Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mohenjo-daro: a puzzle from prehistory

Though writers of historical fiction have a long-standing romance with ancient Egypt and Sumer, surprisingly little has been written about the third great cradle of civilization in the Indus Valley.

The fall of the Indus valley civilization around 1800 BC is one of the great archaeological puzzles. What caused the prehistoric cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa to go into decline? Were they destroyed by climate change? A shift in the course of the Indus River? Invasion? Over-grazing?

Mohenjo-daro (“The Mound of the Dead”) was discovered in 1922 by an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India. Excavations carried out during the 1930’s by Sir John Marshall and in 1945 by Mortimer Wheeler yielded a vast amount of information about the city and its inhabitants -- information still studied by present-day archaeologists. However, no one had successfully deciphered the inscriptions on the mysterious Indus valley seals.

Many years ago in an antique store I stumbled across a small self-published monograph by John Newberry of Victoria BC. It turned out to be the first in an ongoing series: Newberry's exhaustive though little-known efforts to decode these inscriptions. I bought the pamphlet. Here was a world lost in antiquity, and an unsolved mystery. I had the subject for a fantasy novel.

Winter on the Plain of Ghosts: a novel of Mohenjo-daro was published in 2004 by Flying Monkey Press, and is available from . You can read more about it in an interview at the Challenging Destiny site.

Note: Since 1947 Mohenjo-daro has been under the protection of the Government of Pakistan, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Excavations have been banned since the mid-sixties in order to protect the exposed ruins from damage by the elements.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i loved this book, eileen! your prose is wonderful, the story is great--i hurried home to keep reading it till i was done. so glad you wrote it!

casey wolf