Mundigak Mound G “Temple” 25 The “Palace” was not the only monumental structure at Mundigak. There was also a “Temple” as Casal called it, on the adjacent Mound G and built along the same axis towards the latter part of Period IV [2900-2400 BCE]. It is another monumental building that we really do not know the purpose of. “Only one construction phase could be determined, and it, like the last rebuilding phase of the ‘palace’, demonstrates a high degree of organisation. No entrance was located, but it might have been in the eroded south wall. A large rectangular structure with its eastern two-thirds divided into small rooms dominates the centre of the ‘temple’. The western part of this building consists of a large open area or courtyard. Centrally located at the north end of this courtyard was a large basin that was considerably elevated above the surrounding living surface. The immediate area was ash-covered and located directly behind the basin was a ceramic drain which extended east–west between the main wall and smaller L-shaped wall associated with the interior building. This smaller wall formed the western boundary of a little chamber interpreted as representing a shrine complex. In the south-east corner was a large square rectangular masonry structure with white plastered benches. A similar bench was found along the east wall. In the centre of the chamber was a large rectangular hearth painted red with a small step on the west side. The rooms to the east were of various sizes and a few of them had interior hearths and other small features. Although there is nothing to indicate that this was a religious structure, it was certainly not a habitation either. Whatever the function, it presents an interesting contrast with the rest of the site,” write Jim Shaffer and Cameron Petrie in The Archaeology of Afghanistan (2019 p. 182-83). Images 1. Mundigak G: view of the ‘temple’ from Mound A in 1966. 2. Plan and section of the Temple. 3. Mundigak G: view of the ‘temple’ showing triangular ‘buttresses (1. and 3. from Allchin, Ball, Hammond The Archaeology of Afghanistan (2019, pp. 183).
View of the Site Excavations 26 The expansion of Mundigak from Mound A to mounds B, D, E, F, G, H and I all seem to have happened in Period IV (2900-2400 BCE). “West of Mound A, Mounds B and D produced remains of an enclosing wall complete with square ‘bastions’. These structures were erected directly on virgin soil and consisted of two thick parallel walls of mud-brick resting on foundations of stone and clay. Regularly spaced rectangular projecting buttresses characterised the exterior wall, while the interior separating the two walls was divided into small rooms. The floors of these rooms had been raised significantly above the level of the exterior living surfaces. The frequency of stairways associated with these rooms indicates that access to either the roof or an upper storey was of some importance. This arrangement is seen in Oxus Civilisation architecture, and is also similar to the later Achaemenid ramparts at Kandahar, where the ‘rooms’ were interpreted as casemates,” write Allchin, Bell and Hammond (The Archaeology of Afghanistan, 2019, p. 179). It is possible that much of Mundigak, at some point in Period IV, was surrounded by a mud-brick wall, possibly including the “temple” on Mound G. Dr. Gregory Possehl, connects Mundigak to the Damb Sadaat Phase of Central Baluchistan [4500-2000 BCE]: “Contemporary with the Kot Diji and Amri-Nal Phases is a smaller, more localized cultural phase of the early Harappan, centered on the Quetta Valley. It rests on a long history of occupation in this fertile, well-watered valley. Quetta-Pishin is blessed with substantial subsurface water resources, available even to relatively primitive cultivators in the form of artesian wells. This valley is also the center of a natural corridor linking southern Afghanistan to the Indus Valley via the Bolan and Khojak Passes. . .. There are thirty-seven Dumb Sadaat sites, twenty-nine of which have data on size. They average 2.64 hectares. The largest site is the Quetta Miri (23 hectares), located at one spot in the Quetta Valley that has been occupied continuously from prehistoric to modern times. The next largest site, Mundigak, is 18.75 hectares and is in the Kushk-i Nakhud Valley of the Helmand River drainage, over 200 kilometers to the northwest of the Miri. Mundigak was a town during Early Harappan times” (The Indus Civilization A Contemporary Perspective, 2002, p. 44). Mundigak, throughout its history, been affected by cultures to the west in the Helmand Valley and the Iranian plateau, to the north by cultures and traditions from Central Asia, and to the south and east, by Balochi and Indus valley cultures. Although there is nothing quite like Mundigak during the height of Period IV in Afghanistan, it was not independent of developments in a full circle around it. Image: Aerial View of the Mounds, from Casal, Fouille de Mundigak, 1961.
Broken Round Object 27 A stone object of unknown purpose from Mundigak. There seem to have been two similar rounded open areas in the center of the circle.
Two Objects, one Unknown 28 Whetstones for sharpening copper copper blades. The grooved rock, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer suggests, might have been some kind of polisher.
