Mehrgarh | Abdullah Dawood


At the historic crossroads of the Bolan Pass, Balochistan holds a hidden treasure - Mehrgarh stands as a testament to human civilization. Its ancient remains reveal traces of early agriculture, livestock breeding, and even metalworking, dating back over 10,000 years. Mehrgarh's cultural importance extends beyond its historical significance, as it represents a meeting point for diverse cultures that connected through the Silk Road, linking Central Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia.

Chief Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Raisani of Sarwaan Valley lived here. In 1968, he alerted researchers to a nearby mound where historical artifacts were unearthed. On exploring the mound, experts stumbled upon the remnants of an ancient city.

Approximately 9000 years ago, in this area, most people were nomadic hunter-gatherers. They established temporary settlements near sources of food and water, moving on as resources diminished. However, as the population increased and hunting became unreliable, one particular tribe settled permanently along the Bolan River in present-day Mehrgarh. Over time, they transitioned to agriculture and animal husbandry for sustenance, becoming pioneers in the practice of farming and animal domestication. This transformation, known as the Neolithic Revolution, marked a pivotal change in human civilization. Initially, Mehrgarh was a modest settlement spanning just a few acres. As wandering groups made Mehrgarh their home, the settlement grew. Around 7,000 to 10,000 years ago, Mehrgarh housed a large population of 10,000 to 20,000 people. This was significant, because at that time of history, entire Balochistan region only had about 200,000 inhabitants. Due to its substantial population, Mehrgarh is considered one of the world's earliest urban settlements.

In 1974, French archaeologists Jean-François and Catherine Jarrige discovered Mehrgarh during an archaeological expedition in the Kachi plains. Excavations were conducted in two phases: 1974-1986 and 1997-2000. Ongoing excavations continue to reveal the city's history. Mehrgarh spanned approximately 500 acres, with interconnected settlements sharing cultural, technological, and social connections. The people of Mehrgarh constructed mud houses, farmed wheat and barley, stored grain in underground granaries, and created tools from copper. Along with farming, the people of Mehrgarh domesticated animals such as cattle and goats, leading to developments in pottery and metalworking. As Mehrgarh gained prominence, it became a hub for new ideas and artistic skills in the area.

Dating back to roughly 7000 to 5500 BC, Mehrgarh was a modest community centered around farming and herding. Residents resided in structures made of mud bricks and kept their provisions in storage facilities known as granaries. Bone-based tools were crafted, and they utilized baskets coated with a sticky material known as bitumen. This era, designated as the Aceramic Neolithic, signifies the initial human settlement of Mehrgarh.

Over a span of approximately 700 years, from 5500 to 4800 BC, the settlement of Mehrgarh underwent significant transformations. Agriculture, particularly barley cultivation, became increasingly pivotal. Inhabitants began crafting pottery and established circular fire pits for culinary purposes. Dwellings grew larger and more structured, featuring designated living and workspaces. Some structures may have served as communal storage facilities for grains or other resources. These developments exemplify the gradual evolution and adaptation of Mehrgarh's society to their surrounding environment.

Archaeological excavations at Mehrgarh revealed a noteworthy discovery related to ancient dentistry. Researchers uncovered evidence of dental practices during a specific period. They identified drill holes in eleven molars, suggesting that people used flint drill bits for dental work. Despite minimal evidence of tooth decay (only four teeth), the drill holes indicate that drilling was performed for practical purposes rather than decorative ones. The makers of the beads employed flint drill bits, which are typically utilized in bead production. Contemporary experiments have demonstrated that it is feasible to drill enamel using flint drill bits.

Out of 3,880 teeth studied, only 11 showed evidence of this particular dental treatment. This practice appears to have been brief, as no signs of dental drilling were seen in later remains. This finding enhances our knowledge of the ancient Mehrgarh people and their healthcare practices.

Around 5,000 BCE, cotton farming took off in the area, and pottery featuring intricate designs arose. Due to its strategic proximity to the Bolan Pass, a significant trade artery, Mehrgarh drew travelers from Afghanistan, Iran, and China who settled there. This exchange of cultures may have contributed to Mehrgarh's transformation into a diverse cultural melting pot. Approximately 4,000 years ago, the settlement of Mehrgarh was abruptly abandoned. The inhabitants left and moved to other locations. Unfortunately, in 1974, researchers were unable to identify the reason behind this migration due to a lack of evidence.

For millennia, the Mehrgarhians thrived in forming and managing settlements, making it effortless for them to create new ones. They most likely had help from the locals. Despite this, scientists are still trying to figure out why the Mehrgarhians left their original homeland. Flooding from the Bolan River likely played a key role. Floods destroyed crops, storage facilities, and homes, forcing the Mehrgarhians to rebuild everything each year. Seeking refuge from these calamities, they gradually moved to higher ground.

Despite its significance, Mehrgarh has not received attention from the government compared to MoenjoDaro. This negligence has resulted in erosion and tribal conflicts causing damage to the archaeological site. However, the Director of Balochistan Archives disputes claims of insufficient government support, citing the suspension of archaeological activities province-wide due to deteriorating security conditions. After the 18th constitutional amendment, the Archaeology department became the responsibility of the province. As a result, conservation work at Mehrgarh has faced setbacks due to delays.

Mehrgarh's significance remains unrecognized as it has not been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These sites hold immense historical and cultural value on a global scale and receive financial support for their preservation. Furthermore, under international agreements, they are protected from damage during conflicts. Mehrgarh, an ancient settlement, has been proposed for inclusion on UNESCO's World Heritage List since 2004. However, it remains under consideration and has not yet received full recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Mehrgarh, a vital component of the Baloch history, is a priceless heritage of Balochistan and requires immediate protection from both national and local authorities. Failure to prioritize its preservation risks its permanent loss. Elevating Mehrgarh's status to a World Heritage Site would force the Balochistan government to prioritize its conservation and safeguarding. UNESCO must recognize that designating Mehrgarh as a World Heritage site can safeguard it from degradation. It is crucial for civil society groups, academics, and social and political organizations to champion Mehrgarh's preservation. Its loss would extend beyond the destruction of ancient structures; it would be an irreparable loss for posterity.



By Abdullah Dawood

History, GCUL




 مہر گڑھ (ایشیاء کی تہذیب میں اسکی اہمیت ) تحریر تحقیق: فاروق بلوچ، اسٹنٹ پروفیسر (ہسٹری)


Mehrgarh filed reports from 1974-1985 from neolithic times to the Indus civilization edited by Catherine Jarrige, Jean-Fran~oisJarrige, Richard H. Meadow and Gonzague Quivron


Achievement of mehrgarh civilization: a diachronic study by Dr fouzia Farooq


Mehrgarh the dawn of civilization by Mohammad Akram







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