Archaeology in the News: I Wish the News were Better

Usually, I get really excited when archaeology makes the national or world news. (The same type of excitement I reserve for archaeology-themed TV specials and particularly well-researched historical video games and movies.) Unfortunately, the news in this case is really bad.

“Archaeology is destruction” is an oft-used phrase, but it is especially tragic to learn about a site that is slowly self-destructing. I recently read a feature article from the BBC about the site of Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan. The site represents a gigantic Bronze Age (my favorite Age) city- okay, not terribly gigantic under today’s definition, but in the Bronze Age its population of 35,000 would have been positively metropolitan. In fact, it was one of the largest cities in the Indus River Valley civilization. The city is thought to have been first constructed in 2,600 BC and abandoned around 1,800 BC. It is very well laid out (who doesn’t love excellent ancient town planning?), with nice straight streets and amenities like public baths, venues that could hold thousands of people, and is overall a great example of urban infrastructure. (We aren’t talking mere Minoan palace complexes here, people! It’s a whole beautiful city full of innovation!)

The Great Bath and Granary


An aerial view of the impressive city

So what is the sad part of this, you ask? Unfortunately, now that the city has been largely excavated, is had begun to self-construct. The exposed brickwork has been crumbling, which means that the site, which is an amazing example of an Indus (or Harappa) civilization city is at risk of being lost to future visitors and academics. Protected underground for thousands of years, the excavated parts of the site are now exposed to harsh climate conditions and issues. Worse, the site’s lagging popularity as a tourist site means that it had lost needed funding as well (funding issues have put another important site, Pompeii in danger, too). Possibly the most upsetting part of the situation is that “restoration” work (done presumably by archaeologists) is actually contributing to the site continued destruction.

Hearing about things like this makes me depressed. rarely is there the power of funding to help sites like these (and at best, they can only attempt to “arrest” the decay. Thousands of years- it was in the ground for thousands of years! But now, it has been suggested that if there isn’t drastic action, the site could be completely destroyed in the next 20 years. Some birds have longer lifespans than that! These things can’t just be replaced.

Here is the original article from the BBC:


One thought on “Archaeology in the News: I Wish the News were Better

  1. It is a shame that there are sights all over the world that are suffering, both intentional and unintentional destruction. It seems like UNESCO should be stepping in (or up) to do more. Why bother with designating world heritage sights if they can’t do something meaningful to protect and preserve them.

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