Oil Lamps and Small Pots 29 A variety of oil lamps and small pots made of alabaster, as described in the Guimet’s caption, were discovered at Mundigak. Alabaster is a soft stone, typically light in color, translucent and easy to work with. According to Allchin, Ball and Hammond, this was the “predominant type of stone vessel” found at Mundigak, increasing in variety and from Period I through IV. (The Archaeology of Afghanistan, 2019 pp. 221-222)
Mound C Ossuary 31 This ossuary or collection of bones on Mound C is from the Mundigak Period III [3400-2900 BCE]. Towards the end of Period IV [2900-2400 BCE] , it seems as if the “palace” and “temple” were burned down, and not re-inhabited although other parts of the site were. Nonetheless, it is hard to draw too many conclusions since the definitions of the various sub-periods within Period IV remain open to reinterpretation and re-excavation. Sylvia Matheson writes here of the Period IV disjuncture: “Had the conquerors set their surviving victims to work to level their own lovely buildings and raise up the coarse new ones, or perhaps the people of the Columns had been completely wiped out in the holocaust? Possibly the survivors had fled to the south or the west, escaping with their lives and their most precious belongings— perhaps the women and children fled before the enemy attacked, leaving only the menfolk to defend the settlement? Who could tell? For strangely enough, in spite of the slaughter that must have taken place, not a single human bone had been found among the ashes and the ruins of the houses and monument. The dead had all been removed perhaps to be given a mass burial. But if so, where? So far only one very shallow, communal grave had been found at the foot of Mound A, where seven bodies had been tumbled together as though in great haste and without ceremony. Could it possibly be that a mere handful of men was left to defend the temple palace in the narrow passageway, and that perhaps as a last gesture, they had made a concerted rush on the enemy at the foot of the slope, and seven of the handful had died, maybe one or two only managed to escape? “Perhaps when the skulls of the seven corpses were examined (they were still in Kabul in their protective plaster), we would discover if they were indeed long-headed Caucasians. “Perhaps, when the surrounding mounds have been excavated, some of the mystery surrounding Mundigak will be cleared up. I make no apology for letting my imagination run away with me in the meantime, for in Archaeology from the Earth Sir Mortimer Wheeler himself said, ‘we cannot properly understand the past unless we have a living sympathy with the human stuff which its relics represent…. We cannot understand for example, the structural mechanism of an ancient burial mound unless we can bring to bear upon its details a rational imagination capable of comprehending and vitalizing them . . . too often we dig up things, unrepentantly forgetful that our proper aim is to dig up people.” (Sylvia Matheson, Time off to Dig, London, 1961, pp. 108-109) Images 1.- 4. Mundigak Ossuary Period III [3400-2900 BCE], from Jean-Marie Casal, La civilisation de l’Indus et ses enigmes, Fayard, Paris, 1969, p. 64. These were the four images Casal included in his book Fouilles de Mundigak, Paris (1961) and identified as from the “necropolis” with Images 1 and 3 as Ossuary (C. 24), Image 2 described as an individual tomb (C. 21), and Image 4 as Ossuary (C. 27).
Pipal Tree Goblet 32 Jean-Marie Casal writes in his book on the enigma of the Indus civilization, in a section called The last days of Mundigak and the problem of Baluchistan: “In Mundigak, the destruction of the first city, roughly at the same time, is probably linked to the same cause. A heap of ashes near the rampart, sections of walls blackened by smoke and floors reddened by fire in the Palace bear witness to the violence and suddenness of the attack. It is likely that these events explain the the loosening of ties between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and the already noted isolation in which the villages and towns of this latter region now appear to develop. “Relieved for the first time from its ruins and soon again destroyed by an earthquake, the city of Mundigak will rebuild itself yet again but it will now decline. This decline, apparent in its constructions, in the abandonment where the ruins left of the Palace, is also apparent in the ceramics where we find old themes, impoverished and poorly executed, and where the preponderance of a bright red background, replacing the traditional cream background, indicates new links and influences from the south. “Throughout this long gestation period of a culture, and through the vicissitudes that follow its development, we can only guess at the existence of forces still little known to us. If Mundigak gives us a general outline for the [history of] south Afghanistan, it unfortunately is not the same yet for neighboring regions. Balochistan, in particular, is so important because we can sense how events which took place there must have influenced civilization close to the Indus, but our understanding of its archeology is still too much fragmented.” (La Civilisation d l’Indus et ses enigmes [The Indus Civilization and its Puzzles] 1969, p. 74) Image 2: bottom portion of Figures Ceramic from Period IV [2750-2500 BCE] from Casal, Fouilles De Mundigak, 1961.
