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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.
I have been saying this for a long time. Why do our people suffer from identity complex? Why do our people need to look to others? When wew are the scions of the cradle of human civilization. We were building high civilization when rest of the so called 'greats' were savages. All we need is our heritage and fcuk you to all others.

We as people are simply superior to other races. We may be down right now but Indus will rise to her glorious past.

@PAKISTANFOREVER
 

Rushd Alam

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There's no research on it so I honestly cant back my claim here
but atheism or agnosticism is definitely growing, I have seen Facebook pages, youtube, and comments basically SM activity of Pakistani atheists growing scary fast every year its doubling or tripling in activity, it's decently big(of course not the majority but a good chunk) among urban upper-middle class, I am from that background myself so I know its an issue (also I was agnostic too, but I have slowly changed my views about religion over time)

Pak clergy needs to do something or else they will be lost forever, this is the most important section of any society

On the other hand, Islam does seem to attract people the world over, in masjids here I regularly see downtrodden white, and black people in Friday prayers etc
It gives them hope, discipline, a sense of belonging, etc, Islam isn't an elitist religion, more egalitarian, that is where its strength is in terms of attracting a sheer number

SO I don't see Islam stopping anytime soon, but yes your base is becoming shaky, you do need reforms in terms of effectively communicating your ideology, your way of life
The ones weak in their faith/iman will perish. If thousands of weak muslims leave millions of strong muslim will join the faith.


Munafiks were always there who showed of their islamic practices but anyone lacking iman has no place for Allah. Iman is fundamental to islam.
 

Varunastra

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Islam is NOT in competition with anybody or any other man-made religion. Islam is THE definition of religion. It means submission in faith, worship and accountability to the unseen God who created us. People who lose faith can worship anything, including their own desires and ego. 'Hinduism' has no definition and is full of contradictions. It worships people as idols who absolutely hated idol worship. Imagine I make your dad's idol in my house and begin worshiping it. Freaking weird.
How is this related to Hinduism? One guy can worship any random tom, doesn't make it part of Hinduism
 

PAKISTANFOREVER

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I have been saying this for a long time. Why do our people suffer from identity complex? Why do our people need to look to others? When wew are the scions of the cradle of human civilization. We were building high civilization when rest of the so called 'greats' were savages. All we need is our heritage and fcuk you to all others.

We as people are simply superior to other races. We may be down right now but Indus will rise to her glorious past.

@PAKISTANFOREVER




Bro, we need to empower our youth and give them confidence. We need to change the narrative and promote our ancient cultural/civilisational heritage. Our people need to feel proud of our heritage without being made to feel guilty by anti-Pakistani propaganda. Everything we need as a people is within us, not outside of us.
 

Surya 1

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On any thread on our heritage one thing is guaranteed. You will get inferiority complexed Gangus from the swamps of Ganga Basin coming over to begin openly defacating and soiling our history. And true to form this is happening here as well.

@Surya 1

Look what your own PM says. First arrange a toilet for yourself and than come for discussion.

 

PAKISTANFOREVER

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Surya 1

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firohot4321

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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
All scientific data archeology points that first humans came from Africa middle East is much closer to Africa then India check a map sonny

Btw it's well recognised fact cultivation of wheat and barley started from Syria Iraq the fertile Cresent of ancient mesopotamia
While rice from China South East Asia

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.
Even the very word Hindu is given by Persian a mispronounced Sindhu people of sindh
A religion that sticks to the boundary of subcontinent and considers outsiders as malech is pretty much geographical and myopic

can you give reliable stats of all those white Hindus who converted from Islam and not your WhatsApp university bs and compare that to. Hindus who left Hinduism and embraced Islam or Christianity :)

Btw you are one to talk about universal religion when your own religion has Draconian caste based discrimination ;)
 
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Varunastra

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You must be joking. Worship of idols of humans (as well of non-humans) is widespread, fundamental practise in Hinduism.
We worship our Gods and their avatars, where do you see us worshiping idols of any random human?
If you mean to say why we respect(worship is too strong a word) humans at large like divinity it is because we believe we are all part of the eternal Brahman.
If you are interested search for :
tat tvam asi.
 

Novus ordu seclorum

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We worship our Gods and their avatars, where do you see us worshiping idols of any random human?
If you mean to say why we respect(worship is too strong a word) humans at large like divinity it is because we believe we are all part of the eternal Brahman.
If you are interested search for :
tat tvam asi.

Hinduism does ritual worship of idols. You have not asked everyone whom you worship if they want to be worshiped or respected in a ritualized way. There are people among them who hated idolatry, for example the Hindustani ruling caste. If a ruler worships humans as gods, or when the ruled worship the ruler, either way it cannot be a fair order as it undermines justice.
 
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