M-LAB is our inaugural project that locates itself in the ancient third millennium BCE city of Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan. This project brings together existing data, new data, and an innovative approach to the research and analysis of that data. Given the significance of this site on the ancient landscape, there is still a lot we do not know about the governance and the daily life of the people of the city. Work conducted on early Indus cities has primarily resulted in reconstructions of political systems within which urbanism existed (for example, Chakrabarti 1999; Jacobson 1986; Jansen 1994; Kenoyer 1998; Possehl 1999; Ratnagar 1991). Attempts to provide political frameworks have led to discursive stalemates, in which the desire to locate the center(s) of power(s), particularly in contrast to other early cities in the Old World, leaves the Indus with the possibility of power, but few indexical markers to demonstrate specifically how that power manifests itself, except as an urban form. The detailed planning of Indus cities suggests, among other things, centralized authority, specialization of craft, a complex society, and a thriving economy (Wright 2010). Moreover, this urban planning project entailed an incredibly comprehensive waste and water management system, and access to water via wells in public and private locations (Rizvi 2011).


Building on the research that Dr. Rizvi has been doing and relying on the capabilities of Can Sucuoglu, the director of the Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative (SAVI), the research has been transformed by the digitization of historical data, creation of 4D models using non-invasive data capture technology, and innovative neighborhood analysis methods.

Analog Data Collection/Data Mining

During Phase I, the team worked on identifying and collecting all artifactual, infrastructural, and architectural data (spatial and temporal) from the site of Mohenjo-Daro. This included analog data in books and reports as well as any existing digital spatial data, including archival research and non-published materials. 

Digitizing data and Creating Spatial Data

Before this research, there was no viable OCR (optical character recognition) currently able to process the early (1920s) excavation reports and documents. Therefore, during the first two years, the team worked on transcribing and digitizing any available existing data in order to develop the spatial database.

Data Architecture Development

The team worked on developing mechanisms and processes by which archaeological data can be stored in a spatial database. This was a critical piece of the project because the data architecture must be designed to enable and facilitate spatial analysis/linkages to the spatial analytical tool.

Research and Publication

The team developed new research questions based on the visualization of spatial data. Each year, we aimed to publish an article reflecting different aspects of the years’ work in/as open access publications.