It’s been over a century since archeologists in present-day Pakistan discovered the ruins of Mohenjo-daro on the banks of the Indus River, and yet much mystery surrounding the ancient civilization remains.

The Great Bath.

Mohenjo-daro was one of the largest settlements of the Indus Civilization, reaching its heyday during the Bronze Age. Discovered in 1922 by historian and archeologist Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay, excavations of the site began in earnest under the supervision of Sir John Marshall, from 1922-1930. The discoveries were striking: private bathrooms and toilets; communal trash disposal; 700 fresh water wells; a settlement-wide drainage system; The Great Bath.

"Dancing Girl". Source: Technical Consultive Committee.
A Mohenjo-daro well. Source: Tauseef Razi Malick.

The Great Bath was likely used for religious purposes such as ritual purification. Nowadays, it sits at the center of the Mohenjo-daro ruins, an ancient marvel made up of brick and bitumen.

The Great Bath.

One hundred years after its initial discovery, it would seem that archeologists have been able to unveil almost every secret hidden in the walls of Mohenjo-daro. However, one thing remains seemingly impossible to decipher: the Indus script.

Indus script. Source: Technical Consultive Committee.
Indus script.

The trouble with the Indus script is that it was written so long ago. Historians are still in disagreement over whether it developed independently, or if it came about via the early writing systems of Egypt and Sumer. Call it an extreme lesson in the ambiguity of language. The moral of the Indus script story is a humbling one: some puzzles simply refuse to be solved.

Mohenjo-daro was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Today, however, the awe-inspiring remains are under threat – from pollution, soil salinization, and tourists. Further excavation has been forbidden for fear of causing irrevocable damage. One has to wonder, then, if Mohenjo-daro’s greatest mysteries may very well remain intact.

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