Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Pakistan floods may take away Mohenjo Daro’s World Heritage Tag


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mohenjo Daro

Mains level : Not Much

Heavy floods in Pakistan has pushed the archeological site of Mohenjo Daro – near the bank of the Indus river – to the “brink of extinction”.

What is the news?

  • Pakistan’s Department of Archaeology has said that Mohenjo Daro might be removed from the world heritage list, if urgent attention towards its conservation and restoration is not given.

About Mohenjo Daro

  • Mohenjo Daro, a group of mounds and ruins, is a 5000-year-old archaeological site located about 80-km off the city of Sukkur.
  • It comprises the remnants of one of two main centres of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation, the other one being Harappa, located 640 km to the northwest, in Punjab province.
  • Mohenjo Daro, which means ‘mound of the dead’, was one of the oldest cities of the world.
  • Known to be a model planned city of the ancient civilisation, the houses here had bathrooms, toilets and drainage system.
  • The sheer size of the city, and its provision of public buildings and facilities, suggests a high level of social organization.
  • Though in ruins, the walls and brick pavements in the streets are still in a preserved condition.

How did it came to prominance

  • The ruins of the city remained undocumented for around 3,700 years, until 1920, when archaeologist RD Banerji visited the site.
  • Its excavation started in 1921 and continued in phases till 1964-65.
  • The site went to Pakistan during Partition.

Other Indus Valley sites

  • The Indus Valley Civilisation spanned much of what is now Pakistan and the northern states of India (Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan), even extending towards the Iranian border.
  • Its major urban centres included Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan, and Lothal, Kalibangan, Dholavira and Rakhigarhi in India.
  • Mohenjo Daro is considered the most advanced city of its time, with sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning.
  • When the Indus Valley Civilisation went into sudden decline around 19th century BC, Mohenjo Daro was abandoned.

What next for the site

  • According to media reports, many streets and sewerage drains of the historical ruins have been badly damaged due to the floods.
  • However, the work of removing the sediments deposited due the flooding is still underway.
  • But if this kind of flooding happens again, the heritage site may once again get buried under the ground, archaeologists say.
  • It is expected that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will visit the site during his visit to Pakistan on September 11.
  • The visit might provide some clarity on if the site has lost some of its attributes that are necessary for it to retain its prestigious world heritage tag.

Losing world heritage tag

  • There are around 1,100 UNESCO listed sites across its 167 member countries.
  • Last year, the World Heritage Committee decided to delete the property ‘Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City’ (UK) from the World Heritage List.
  • This was due to the irreversible loss of attributes conveying the outstanding universal value of the property.
  • Liverpool was added to the World Heritage List in 2004 in recognition of its role as one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries – and its pioneering dock technology, transport systems and port management.
  • Before that, the first venue to be delisted by the UNESCO panel was the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman, in 2007, after concerns over poaching and habitat degradation.
  • Another site to be removed from the World Heritage list in 2009 was Elbe Valley in Dresden, Germany, after the construction of the Waldschloesschen road bridge across the Elbe River.

Back2Basics: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

  • A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area, selected by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for having cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance, which is legally protected by international treaties.
  • The sites are judged to be important for the collective and preservative interests of humanity.
  • To be selected, a WHS must be an already-classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area).
  • It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.
  • The sites are intended for practical conservation for posterity, which otherwise would be subject to risk from human or animal trespassing, unmonitored/uncontrolled/unrestricted access, or threat from local administrative negligence.
  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Program administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 “states parties” that are elected by their General Assembly.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee

  • The World Heritage Committee selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  • It monitors the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 states parties that are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.
  • India is NOT a member of this Committee.


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