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Pakistan’s trove of ancient treasures, lost civilizations and hidden relics

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Pakistan’s trove of ancient treasures, lost civilizations and hidden relics
Archaeologists revive efforts to unravel mysteries of lost cultures and protect heritage
Published: February 05, 2022 20:00 Last updated: February 06, 2022 22:00
Sana Jamal, Correspondent
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Bhamala Stupa dates to the 2nd century. It is located near Harper where a centuries-old Buddha statue was discovered in 2017.
Image Credit: Sana Jamal/Gulf News
Islamabad: Pakistan has a rich and fascinating history that goes back almost 5,000 years around the time when the first pyramids were being built in Egypt but the heritage remains little known, partly discovered and less celebrated.

The country is now realising the social, cultural and economic potential of its long-forgotten heritage sites. Pakistani archaeologists are reviving efforts to excavate the historic sites, discover the treasure trove of ancient cultures and unearth the stories of the past and unravel the mysteries of the lost civilisations.

“Pakistan is blessed with rich cultural heritage and is known as the cradle of civilisation. The whole country from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to Punjab to Sindh and Balochistan is full of archaeological treasures which remain hidden and undiscovered. Only about five per cent of the sites in KP province have been scientifically explored,” Dr Abdul Samad, KP director for archaeology and museums, told Gulf News.
He says the young archaeologists “take pride in protecting and preserving Pakistan’s multicultural heritage and hope they would do a lot better with funds and support from the government to “present the country’s glorious past to the world” and restore its identity as a multicultural society.
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Recent discoveries in KP province
Last week, KP’s archaeology department unearthed remarkable artefacts during excavations in Ghazi village in Haripur district. A palm-sized Buddha head, a sculpture and an ancient wall were discovered which are nearly 1,700 years old, according to the initial survey but the age and history of the site will be determined after scientific studies. “This discovery shows that heritage sites are scattered all over the region,” Dr Samad said.

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In December 2021, the department conducted an archaeological survey for the first time in Mohmand district where pre-historic caves, rock carvings, Buddhist and Hindu Shahi archaeological sites were discovered. Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is home to around 2,000 heritage sites in addition to 30,000 relics of the Gandhara civilisation.

Peshawar Museum has one of the world’s biggest collections of Buddhist artefacts. The provincial government is working to protect ancient Buddhist sites and develop infrastructure and facilities to attract foreign tourists. Pakistan’s Buddhist sites attract thousands of tourists from China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand every year.

Raising public awareness about cultural heritage
The KP department also recovered a 2000-year-old statue of Buddha from the possession of a local man in Haripur. Though historical buildings and objects are protected under the KP antiquities act 2016, experts are calling for public awareness to safeguard the region’s rich heritage and put an end to smuggling with strong liaison with local police and administration. “These are not ruins. These are treasures which must be protected and cherished by the people as well as the government,” Dr Samad implored.
Pakistan – the cradle of civilisation
The pre-Islamic ancient Pakistan was home to centuries-old civilizations like Mehrgarh (7000 to 2500 BC), Indus Valley (2500 and 1500 BC) and the Gandhara (550 BC to 1021 AD), making it a revered destination for followers of Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism.

The country, however, lost many of the precious artefacts due to antiquities smuggling and also the government’s negligence. However, the current government is focusing efforts to preserve and promote heritage sites. The opening of the Kartarpur corridor is one such example of conserving and opening heritage sites for religious tourism. Thousands of Sikh tourists from all over the world have visited the sacred site in Pakistan since 2019.

Pakistan’s heritage wonders
The ancient cultures and people who once lived in what is now Pakistan:
Mehrgarh — one of the world’s oldest civilisations
Lost in the rugged terrain of Balochistan is Mehrgarh — one of the oldest civilisations and village sites in South Asia with early evidence of farming, herding, metallurgy and the earliest evidence of dentistry. It is believed to be older than the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations, according to Baloch historian Mohammad Marri.

The site, first unearthed in 1974 by Frencharchaeologists, was once home to a developed civilisation that existed there until around 8,000 years ago, experts say. The site of Mehrgarh, located in the north-western part of Kachi-Bolan region, is spread over 300 hectares with traces of a continuous occupation between 7000 to 2600 BC.

