Saturday, 17 November 2012

A lost civilisation: 3,000-year-old cemetery discovered in Swat

Published: November 15, 2012
Archaeologists discovered the cemetery at Odigam, which is home to ancient graves, pottery and ornaments. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/EXPRESS
Archaeologists have caught another glimpse of Swat’s glorious past — revealing secrets of a civilisation that have been buried in the earth for over 3,000 years. 
The Italian Archaeological Mission on Wednesday discovered an ancient cemetery dating back thousands of years at Odigram, Swat — a site experts believe was built between 1500 BC to 500 BC.
The site was home to unique ancient graves, pottery, ornaments made of bronze and copper, spindles and hairpins — a discovery made under the framework of the Archaeology Community Tourism (ACT) project.
A total of 23 graves have been excavated at the site that seems to be an ancient cemetery, indicating that they belonged to the pre-Buddhist era.
The newly-discovered vessels symbolise simple but competent craft — ranging from copper pins used to fix hair to small perfume bottles which might have been used by women during that time period. Personal ornaments including bronze earrings and spindles made out of ivory were also unearthed from the site, which indicates the type of role woman played back then.
“In some graves, we found two skeletons, one in a primary position and one in a secondary position. The structures of the graves are also unique. Some have small walls, some have been dug in clay while others are made up of clay benches,” Roberto Micheli, an expert of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, told The Express Tribune.
ACT specialists working on the site told The Express Tribune that this particular cemetery was not the only one that could have existed during that time; in fact, there could have been hundreds of such in Swat.
“It clearly indicates that Swat Valley was thickly populated at that time. Most probably they were the Dards (a group of people defined by linguistic similarities and not a common ethnic origin, predominantly found in Eastern Afghanistan) and in my view these Dards were somehow linked culturally to the people presently living in Kohistan and Kalash valleys,” revealed Massimo Vidale, a professor of Archaeology at University of Padua. “They probably spoke the Indo-European languages. We can say that the present culture of Kalash and Kohistan in Chitral valley can be linked with the ancient culture of Swat,” Vidale explained.
“What we can understand from the graves is that they were a very powerful civilisation. They were socially well organised and apparently very peaceful because no weapons were found from the site, unlike most civilisations,” Vidale said.
The professor was of the view that the people of this civilisation had very complex rituals since the excavated graves revealed that one grave contained two bodies placed strategically such that they face each other. “They might be relatives: Father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister or wife and husband. This signifies the emphasis they placed on the strong bonds of familial ties.”
The ancient remains were discovered at Odigram, which was the capital of Swat during the Hindu Shahi period between the 8th and 10th century. The region was identified as Ora by Aurel Stein, the city where Alexander the Great fought one of his battles.  Ruins of Raja Gira’s Fort and the Mahmood Ghaznvi Mosque were also excavated by Italians here.
View more pictures here.

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