Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Lothal: ‘Oldest Dock in the World’, to get heritage complex


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lothal, Indus Valley Civilization

Mains level: Heritage tourism


Prime Minister has reviewed the construction of the National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) site at Gujarat’s Lothal via video conferencing.

Where is Lothal?

  • Lothal was one of the southernmost sites of the Indus Valley civilization, located in the Bhal region of what is now the state of Gujarat.
  • The port city is believed to have been built in 2,200 BC. Lothal was a thriving trade centre in ancient times, with its trade of beads, gems and ornaments reaching West Asia and Africa.
  • The meaning of Lothal (a combination of Loth and (s) thal) in Gujarati is “the mound of the dead”.
  • Incidentally, the name of the city of Mohenjo-daro (also part of the Indus Valley Civilisation, now in Pakistan) means the same in Sindhi.
  • In the region, it can be compared with other Indus port towns of Balakot (Pakistan), Khirasa (in Gujarat’s Kutch) and Kuntasi (in Rajkot).

When was it discovered?

  • Indian archaeologists started the search for cities of the Harappan Civilisation post-1947 in Gujarat’s Saurashtra.
  • Archaeologist SR Rao led the team which discovered a number of Harappan sites at the time, including the port city of Lothal.
  • Excavation work was carried out in Lothal between February 1955 and May 1960.
  • Adjacent to the excavated areas stands the archaeological site museum, where some of the most prominent collections of Indus-era antiquities in India are displayed.

How was it identified as port city?

  • The National Institute of Oceanography in Goa discovered marine microfossils and salt, gypsum crystals at the site, indicating that sea water once filled the structure and it was definitely a dockyard.
  • It had the world’s earliest known dock, connecting the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river.
  • A metropolis with an upper and a lower town had in on its northern side a basin with vertical wall, inlet and outlet channels which has been identified as a tidal dockyard.
  • Satellite images show that the river channel, now dried, would have brought in considerable volume of water during high tide, which would have filled the basin and facilitated sailing of boats upstream.

What heritage value does it hold?

  • Lothal was nominated in April 2014 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its application is pending on the tentative list of UNESCO.
  • It is the only port-town of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
  • Its heritage value is comparable to following ancient port-towns around the world-
  1. Xel Ha (Peru)
  2. Ostia (Port of Rome)
  3. Carthage (Port of Tunis) in Italy
  4. Hepu in China,
  5. Canopus in Egypt
  6. Gabel (Byblos of the Phoenicians),
  7. Jaffa in Israel,
  8. Ur in Mesopotamia
  9. Hoi An in Vietnam

Building up of Heritage Complex

  • The project began in March 2022, and is being developed at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore.
  • It will have several innovative features such as Lothal mini-recreation, which will recreate Harappan architecture and lifestyle through immersive technology.
  • It has four theme parks – Memorial theme park, Maritime and Navy theme park, Climate theme park, and Adventure and Amusement theme park.


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