Rahman Dheri — earliest planned urban city
Archaeologists believe that Rahman Dheri in Dera Ismail Khan in Gomal Valley is one of the earliest planned urban sites in the region. Pakistan’s leading archaeologist Professor Ahmad Hasan Dani helped unearth the site in 1971.
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He wrote that “The excavation of this site will open up new clues to the understanding of the mature Harappan culture.” Later, Professor Farzand Ali Durrani of the University of Peshawar excavated it during 1976-1982 and later in 1991. The pre-Harappan archaeological site dates back to 4000 BC. The site was located on the major trade routes linking South Asia with Central Asia.

Mohenjo Daro — world’s first planned city
During 2500 BC, when the Egyptians were building pyramids, the residents of the Indus civilisation flourished in urban houses made of mud bricks. The Indus civilization is known as “the first planned city in the world” built with baked bricks, fascinating architecture, elaborate drainage systems that hinted that its residents were skilled urban planners.
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Mohenjo Daro had an estimated population of around 40,000. Anthropologists believe that Harappa and Mohenjo Daro were two great cities of the Indus Valley Civilization (also known as the Harappan civilisation) and one of the finest examples of thriving trade and agriculture-based economy. Indus Valley is one of the world’s ancient civilisations alongside Egypt, Mesopotamia and China. Deciphering Indus Script ould offer unique insight into the civilisation.
Gandhara Civilisation — the cradle of Buddhist civilisation


Another old civilization that flourished in Pakistan is Gandhara which was spread over a vast region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern Punjab. The Gandhara kingdom thrived in what is now northwestern Pakistan in around 1000 BC and lasted for over 1000 years.
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One of the most prominent sites of this era is Taxila known as the ancient seat of learning. Taxila, which connected China to the West, flourished culturally and economically. Another historic site is the Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahi (Throne of Origins), founded in the early 1st century.

The ruins comprise a main stupa court, a group of three stupas, meditation cells, a conference hall, covered stepped passageways among other buildings. Listed as a world heritage site, it is one of the most well-structured and well-preserved Buddhist monasteries in Pakistan’s Gandhara region which continues to attract historians and tourists.
In December 2021, Pakistan’s oldest Buddhist temple dating back to 300 BC was found in the Bazira area of Swat by Italian experts who termed it an important discovery that proves a new architectural shape of Buddhist structure in Gandhara. In 2017, KP witnessed its most remarkable discovery of a 1,700-year-old and 14-metre-high Buddha statue from the third century, making it the world’s oldest ‘sleeping Buddha’ statue, predating such statutes in the region.
 

Am.balanced

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Nice one.
read the details of the Yazidis, the oldest religion of Iraq and their obvious origins in Indian culture.
Also read about the book The Nabatean Agriculture. An early Islam period book, it's the first book on agriculture in Arabic, Its writer said it was derived from thousands of years old traditions of middle East. Interesting part of this book is where the writer says that as per his studies of ancient Iraqi texts and traditions, Adam and his parents came from India and introduced agriculture in the so called fertile crescent of middle East. Adam was the founder of the first agricultural civilization of middle East as per this writer, not the first human as such. And it makes perfect sense when you connect all the dots and remaining evidences. Fertile crescent is also the place from where humans spread to Europe as it was thawing after mini ice age
 

_NOBODY_

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When you try to impose a monolethic religious ideology not in tune with your culture, you often face the issues unheard of. Pzkistan is victim of forceful imposition of Islam over its vibrant culture. I afraid the coming days eill be evdn worse.
What load of horseh*t! First of all, Islam wasn't imposed on Pakistan, this country was created by Muslims, mainly for the Muslims of the region and welcomes those who wish to live here despite being non-Muslims or not from this region. Secondly, every single South Asian culture deserves to be extinguished or modified to the point where it primarily follows the culture of civilizations that are on the path of prosperity like the Western countries and East Asian countries. The pathetic cultures of South Asia don't belong in the modern world at least not in their current state.
 

Maula Jatt

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When you try to impose a monolethic religious ideology not in tune with your culture, you often face the issues unheard of. Pzkistan is victim of forceful imposition of Islam over its vibrant culture. I afraid the coming days eill be evdn worse.
How?
 

Talwar e Pakistan

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Nice one.
read the details of the Yazidis, the oldest religion of Iraq and their obvious origins in Indian culture.
Also read about the book The Nabatean Agriculture. An early Islam period book, it's the first book on agriculture in Arabic, Its writer said it was derived from thousands of years old traditions of middle East. Interesting part of this book is where the writer says that as per his studies of ancient Iraqi texts and traditions, Adam and his parents came from India and introduced agriculture in the so called fertile crescent of middle East. Adam was the founder of the first agricultural civilization of middle East as per this writer, not the first human as such. And it makes perfect sense when you connect all the dots and remaining evidences. Fertile crescent is also the place from where humans spread to Europe as it was thawing after mini ice age
Agriculture was introduced to South Asia from West Asia.
 

