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Aqua Dholavira Volume 53 Number 6, November/December 2000
by M. Kumar

[image] Recently discovered 5,000-year-old reservoir at Dholavira, India (Courtesy Archaeological Survey of India) [LARGER IMAGE]

A nine-year Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) excavation at the site of Dholavira in the western Indian state of Gujarat has yielded a walled Indus Valley city that dates to the middle of the third millennium B.C. and spans 123.5 acres. A team lead by the ASI's R.S. Bisht has uncovered a sophisticated water management system, giant reservoirs (the largest measuring 263 feet by 39 feet and 24 feet in depth) that together held more than 325,000 cubic yards of water. To conserve rainwater that would have been lost to streams, the Dholavirans built dams and collected the water in reservoirs. These reservoirs were connected to wells that filled cisterns for drinking and bathing. Discovery of the ancient cisterns is ironic in view of the fact that Gujarat was recently stricken by drought. "If Harappans [Indus Valley people], using simple hydraulic engineering skills, could control water resources, then why can't we today?" asks Bisht.

In addition to the reservoirs, excavations in a cemetery west of the city have uncovered tombs, idols, and ritual objects belonging to ethnic groups that practiced a variety of religious rituals. The cemetery's ethnic diversity indicates a thriving trading community that likely attracted merchants from as far as Mesopotamia, Persia, and southern Arabia.

The city was a colorful place, according to Bisht. Most walls, roads, floors, and possibly even building roofs were likely constructed of a pink-and-white clay. The Dholavirans also appear to have loved amusement: "A public place measuring 928 by 157 feet was found in the heart of the city," says Bisht. "With seating for spectators in its tiered structure, it could have been a stadium, a coronation ground, a marketplace, or even an amphitheater."

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© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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