no tourist facilities, and there is unfortunately not very much to see. You'll hardly find whole sections of the city visible, as at Mohenjo-daro. I've got some photos from my own visits to the site, and I'll post them in a while. You can see that it's not particularly impressive to the eye! I'm also not sure if it's advisable to visit in terms of preservation and conservation.

    I would recommend two books that are good starter texts that undergraduates use-

    Kenoyer, J.M. 1998. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Karachi: Oxford University Press.

    Possehl, G.L. 2002. The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Walnut Creek, AltaMira Press.

  3. Professors Mark Kenoyer and Greg Possehl are the two archaeologists mentioned the the NatGeo piece, and they're very well known Indus scholars.

  4. I know! I'm sorry, too much going on. I'll do my best to have some up soon!