The coastal Indus looks west.


28 MAY 2010 VOL 328 SCIENCE C R E D IT S ( T O P T O B O T T O M ): R IH N ’S I N D U S P R O J E C T ; (M A P S O U R C E ): G O O G L E E A R T H DHOLAVIRA, INDIA—Most of the year, this small island near the Pakistan border is surrounded by thick salt flats in the estuary called the Rann of Kutch. In late January, the midday heat is already intense, and the land is brown and barren. Yet more than 4000 years ago, architects and engineers designed a vast city here with high stone battlements, deep wells, huge water basins, and wide and straight streets. Extending over 100 hectares and excavated only in the 1990s, the site was clearly an important metropolis during the height of the Indus River, or Harappan, civilization. And yet Dholavira is hundreds of kilometers from the cities long considered the heart of the Indus River Valley civilization, Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, which lie far upstream on the Indus River in modern-day Pakistan. But recent digs and surveys in India’s westernmost province of Gujarat show that sites like Dholavira may be the critical link between the heart of the Indus and Arabia and Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium B.C.E. At a recent conference in the nearby city of Bhuj, archaeologists compared notes on the mounting evidence that this area played an important role in long-distance trade at the dawn of civilization. “There are more than 60 Harappan sites in Kutch,” says Y. S. Rawat, head of archaeology in Gujarat Province. “Most are near the coast, and some are heavily fortifi ed.” There’s no doubt there were maritime connections; Indus seals and artifacts have been found on the Arabian coast and in Sumerian port cities like Ur (see p. 1092). And although evidence of foreign material in Indus sites is scarce, seals from the area around today’s Bahrain on the Persian Gulf coast have been found at a small site called Lothal, 50 kilometers east of Dholavira and 270 kilometers from Mohenjo Daro. In 1954, Indian excavators here unearthed a massive brick-lined basin that they claimed was a harbor bordered by warehouses. Twice as long as a football fi eld and nearly 40 meters wide, the structure was built in the second half of the 3rd millennium B.C.E., the heyday of trade with the West. But many Western archaeologists don’t think it was a harbor. “It was a tank” for storing water, Indus passports? Kanmer’s odd-shaped pendants may have been related to trade and travel.

DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5982.1100

Cite this paper

@article{Lawler2010TheCI, title={The coastal Indus looks west.}, author={Andrew C Lawler}, journal={Science}, year={2010}, volume={328 5982}, pages={1100-1} }