. General View of the Palace 33 It would have been an imposing site to stumble upon in 2500 BCE. It might have been even more imposing during Mundigak V [up to 1500 BCE?] when another monumental structure was built on top these colonnades, likely by a different culture or people who followed after a gap in habitation that lasted an unknown number of centuries. “The function of this massive Period V monument is unknown,” write Allchin, Ball and Hammond, “but it is reasonably certain that it was not a habitation, as it was completely devoid of the usual habitation features such as interior hearths. Furthermore, there is no indication that these rooms possessed any sort of roof structure. The only indication as to the possible purpose of this structure was the location of a ‘human sacrifice’ just outside the foundation of the surrounding terrace, where several human bones including an infant’s jaw bone were found in association with the terrace wall foundation. The human ‘sacrifice’, combined with the stepped-pyramidal shape created by the terrace walls and the massiveness of the structure itself, is certainly suggestive, as Casal noted, of the Mesopotamian ‘ziggurats’, but other monumental structures are now known elsewhere, including Nad-i Ali in Sistan and Konar Sandal in south-east Iran (discussed below). Nonetheless, the exact function of this interesting building remains to be determined.” (The Archaeology of Afghanistan: From Earliest Times to the Timurid Period: New Edition, 2019 p. 188) Sylvia Matheson writes about the end of her time with the excavation team: “That night the moon was full and yellow and shone with an in tense brilliance over the sleepy camp. Jacques and Achour took advantage of the light to go hunting for hares. The others went to bed, but I was restless. Putting on my striped quilted overcoat (for the nights were growing cold), I walked slowly up the side of Mound A to wander among the silent colonnades, the terraces, passageways, tiny rooms and spacious halls. What could this building have been? Who could have occupied it? What kind of people had they been and where had they come from? Where had they gone to, for that matter? “I settled myself on a wall behind the columns and pictured the scene as it must have been so many thousands of years ago. Jean- Marie, like all good archaeologists, was too prudent to speak of his own theories at this stage, and unless something was found to pin- point the site, some form of datable writing for instance, it would probably be years before he could analyse all the finds, the plans, the photographs and notes, and say with any assurance who had built this great structure, what had been its purpose and who had caused its destruction. But I was no professional and nobody could stop me dreaming. “What in fact did we actually know about Mundigak? First there had been the untouched mound as Jean-Marie had found it, rising like an upturned pudding basin some sixty feet from the soil and surrounded by its scattering of lower satellite mounds sprawling over twenty-five acres between it and the dried-up river. The river itself had probably disappeared even before the site had been abandoned three thousand years ago. “As we could see for ourselves, the mound was on the traditional caravan route from Herat and Girishk and the still fanatical Zamindawar country to the north-west, southwards to Kandahar, Quetta and the Indus Valley, north to Ghazni and Kabul. Jean-Marie and Ginette had begun their work in 1951 by cutting a trial trench right down the side of the main mound, but with the work of the intervening years this trench had been filled until today it was only a flattened track. It had shown them that there were at least thirteen construction levels roughly ranging from the end of the fourth millennium to the beginning of the first and it was more than likely that the actual occupation of these levels would have been by more than one set of people for each building. As we had been finding, the construction levels had in fact been altered and rebuilt several times by successive occupants over a long period. “The Casals had begun then to concentrate on the excavation of Mound A. On the top level, just below the surface, the last occupants of Mundigak had built granaries and silos of mud-pise—earth mixed with water and chopped straw. Jean-Marie had concluded that these were granaries because, though much smaller, they were very similar in design to the great granary of Harappa in the Indus Valley, consisting of parallel rows of bench-high walls for ventilation. “Near by had been the remains of coffer-like structures that might well have been grain silos and troughs for the feeding of the animals that brought the grain for storage. Three times these granaries and dins bad been rebuilt, one on top of the other with very little iteration of design, and that pointed to a fairly long and peaceful occupation, perhaps by generations of the same peoples. In the last occupation the silos had been replaced by half-buried jars. A large pillar made of debris and covered with a plaster of pise appeared to form a centre-piece from which branched tree trunks supporting a roof. The type of structure and of pottery found here seemed to point to a fairly primitive people whose quiet life came to an abrupt end about a thousand years before the birth of Christ. That they had some inkling of impending doom was obvious from the fact that the inhabitants built a small “guard-room” complete with a sentry-walk round the inside of the walls. Remnants of fire were found in the middle of the room, a large quantity of bullets of hard clay, used for slings, and of flint arrowheads. At the same time, the number of intact bowls and jars in the room indicated that the little- defensive post had been taken without much resistance. The victors, whoever they were, did not stay, and from that day to this Mundigak had been abandoned to the wind and the sand.” (Time off to Dig Archaeology and Adventure in Remote Afghanistan, London, 1961, pp. 96-98) Images 1. Mound A, Period IV, The Palace, Final Stage. 2. Model of the Ruins (from Casal, Fouilles De Mundigak, 1961)