Important Sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation

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Important Sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation


Harappa is a large capital of the Indus Civilization, and one of the best-known sites in Pakistan, located on the bank of the Ravi River in central Punjab Province.

At the height of the Indus civilization, between 2600-1900 BC, Harappa was one of a handful of central places for thousands of cities and towns covering a million square kilometers (about 385,000 square miles) of territory in South Asia.

Harappa was occupied between about 3800 and 1500 BC: and, in fact, the modern city of Harappa is built atop some of its ruins. At its height, it covered an area of at least 100 ha (250 ac) and may have been about twice that, given that much of the site has been buried by the alluvial floods of the Ravi river.

Intact structural remains include those of a citadel, a massive monumental building once called the granary, and at least three cemeteries. Much of the adobe bricks of significant architectural remains were robbed in antiquity.

Mohenjo- Daro

Mohenjo-daro is widely recognized as one of the most important early cities of South Asia and the Indus.

Discovery and Major Excavations

Mohenjo-daro was discovered in 1922 by R. D. Banerji, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, two years after major excavations had begun at Harappa, some 590 km to the north. Large-scale excavations were carried out at the site under the direction of John Marshall, K. N. Dikshit, Ernest Mackay, and numerous other directors through the 1930s.

Although the earlier excavations were not conducted using stratigraphic approaches or with the types of recording techniques employed by modern archaeologists they did produce a remarkable amount of information that is still being studied by scholars today.

The historical city’s original name is not Mohenjo Daro. Nobody knows what the real name is, as the Harrappan scripture has still not been deciphered. The words ‘Mohenjo Daro’ literally translate to ‘the mound of the dead’. The city of Harappa and other important Indus Valley sites were found on a series of mounds over 250 acres of land, hence such a name

The urban planning and architecture have mesmerised thousands of architects and archaeologists. The 5,000-year-old city could host a population of 40,000. It had a meticulous road plan with rectilinear buildings, channeled sanitisation, a huge well that served as a public pool to bathe, a ‘Great Granary’, and many more amazing designs on buildings. It is also fascinating that multi-storeyed buildings were found at the site of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro

There are signs that prove that the Indus Valley Civilisation had no monarchy. It was probably governed by an elected committee.

The lifestyle and faith of the people of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro are still under doubt. Some artefacts, such as the Pashupati Seal, suggest that the people would worship an ‘animal deity’, who would protect them from wild beasts.


Located in the Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh, Alamgirpur is the eastern most site of the Indus Valley Civilization. This site is located very near to the Hindon river.

Alamgirpur respectively belonged to (I) Harappan, (II) Painted Grey Ware (III) Early historical and (IV) Late Medieval Period.
The site was partially excavated in 1958 and 1959 by Archaeological Survey of India. On excavation, the site showed four cultural periods with intervening breaks; the earliest of them represented by a thickness of 6 feet, belonged to the Harappan Culture.

Although kiln burnt bricks were in evidence, no structure of this period was found, probably due to the limited nature of the excavations. Brick sizes were, 11.25 to 11.75 in. in length,5.25 to 6.25 in. in breadth and 2.5 to 2.75 thickness; larger bricks averaged 14 in. x 8 in.x 4 in. which were used in furnace only.

Typical Harappan pottery was found and the complex itself appeared to be a pottery workshop. Ceramic items found included roof tiles, dishes, cups, vases,cubicle dice, beads,terracotta cakes, carts and figurines of a humped bull and a snake.

There were also beads and possibly ear studs made of steatite paste, faience, glass, carnelian, quartz, agate and black jasper. Little metal was in evidence. However, a broken blade made of copper was found.

The head of a bear being a part of a vessel was discovered at Alamgirpur. A small terracotta bead-like structure was coated with gold. Evidence of cloth is found in way of impressions on a trough.


The site Kalibangan – literally ‘black bangles’ – derives its name for the dense distribution of the fragments of black bangles which were found at the surface of its mounds.

Evidence of this period consists of a citadel area over the 1.6 metre-thick early Harappan deposit in Kalibangan-1 (the western mound of the site, a chessboard pattern ‘lower city’ in Kalibangan-2 (the lower and larger eastern mound), and a mound full of fire altars in a much smaller mound further east (Kalibangan-3).

The citadel complex of KLB-1 is roughly a parallelogram (240 by 120 metres) divided into two equal parts with a partition wall and surrounded by a rampart with bastions and salients. The basil width of the fortification wall is 3-7 metres. The wall is made of mud bricks in a ration of 4:2:1, with mud plaster on both the inner and outer faces. The southern half of the citadel had ceremonial platforms and fire altars. Fire altars were also built in residences where a room was apparently earmarked for them. The altars were renewed from time to time as the general level of the site became higher.

There were two entrances to the Kalibangan citadel complex, one to the north and the other to the south. The southern entrance has a brick structure about 2.6 metres wide with oblong salients on both sides of the step of the entrance. The northern structure has a mud brick staircase. The northern half of the citadel area complex had a street, and housed the elite. In the southern half fire altars were arranged in a row on top of platforms constructed for this purpose. Stairs provided access to the top, and the ground around the platforms was paved with bricks.