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When you try to impose a monolethic religious ideology not in tune with your culture, you often face the issues unheard of. Pzkistan is victim of forceful imposition of Islam over its vibrant culture. I afraid the coming days eill be evdn worse.

Who is your PM these days ?
 

Talwar e Pakistan

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When you try to impose a monolethic religious ideology not in tune with your culture, you often face the issues unheard of. Pzkistan is victim of forceful imposition of Islam over its vibrant culture. I afraid the coming days eill be evdn worse.
I'm not sure what point you're trying to make or why you're making it on this specific thread. Islam is very much in tune with our cultures, it's one of the leading reasons why it was so easy for the peoples of modern-day Pakistan to convert to Islam.
 

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When you try to impose a monolethic religious ideology not in tune with your culture, you often face the issues unheard of. Pzkistan is victim of forceful imposition of Islam over its vibrant culture. I afraid the coming days eill be evdn worse.

Italy was not a Christian country during the Roman empire yet they can own their history. Pakistan can do the same. This is Pakistani history.

Indians really do have an over inflated ego, there is no such thing as India pre-partition. The India your historians claim is a fabrication.
 

Surya 1

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There are many examples. Even kite flying festival faced Fatwa on the name of Islam. Ahemadias declared non Muslims. Numbers of Sufi daragahs were blasted. Close marriages were promoted on the name of religion. I am surprised that you are asking such question.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make or why you're making it on this specific thread. Islam is very much in tune with our cultures, it's one of the leading reasons why it was so easy for the peoples of modern-day Pakistan to convert to Islam.

I believe that ground realities are different. Now not much non Muslims are left in Pakistan so question for others to convert to Islam is not much important. However, let us end this topic here because you know very well that this forum is not the appropriate place to discuss this topic.
 

Maula Jatt

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There are many examples. Even kite flying festival faced Fatwa on the name of Islam.
anyone follow it? I can issue fatwas all day long who cares, fatwas on it were been issued since forever
but the festival was celebrated with zeal, every year attendance was higher than ever
(it was banned later cause it was resulting in the deaths of motorcyclists)

Should I start picking up random Hindu preachers and what they do and use it to make an opinion on all the hindus?
Ahemadias declared non Muslims.
view of almost every practicing Muslim in the world- state just acted on it
Numbers of Sufi daragahs were blasted.
terrorism of roughe groups- how do they represent the people of Pakistan or the state of Pakistan?
Close marriages were promoted on the name of religion.
Cousin marriages are discouraged in Islam, the prophet never married a cousin
this became a cultural tradition to protect agricultural land by keeping the land in the family in tribalist rural society - it had nothing to do with religion
I am surprised that you are asking such a question.
???
 

Surya 1

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anyone follow it? I can issue fatwas all day long who cares
(it was banned later cause it was resulting in the deaths of motorcyclists)

Even people die in stampede in Foot ball matches in west and in religious gathering in countries like Subcontinent countries but they are not banned. It is clearly a case of dominance of religion over culture by the thekedars of religion to enhance their power.
view of almost every practicing Muslim in the world- state just acted on it

Thanks for agreeing with me.
terrorism of roughe groups- how do they represent the people of Pakistan or the state of Pakistan?

Yes, I agree. It is a work of rogue group but it is done on the basis of religion. Religion is used as a tool punish those who do not follow the same ideology. I have heard that Quran says that Mosque can not be built on the place of religious shrine of other by destroying it. However, thousands of Mosques were built by destroying the religious shrines of other religions. This has nothing to do with Islam , infact it is anti Islam. However, religion was used as a tool to do the act which is exactly opposite to what the book teaches. This is what exactly I argue.

Cousin marriages are discouraged in Islam, the prophet never married a cousin
this became a cultural tradition to protect agricultural land by keeping the land in the family in tribalist rural society - it had nothing to do with religion

I do not know whether Islam promotes it or not but Mullashs definitely promote it. Once again religion is used to promote non cultural things be dominated by Religion (As it is practiced).
 

