Who found the Indus cities?
In 1826, a British traveller in India called Charles Masson came across some mysterious brick mounds. He thought they looked like old castles.
Thirty years later in 1856, engineers building a railway found more bricks, and carted them off to build the railway. This was the first people knew of the lost Indus city of Harappa.
In the 1920s, archaeologists began to excavate the sites of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. They uncovered the remains of long-forgotten cities. They had found the Indus Valley civilisation.
How do archaeologists explore a lost city?
Archaeologists first look for clues, such as bricks, stones or bits of broken pottery ('sherds'). They study photographs taken from planes or balloons, because aerial photos may show ruins hidden beneath the ground.
Before excavating a site, a team of archaeologists marks out a grid, in squares. They make an excavation map of the site. They work square by square, clearing away soil. They remove finds (artefacts, bones, plant seeds) very carefully. They mark each find, and where it was found. They work carefully, because most very old things are easily broken.
They may use a scanner to look underground. A geophysical scan can show up a buried building.
Mohenjo-Daro, Mound of the Dead
Mohenjo-Daro is the biggest Indus city. Mohenjo-Daro means 'Mound of the Dead'. But so far no cemetery has been found there.
The site lies about 5 kilometres away from where the Indus River is today. The river might have been closer to the city 5,000 years ago (rivers change over time).
Mohenjo-Daro was built on mounds made from soil and mud bricks. The biggest mound, the High Mound, had a mud-brick wall all around it. Most people lived in the Lower Town. Lower Town was built on several mounds.
Harappa the ruined city
Harappa is about 600 kilometres northeast of Mohenjo-Daro. It was built close to important trade routes by road and river. It was a busy city, but today Harappa has almost disappeared. Many of the bricks from its houses and walls were taken away, to make new buildings.
At Harappa, archaeologists found the ruins of a big building they call the Great Granary. A granary is a place to store grain, such as wheat. This building is a mystery, because although it looks like a granary, no grain has been found. Perhaps it was a palace!
At Harappa, there were two cemeteries. There were furnaces for making copper, a metal the Indus people used for knives and other tools.
In the 1920s archaeologists found 39 skeletons at the city of Mohenjo-Daro. Were these men, woman and children who had been killed by invaders? Some archaeologists thought so.
However, only two skeletons had cut-marks on their bones, the kind made by a sword or spear. One was an old wound, another was healing- perhaps after an accident. There is no evidence of battles. Perhaps these people were left together because they died from disease.