LARKANA: The ongoing construction activity at Moenjodaro had to be stopped at once on Monday when an excavator hit what later turned out to be part of a wall. Officials supervising the construction work feared that any further excavation might cause damage to the presumably unexplored structure and, therefore, apprised the culture secretary of their apprehension.

The secretary asked them to immediately stop the work, an archaeology department officer at the site told this reporter.

The excavation was being done for laying the foundation of an overhead water tank opposite the house once used by Sir John Marshall — the director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India (1902-1928) whose exploration work had led to the discovery of the remains of this over 5,000-year-old Indus civilisation — within the DK area of Moenjodaro.

The DK area falls behind the places where a branch of the National Bank of Pakistan stands and paces away is a locality comprising servant quarters.

The stone structure exposed during the digging work was the top of a wall, apparently of a room, said the officials present at the site. They believed that the room would emerge if deeper digging was carried out.

Some onlookers claimed that a portion of the “exposed wall” was damaged by the excavator when its operator tried to continue the digging after completing around 10 feet deep excavation.

Some other people present at the site also claimed that ancient objects had surfaced at the depth of about eight feet.

The culture department had awarded the contract for the construction of the overhead water tank but it emerged that the contractor started the work without informing the site officers.

Moenjodaro curator Zaheer­uddin Shar said that as soon as he received the information, he order­ed a halt to the excavation work and informed the culture secretary about the emerging things.

Old bricks of different sizes were seen scattered at the site after the digging was stopped. Archaeology employees hastened to rebury the exposed structures to save certain objects until experts’ visit and examination.

When contacted, culture secretary Ghulam Akbar Leghari said: “We will send experts teams to the site soon.”

When asked how the contractor started the work within the DK area, he said: “We will look into it”.

Meanwhile, Qasim Ali Qasim, an archaeologist who looked after Moenjodaro for around two decades and also served as the archaeology department director until recently, has called for an investigation into the ‘accidental discovery’ of ancient remains near the DK area, our staff reporter Hasan Mansoor adds.

No development activity intended to be carried out by the authorities concerned should be undertaken without involving qualified archaeologists, he said.

“This is dangerous, very dangerous,” said Mr Qasim while speaking to Dawn on Monday. “Such practices may cause heavy damage to the ancient remains under the unexplored debris.” he explained.

Criticising the authorities concerned for caring little in this regard, he recalled that two years ago, the historical site was damaged when the Sindh government organised the ‘Sindh Festival’ there.

In 1998, he said, the then commissioner had allowed to run tractors on the site for laying a lawn.

Published in Dawn December 20th, 2016

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