The site of Lakhanjo-Daro, located beneath modern Sukkur, Pakistan is one of the most important urban centers of the Indus Civilization and yet it has not been properly studied due to its location under a modern city that is rapidly expanding. This site was first discovered in 1985 and small-scale excavations and surveys were carried out by the faculty and students of Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur (Kazi 1985). Larger scale excavations were carried out by the same department in 2006 and then again during 2009/10 (Shaikh et al 2006, Mallah et al 2012). Due to various factors, it has not been possible to carry out more intensive horizontal excavations or long-term research on any single part of the site. Nevertheless, based on excavations in three different areas, two locations in the central mound and one in the western mound, it is clear that the ancient settlement of Lakhanjo-Daro is extremely large and spread over a vast area. Furthermore the artifacts recovered from the excavations, such as pottery, inscribed seals and figurines, are very similar to those found at other major cities of the Indus Valley region.
The central mounds have evidence for residential quarters and the western mound has considerable evidence for a wide range of craft activities as well as major habitation and architectural structures. The eastern mound also has remains of habitation areas but this part of the mound has been badly disturbed by modern construction and is partly covered with modern garbage. Due to the removal of large amounts of the site for modern construction purposes, almost all of the architectural features from the uppermost habitation deposits that were once visible in the western mounds have been destroyed and are no longer present. There are however well preserved remains of architecture, in situ pottery and craft activity areas in the lower levels. The areas that were available for salvage archaeology in 2013 and 2017 have demonstrated that this part of the ancient site was an important area for craft production, specifically the manufacture of steatite beads and seals.
Although the 2013 and 2017 projects were salvage excavations, the trenches that were excavated were thoroughly documented to define the disturbed upper layers and the undisturbed occupation deposits. Based on the pottery found along with craft debris from steatite manufacture it is clear that the site was occupied during the Harappa Phase as defined at the site of Harappa, which is well dated to around 2600-1900 BCE (Dales and Kenoyer 1990, 1992, Kenoyer 1993, Meadow and Kenoyer 1994, 2005, Kenoyer and Meadow1999). In one of the excavation areas a deep trench was excavated up to two meters below the current surface of the site. In the lowest part of this deep excavation pottery that is similar to the Early Harappan, Kot Diji Phase has been recovered (Kenoyer 2000) (see below for more details). Further expanded excavations are needed to determine if this is a chance discovery or if there is an Early Harappan occupation at the site. It should be noted that the lower levels of the citadel mound at Mohenjo-Daro have confirmed evidence for Early Harappan occupation (Kenoyer 2014:415). Early Harappan occupations are also confirmed at the sites of Harappa (Kenoyer and Meadow 2000:55-76), Dholavira (Bisht 2015, Prabhakar et al 2012, Law 2015) and Rakhigarhi (Nath et al 2015) so it is not surprising to find an Early Harappan occupation in the lower levels of Lakhanjo-Daro.
In 2017 four major trenches were opened to check the nature of cultural deposits and in all of the trenches the upper levels were disturbed by recent construction activities. There are also some deeper pits from recent local inhabitants that have resulted in mixing of modern garbage with ancient artifacts deep below the surface. Only a few excavation areas revealed in-situ undisturbed pottery set in the ground and eroded remains of walls made from packed clay. The excavation areas were laid out in 10 x 10 meter squares designated using the letters A to E. Two of these areas were expanded in order to follow wall lines and further expose deposits with in-situ remains. In the course of the 2017 excavation a very large volume of diagnostic Harappan phase artifacts were collected, including steatite and hard stone beads, terra cotta and shell bangles, plain and painted Harappan pottery, miniature pots and large jars, terracotta cakes and baked lumps, cones, and so on. The objects were manufactured from wide array of materials like terracotta, stone, copper, white-fired steatite and marine shell.
The walls of the small rooms were made from compact clay and not the normal mold made mud bricks. This unique feature needs to be further studied as it is not a common feature, though it has been documented at other sites such as Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. The floors of the rooms were made from compact soil mixed with fine debris and in some rooms and open spaces there is evidence for hearths and dumps of ashy soil. Debris from steatite and faience manufacture is found scattered throughout the area and consists of glassy or vitrified slag, burned bone with glaze, fragments of kiln walls and white fired tiles used in the kilns. Large amounts of steatite manufacturing waste included unfired blocklets and sawn fragments of steatite, thin sawn wafers, perforated and partly chipped or ground bead blanks, and white fired steatite beads. Many of the white fired steatite beads were embedded in the vitrified slags and firing containers. The types of objects recovered from this excavation confirm that this part of the ancient city was a major production area for steatite, and since these levels are significantly below the ones excavated in 2013, it appears that the production continued for a long period of time.
In addition to steatite bead making there is evidence for sawn blocklets that were used for making seals. Three unfinished steatite seals were recovered from the excavations. Seal making would have been carefully controlled by elite merchants and rulers of the city, as they were important for trade and economic exchanges. The raw steatite used in both bead and seal production includes many different shades of brown and grey-black steatite. The initial analysis of some samples obtained in the 2013 excavation suggests that some of the steatite was probably coming from steatite mines located as far north as modern Hazara, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There are also steatite sources in Baluchistan and Rajasthan, and it is possible that multiple sources were used to obtain raw materials, but this can only be determined through further studies.