Lothal is situated about 85 kms. southwest of Ahmedabad. This important
archaeological site was discovered in 1954. The city that stood here 4500
years ago is clearly related to the Indus Valley cities of Mohenjodaro and
Harappa, both in Pakistan. It has the same neat street pattern, carefully
assembled, neat brickwork and scientific drainage system. Lothal means mound
of the dead in Gujarati. Lothal is located between the Sabarmati river and
the Bhogavo river and is now 10 kms. up from the Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay).
It has some of the most substantial remains of the Harappan culture in India,
dating from 250 to 1700 BC. Its site and function as a port have led most
authorities to argue that it was settled by Harappan trading communities
who came by sea from the mouth of the river but some believe that it may
have been settled by traders moving across the overland route. The site
is surrounded by a mud brick embankment 300 m North to South and 400 m East
to West. Unlike the defensive walls at Harappa and Mohenjodaro, the wall
at Lothal enclosed the workers area as well as the citadel. The presence
of a dry dock and a warehouse further distinguish it from other major Harappan
sites. Excavations here have revealed a tidal dockyard (with a complex lock-gate
system) at its peak, this was probably one of the most important ports on
the Indian subcontinent. The Sabarmati river, which no longer runs past
here, connected the dock to the Gulf of Cambay. Seals discovered at the
site suggest that trade may have been conducted with the civilizations of
Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia.
The dry dock runs along the east wall of the city and has average dimensions of a 214 m by 36 m. A 1 m wide gap in the north side is believed to have been the entrance by which boats came into the dock. While a spillway over the south well allowed excess water to overflow. The city well, which is wider at this point than elsewhere, may have been a wharf for unloading. Excavations of the warehouse have revealed wide evidence of the trade which was clearly the basis for the Lothal's existence. The building, at the south-west corner of the wharf, had a 4 m high platform made of cubical mud brick blocks, the gap between them allowing ventilation. Over 65 Indus Valley Seals have been discovered which shows pictures of packing material, bamboo or rope, suggestive of the importance of trade to the community. There have also been finds of pottery, semi-precious stones, beads and even necklaces made of tiny beads of gold. Rice and millet were clearly in use, and there is some evidence that horses had been domesticated.
The excavations show a planned city in a grid pattern, with underground drainage system, wells, brick houses with baths and fireplaces. The raised brick platform to the southeast may have been a kiln where seals and plaques were baked. Objects found include painted pottery, ivory, shells, semi-precious stone items, beads, bangles and terracotta toys. The long rectangular tank to the east may have been used as a dock. The discovery of a seal from Bahrain suggests that there was overseas trade. The cemetery to the northwest had large funerary vessels indicating pit burials. The archaeological museum at the site displays fragments of this well-ordered civilization, such as intricate seals, weights and measures, games, jewellery and various artifacts including copper and bronze implements from the site.