The lower city (KLB-2) was also fortified and laid out in a chessboard pattern, and built of mud bricks of the standard 4:2:1 proportion. The basis shape is that of a parallelogram measuring 235 x 360 metres. The basal width of the fortification wall is 3.5-9 metres. The streets run north – south and east -–west, dividing the area into blocks, and are connected to lanes. There were mud brick rectangular platforms by the side of the roads. Wooden fender posts were intended to ward off damage to street corners. House drains of mud brick and wood discharged into jars in the streets, above the ground. In some areas, the streets were paved with terracotta nodules.

The lower city had entrances on the northern and western sides. Each house consisted of six or seven rooms, with a courtyard or a corridor between the rooms. Some rooms were paved with tiles bearing designs.

KLB-3, the isolated easternmost mound, has brought to the surface a row of fire altars, and this find, along with the remains of fire altars in KLB-1 mentioned above is clear evidence that fire altars played a major role in the religious life of the people.

Interesting evidence regarding cooking practices is revealed by the presence of both underground and overground varieties of mud ovens inside the houses. These ovens closely resemble the present-day tandoors  which are used in Rajasthan and Punjab. The underground variety was made with a slight overhang near the mouth, while the overground ovens were given a bridged side opening for feeding fuel and were plastered periodically. The ovens were perhaps used for baking bread, as the Kalibangan residents were mainly wheat eaters. The wheat grains were most likely stored in cylindrical pits lined with lime plaster, which have been discovered at the site.”

Kot Diji

Kot Diji is an archaeological site located near an ancient flood channel of the Indus River in Pakistan, 15 miles (25 km) south of the city of Khairpur in Sindh province.

The site, which is adjacent to the modern town of Kot Diji, consists of a stone rubble wall, dating to about 3000BC, that surrounds a citadel and numerous residences, all of which were first excavated in the 1950s.

The origins of Kot Diji are recognized as belonging to the early Harappan period, which dates to about 3500BC. Although Kot Diji lasted through the mature Harappan period (about 2600–1750BCE), a layer of burned debris separates structures of the early and the mature periods, which suggests that the settlement was at some point heavily damaged by fire. Artifacts, including pottery, that display a distinct Kot Dijian style have been excavated from Kot Diji and other archaeological sites in the region.

Kot Diji is located in the vicinity of several other important historic sites. It sits to the east of Mohenjo-daro, a group of mounds that contain the remains of what was once the largest city of the Indus civilization.


Lothal, literally “Mound of the Dead”, is the most extensively excavated site of the Harappan culture in India, and therefore allows the most insight into the story of the Indus Valley Civilization, its exuberant flight, and its tragic decay.

Once a sleepy pottery village, Lothal rumbled awake to become a flourishing centre of trade and industry, famous for its expertly constructed system of underground sanitary drainage, and an astonishing precision of standarized weights and measures.

Unlike many other doorways into Harappan culture, Lothal passed through all the phases of the society, from earliest development to most mature. In the height of its prosperity, it not only survived but was strengthened by three floods, using the disaster as an opportunity to improve on the infrastructure. The fourth flood finally brought the settlement to the desperate and impoverished conditions that indicated the end of a powerful civilization.

Lothal holds the third largest collection of seals and sealings, engraved on steatite, with animal and human figurines and letters from Indus script, but these remain undeciphered, so they do not provide as much insight into the material culture as the other findings. They do however show aspects of the spiritual culture; there are signs of worship of fire, and of the sea goddess, but not of the mother goddess.

Lothal had a highly developed bead-making industry. It was famous for its micro-beads that were made by rolling ground steatite paste on string, baking it solid, and then cutting it with a tiny saw into the desired lengths. The expertise is evident in the micro-beads of gold under 0.25 mm in diameter which cannot be found anywhere else. The gold, like today, was most likely only for the upper classes, while the poorest citizens had to make do with shell and terracotta ornaments.

Lothal was believed to be Dravidian, but recent findings of association with Vedas and other Sanskrit scriptures lead some to believe this was the cradle of Aryan civilization in the sub-continent. There does seem to be enough evidence to suggest non-Aryan origin, and strong Aryan influence, as well as a meeting of the cultures, both violent and peaceful.


The archaeological importance of Amri was demonstrated in 1929 by the excavations of N.G.Majumdar, who discovered there, for the first time, a settlement of pre-Harappan date and culture that was underlying a Harappan one.

There are four successive periods of occupation. The first of these is the ‘Amrian’, which relates to other pre-Harappan sites in the region as well. Amri is the type-site of this early cultural assemblage. In this phase, houses were of mud-brick. Pottery, copper and bronze fragments were also recovered. Phase II shows an increasing component of Harappan materials alongside the Amrian. Period III belongs to the Harappan, giving evidence of early, transitional, and late sub-phases, into a final ‘Jhukar’ sub-phase. The final phase, Period IV, is not well represented, but it produced the coarse grey ware comparable to the sites of the ‘Jhangar’ complex.

