Dholavira - The ancient city of the Indus Valley Civilization that made it to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List

After the excavation, ten large stone inscriptions carved in the Indus Valley script, perhaps the world’s earliest signboards, were found here.

Hitanshu Bhatt
New Update

Let’s uncover what makes Dholavira, Gujarat, one of the best-preserved urban settlements and most astonishing archaeological sites of the Harappan Civilizations, the grandest of cities.

India is renowned for its rich history and diverse civilizations. When discussing such civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization stands out prominently. Among its cities is Dholavira in Gujarat, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the five largest Harappan sites and the most prominent archaeological site in India belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. Dating back 4500 years, the Harappan civilization presented a site that featured the world’s earliest and best-planned water conservation system, as well as what might be the world’s first signboard, written in ancient Indus script.

But how did we come to know about this?

satellite image of dholavira

Dholavira, located on the islands of Khadir and locally known as Kotada (meaning 'large fort'), was unearthed in 1967 by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and systematically excavated in the 1990s. Satellite pictures taken from space revealed an underground reservoir with a constructed rainwater harvesting system extending from the walls of the city. This system was crucial for the settlement to thrive in the sparse rainfall of the Kutch desert. The site also benefits from two seasonal streams, Mansar and Manhar, which support the system.

During the excavation, ten large stone inscriptions carved in the Indus Valley script, perhaps the world’s earliest signboards, were discovered. Additionally, various artifacts such as terracotta pottery, beads, gold and copper ornaments, seals, fish hooks, animal figurines, tools, urns, and imported vessels were found at the site.

Source - Probable signboards written in ancient Indus script

The early settlements and their revisiting

The earlier civilizations operated on seven stages, from development to maturity and decay. Excavations depict that the town of Dholavira was abandoned by its settlers around the fifth stage, during its decline. It was temporarily deserted by the civilians, leaving everything in a preserved, classical form, supposedly due to climatic changes. However, when they returned to their settlements, the structure was de-urbanized. De-urbanized culture implies that everything was simplified compared to before because they felt that their civilization had collapsed and the glory was lost.

dholavira sites

Even after the cultural shift, this site remains on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, symbolizing the indomitable spirit of one of India’s oldest civilizations. Visitors can witness a citadel at the center, surrounded by a middle and lower town constructed with pleasingly smoothed structures of sun-dried brick and stone masonry. It continues to serve as a prime example of remarkable town planning, featuring a well-constructed underground drainage system for sanitation, well-laid-out lanes, seating arrangements, and complex structures for visitors to explore.

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