Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Under the sands of time: Ancient Buddhist mound in Pakistan

Under the sands of time: Ancient Buddhist mound discovered in Sector E-11

Published: June 16, 2014
The mound is located in Sector E-11, next to the Pakistan Medical Cooperative Housing Society, Islamabad. PHOTO: EXPRESS
A group of researchers have discovered an ancient mound in Sector E-11 where they found a bovine terracotta pottery fragment that could date back to the Bronze Age. 
The mound, discovered during documentation work by the Potohar Research Group (PRG) and the National College of Arts (NCA), is in a precarious situation and needs preservation.
It lies at the northern end of Sector E-11 on Service Road North, a few yards from nearby houses and slums.
The PRG found the bovine figure on a terracotta potsherd during surface collection and without any excavation work.
NCA Rawalpindi Campus Director Dr Nadeem Omar Tarrar says that he sent a picture of one of the potsherds to Italian archaeologist Luca Olivieri, who reckoned it might date back to the Bronze Age.
Muhammad Bin Naveed, an archaeologist accompanying the researchers, said the mound is in extremely precarious condition and needs urgent excavation work for a detailed picture of the site.
Tarar called on the Federal Department of Archaeology and Museums preserve the site from encroachment and declare it a protected monument. “It is not unlikely that the mound is part of an ancient settlement that has a cemetery on top of it, but that will require careful investigation”.
He said they have sent relics to archaeologists to ascertain the age of the mound.
The researchers also said that in the nearby areas, there are signs of a historic graveyard which would date back to the dawn of civilisation. Tarrar said they have also found a rock formation which resembles Greek era work.
He said the Margalla foothills have been an important route and a hub of the Gandhara Civilisation, and the “discoveries are just a tip of the iceberg”.
Excavation work has been carried out in the vicinity of Islamabad in the past and the remnants of a Buddhist site were recovered from Sector G-12. All of the artifacts are on an ancient route that Buddhist caravans once used to reach Taxila.
Researchers hoped the authorities will carry out excavation at the site and protect the heritage site from further pillage. They suggested fencing off the mound to save it from further encroachment.
Capital Development Authority Spokesman Asim Khichi told The Express Tribune that a team of archeologists will visit the site soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2014.

Neglect: Ancient cemetery in D-12 faces ‘development’ threat

The graveyard is next to the ancient Buddhist mound in Sector D-12. PHOTO: FILE
A centuries-old cemetery in Sector D-12 faces destruction as the Capital Development Authority plans to flatten the area to develop the sector.
Situated on the northern strip of D-12, the graveyard, experts say, seems to be of a royal family as many graves are set in a huge single wall-like structure that has been buried under earth over the centuries and only the top is visible above ground.
Many of the graves have already been vandalised by the locals.
Remnants of animal bones have also been seen in abundance in the cemetery, which some researchers said might be part of magic or other such practices carried out in old graveyards.
National College of Arts Rawalpindi Campus Director Nadeem Omar Tarrar has been visiting the area with his research team for the last few weeks.
He told The Express Tribune that the age of the cemetery had yet to be determined, but one of the graves comprises three or four small graves, suggesting that it may have been a royal cemetery.
A number of ancient structures dating back to the Gandhara Civilisation have been uncovered in the foothills of Margallas. Most, if not all, face official neglect and badly need preservation.
The Buddhist remains lie on the ancient route once used by caravans to reach Taxila.
There are some newer graves near the ancient cemetery, but their alignment is not in sync with each other, suggesting different cultures.
Experts reckoned that this graveyard might be related to a pre-historic mound discovered recently by the same NCA team. There is also another series of graves some 300 yards from the cemetery.
There is a ridge in the cemetery which might have served as a wall or a water channel at some time in the past.
Tarrar says there are dozens of historical sites in the area which need urgent protection and further excavation.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2014.

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