The early occupation at Amri has been dated between 3600 and 3300 BC, and thus represents a slightly later phase than Balakot. Amri is located close to the west bank of the Indus River but also only some 10 kilometres from the easternmost extension of the Baluchistan uplands. It is in the Dadu district of Sindh, and lies to the south of Mohenjo Daro. The site comprises two main archaeological mounds, A in the east and B in the west.

Amri Phase pottery is a red-buff ware, mainly hand-made, and includes such vessel forms as angular-walled and hemispherical bowls, dish-on-stand (rare), and most commonly S-shaped jars. Black, brown and red paint were applied to the vessel’s surface or to a cream or buff slip or wash in monochrome or bichrome schemes. Decorative schemes emphasized geometric motifs in horizontal bands with frequent use of ‘checkerboard’ and ‘sigma’ motifs.

In the later Amri phase, motifs become more complicated and involve the use of intersecting circles, ‘fish-scale’ motifs, zoomorphic motifs and the rare use of red slip. Other terracotta objects include beads, bangles, humped cattle figurines, and circular, square and triangular cakes.

Stone tools are similar to other phases except that there was an emphasis on geometric microliths. Only the following additional type objects have been identified: carnelian beads (rare), shell bangles, bone points and bangles, a steatite rod and a copper blade. Certainly ceramic craft specialists were present, but it is difficult now to establish certainly other types of full- or part-time specialists.


Chanhudaro  (also Chanhu Daro) is an archaeological site belonging to the post-urban Jhukar phase of Indus valley civilization. The site is located 130 kilometers south of Mohenjo-daro. The settlement was inhabited between 4000 and 1700 BCE, and is considered to have been a centre for manufacturing carnelian beads. This site is a group of three low mounds that excavations have shown were parts of a single settlement, approximately 5 hectares in size.


Rupar is another Indus Valley site. At Rupar excavation, the lowest levels have yielded the Harappan traits in Period 1, which falls in the proto-historic period. A major find has been a steatite seal in the Indus script used for the authentication of trading goods, impression of seal on a terracotta lump of burnt clay, chert blades, copper implements, terracotta beads and bangles and typical standardized pottery of Indus Valley Civilization. They flourished in all the Harappan cities and townships.

The dead were buried with their head generally to the north and with funerary vessels. What led the Harappans to desert the site is not known.


Banawali is an archaeological site belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization period. It is in the Fatehabad district of Haryana and is located about 120 km northeast of Kalibangan.

In comparison with Kalibangan, which was a town established in the lower middle valley of the dried up Sarasvathi River, Banawali was built over the upper middle valley of Sarasvathi River.

Well planned houses were constructed out of kiln burnt and moulded bricks. Pottery consisting of vases and jars, and is divided into two groups, based on general design. Pottery assemblage is very similar to those of Kalibangan I period.

The Archaeological Survey of India has done excavation in this place, and has revealed a well constructed fort town of the Harappan period, overlaying an extensive proto urban settlement of the pre- Harappan Period. A defence wall was also found with a height of 4.5 m and thickness of 6 m which was traced up to a distance of 105 m.

Houses, with rammed earthen floors, were well planned with rooms and toilets and houses were constructed on either sides of streets and lanes.

Near the south-eastern area of the fortification, a flight of steps has been found rising from the ‘Lower town’ to the Acropolis, and the ASI considers this as important formation. The staircase of the ‘lower town’ is near a bastion looking construction.


Surkotada is a small, 3.5 acre site northeast of Bhuj, in Gujarat. The mound has an average height of five-to-eight metres (east-to-west).

At the time of its discovery, the mound at Surkotada appeared to be a potential site with not only its available rubble fortifications exposed at places on the surface itself but also having an adjacent lower area yielding Harappan and other pottery and antiquities. The excavations at Surkotada have been significantly rewarding in unfolding a sequence of three cultural sub-periods well-within the span of Harappan chronology and this fact has been attested to by the C-14 dating, i.e. circa 2300 B.C. to 1700 B.C.

The Harappans had a fortified citadel and residential annexe in Period IA and the same pattern of settlement had been maintained through the successive sub-periods IB and IC.

Almost all the pottery shapes were in conformity with the material available at other Harappan sites.

At Surkotada, throughout, a compact citadel and residential annexe complex has been found, but no city complex has been unearthed.

Sutkagan Dor 

Sutkagan Dor (or Sutkagen Dor) is the westernmost known archaeological site of the Indus Valley Civilization. It is located about 480 km west of Karachi on the Makran coast, near the Iranian border, in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province. The site is near the western bank of the Dasht River and its confluence with a smaller stream, known as the Gajo Kaur. It was a smaller settlement with substantial stone walls and gateways.

Sutkagan Dor was discovered in 1875 by Major Edward Mockler, who conducted a small-scale excavation.

In October 1960, Sutkagan Dor was more extensively excavated by George F. Dales as a part of his Makran Survey, uncovering structures made from stone and mud bricks without straw.


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