Lothal – ‘City of Dead’ – One Of The Most Prominent Ancient Places In Danger To Be Forgotten

A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - Throughout history, abandoned ancient places with great history have always fascinated people. Unfortunately, many of these places are now forgotten, neglected, or destroyed.

Lothal, one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, located in the Bhal region of the modern state of Gujarat, in the western part of India is just one such example.

Lothal, which means 'The City of Dead', is an old city dating back to the 4,400-year-old Harappan civilization and one of the few known ports on an ocean.

Ancient port Lothal, India

Lothal was originally the site for the lustrous Red Ware culture, associated with the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization, and named for its mica-related pottery.

The people of Lothal worshipped a fire god, which could be the horned deity depicted on ancient seals.

The city that developed as the most important port and a center of the bead industry, gems, and valuable ornaments that flourished until 1900 BC. These products reached the far corners of West Asia and Africa.

The massive dockyard, which was the world's earliest known, had an area 37 meters from east to west and nearly 22 meters from north to south. It made Lothal famous. The dock was probably the greatest work of maritime architecture before the birth of Christ. This was the earliest known dock found in the world, equipped to berth and service ships.

Ancient port Lothal, India

It has been speculated that Lothal engineers studied tidal movements and their effects on brick-built structures since the walls were constructed of kiln-burnt bricks. This knowledge also enabled them to select Lothal's location in the first place, as the Gulf of Khambhat has the highest tidal strength and ships can be sluiced through flow tides in the river tributaries or creeks.

Modern oceanographers have observed that the Harappans must have possessed great knowledge
relating to tides in order to build such a dock on the ever-shifting course of the Sabarmati,
as well as exemplary hydrography and maritime engineering. It is very impressive because these technologies were used 4000 years ago.

The town was divided into blocks of approx 2 meter-high (approx 6 ft) platforms of kiln baked and dried bricks, each consisting of 20–30 houses of thick mud and brick walls. The dockyard was located away from the main river to avoid deposition of silt.

The engineers built a trapezoidal structure, with north-south arms of average 21.8 meters
(71.5 ft), and east-west arms of 37 meters (121 ft).
The basin could have served as an irrigation tank, for the estimated original dimensions of the "dock" are not large enough, by modern standards, to house ships and conduct much traffic.

It connected the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert of today was a part of the Arabian Sea.

Ancient port Lothal, India

Lothal was surrounded by a massive brick wall, which was probably used for flood protection. The southeastern quadrant takes the form of a great platform of brick with earth filling, rising to a height of about 13 feet (4 meters). On this were built a series of further smaller platforms with intersecting air channels, reminiscent of the granary at Mohenjo-daro, with overall dimensions of about 159 by 139 feet (48 by 42 meters).

Then, a great flood apparently resulted in the gradual decline of Lothal.

While there is still no sure reason for the decline of the city, archaeological evidence gathered by the Archaeological Survey of India appears to point to natural catastrophes, mainly floods and storms as the source of Lothal's downfall. The worst consequence was the shift in the course of the river, cutting off access to the ships and dock.

Now, the city's remnants are being obliterated. However, the ancient site still attracts visitors, particularly school and college students but no guards protect the ancient ruins and there are no qualified guides to show the visitor around Lothal.

Ancient port Lothal, India

Tourists trample the structure with little concern for its fragility, and it is common to witness people stealing archaeological remains from the site.
Lothal's cemetery is no longer accessible because of wild growth on the approach. The cemetery houses two skeletons that were found during excavations at the site, carried out between 1955 and 1962.

The site is overrun by weeds, adding to the general air of neglect and chaos.
According to ASI officials, 'shortage of funds has lead to staff inadequacy, which has affected even routine maintenance tasks like clearing of weeds. As of now, the gateman of the museum has to run to the historical Lothal dock to caution visitors against moving on the precarious structure.'

Money problems prevent officials from carrying out further excavations.

Written by – A. Sutherland  AncientPages.com Staff Writer

Copyright © AncientPages.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of AncientPages.com

 Expand for references


Thapar, Bindia. Introduction to Indian Architecture

David Hatcher Childress. Lost Cities of China, Central Asia and India

Times of India