Surya 1

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What load of horseh*t! First of all, Islam wasn't imposed on Pakistan, this country was created by Muslims, mainly for the Muslims of the region and welcomes those who wish to live here despite being non-Muslims or not from this region. Secondly, every single South Asian culture deserves to be extinguished or modified to the point where it primarily follows the culture of civilizations that are on the path of prosperity like the Western countries and East Asian countries. The pathetic cultures of South Asia don't belong in the modern world at least not in their current state.

Time is a big teacher and fully capable of correcting many wrongs and lies. This lie narrative of " Islam wasn't imposed on Pakistan, this country was created by Muslims, mainly for the Muslims of the region and welcomes those who wish to live here despite being non-Muslims or not from this region" will soon be corrected. Any ideology does not have pure truth in their basis is bound to demolish or disappear. Many such civilizations, religions, empires, Ideologies have disappeared from this earth. Only Sanatan has survived. I do not see any future of Islam beyond 50 years.
 

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Time is a big teacher and fully capable of correcting many wrongs and lies. This lie narrative of " Islam wasn't imposed on Pakistan, this country was created by Muslims, mainly for the Muslims of the region and welcomes those who wish to live here despite being non-Muslims or not from this region" will soon be corrected. Any ideology does not have pure truth in their basis is bound to demolish or disappear. Many such civilizations, religions, empires, Ideologies have disappeared from this earth. Only Sanatan has survived. I do not see any future of Islam beyond 50 years.
Indeed time is the greatest teacher in our universe. You are free to believe what you wish to believe. Islam managed to survive the 7th, 14th and 20th centuries which were by far the worst time for Islam and Muslims so what makes you think that Islam won't survive the 21st century? What you perceive to be the "pure truth" is a lie to someone else and what that someone else believes to be the "pure truth" is a lie to you. Look at Judaism and the insane challenges that it had to face since its inception, it has not only managed to survive for 4000 years but it is thriving. In the grand scheme of things, Hinduism is only limited to brown people and it has not and most probably will not thrive anywhere outside of South Asia, unlike Christianity and Islam which have penetrated every corner of this planet. All three Abrahamic religions are thriving in the 21st century so please explain why you stated that only Sanatan has survived?

@denel @Foinikas @Hakikat ve Hikmet @Trango Towers @PakAlp @Wergeland @UKBengali @Bilal9 @Novus ordu seclorum @Rushd Alam @OldenWisdom...قول بزرگ

Guys, please don't turn this into a hate thread, I summoned you all here to have an intellectual discussion.
 

Surya 1

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Indeed time is the greatest teacher in our universe. You are free to believe what you wish to believe. Islam managed to survive the 7th, 14th and 20th centuries which were by far the worst time for Islam and Muslims so what makes you think that Islam won't survive the 21st century? What you perceive to be the "pure truth" is a lie to someone else and what that someone else believes to be the "pure truth" is a lie to you. Look at Judaism and the insane challenges that it had to face since its inception, it has not only managed to survive for 4000 years but it is thriving. In the grand scheme of things, Hinduism is only limited to brown people and it has not and most probably will not thrive anywhere outside of South Asia, unlike Christianity and Islam which have penetrated every corner of this planet. All three Abrahamic religions are thriving in the 21st century so please explain why you stated that only Sanatan has survived?

@denel @Foinikas @Hakikat ve Hikmet @Trango Towers @PakAlp @Wergeland @UKBengali @Bilal9 @Novus ordu seclorum @Rushd Alam @OldenWisdom...قول بزرگ

Guys, please don't turn this into a hate thread, I summoned you all here to have an intellectual discussion.

Christianity has died. It is just on paper. The countries which are called Christian countries are left with very few practicing Christians. Similarly, Muslims are fast becoming atheists. Most of the Muslims of the world have a basic question in their hearts and minds. What Islam can offer to them? The answer they get force them to leave Islam. They see their many problems rooted into Islam. On the other hand Hinduism is thriving without any systematic propaganda, offer of money, effort to convert etc. Hindu philosophy is attracting millions across the world. There are many white Hindus, many converted to Hinduism from Islam on their own. Even Japanese and Chinese are attracted to Hinduism. Abrahmic religions are religions for groups based on geographical area, cast, ethnicity, color, creed etc. They have clear distinction of believers and non believers. Hinduism on other hand is a Dharma of mankind. It has no distinction of believers of Sanatan and others. 1500 years is a very small period so far as mankind is concern. Many such religions and ideologies managed to survived for few centuries before they became irrelevant.
 
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