The archaeological site of Mehrgarh consist of a number of low archaeological mounds in the Kachi plain, close to the mouth of the Bolan Pass. Located next to the west bank of the Bolan river, they are some 30 kilometres from the town of Sibi. Covering an area of some 250 hectares, most of the archaeological deposits are buried deep beneath accumulations of alluvium although in other areas ‘in situ’ structures can be seen eroding on the surface. Currently exposed excavated remains at the site comprise a complex of large compartmental mud-brick structures. Built of hand-formed plano-convex mud bricks, the function of these sub-divided units is still uncertain but it is thought that many were for storage rather than residential. Mounds, MR3 & MR1 also contain formal cemeteries, parts of which have been excavated.
The archaeological sequence at the site of Mehrgarh is over 11 metres deep, spanning the period between the seventh and third millennium BC. The site represents a classic archaeological tell site, that is an artificial mound created by generations of superimposed mudbrick structures. Its excavators have proposed the following chronology:
IA Aceramic Neolithlic c.6500-6000 BC Mound MR3
IB Ceramic Neolithic c.6000-5500 BC Mound MR3
II - c.5500-4500 BC Mound MR4
III Early Chalcolithic c.4500-3500 BC Mound MR2
IV-VII Chalcolithic c.3500-2500 BC Mound MR1
The earliest Neolithic evidence for occupation at the site has been identified at mound MR3, but during the Neolithic-Chalcolithic period the focus shifted to mound MR4. The focus continued to shift between localities at the site but by 2600 BC it had relocated at the site of Naushero, some six kilometres to the south. During this period the settlement was transformed from a cluster of small mudbrick storage units with evidence of the on going domestication of cattle and barley to a substantial Bronze Age village at the centre of its own distinctive craft zone. The absence of early residential structures has been interpreted by some as further evidence of the site’s early occupation by mobile or transhumant groups5 possible travelling through the nearby pass seasonally. Although Mehrgarh was abandoned by the time of the emergence of the literate urbanised phase of the Indus Civilisation, its development illustrates the development of the civilisation’s subsistence patterns as well as its craft and trade specialisation. Following its abandonment it was covered by alluvial selts until it was exposed following a flash flood in the 1970s. The French Archaeological Mission to Pakistan excavated the site for thirteen years between 1974 and 1986, and they resumed their work in 1996. The most recent trenches have astonishingly well preserved remains of mud brick structures.