Category Archives: PAKISTAN

Mehrgarh and the dawn of Civilisation (8000 BCE -2500 BCE)

Mehrgarh and the dawn of Civilisation (8000 BCE -2500 BCE)

The excavations carried out at Mehrgarh have proved that the site represents a highly developed civilization that existed there until around 8,000 years ago, according to a French archaeologist.

The renowned archaeology scientist and Director of the Musee Guimet, Paris, Jean Francois Jarrige were delivering a lecture, organized by the French consulate general, on Mehrgarh at the Alliance Francaise.

Mr Jarrige, whose well-researched lecture was punctuated with slides, has carried out extensive archaeological explorations and investigations under the French Archaeological Mission in the Karachi area.

The mission has been doing exploratory work in Balochistan for nearly three-and-a-half decades. He said that Mehrgarh and its associated sites provided irrevocable evidence of considerable cultural development in early antiquity as far back as 8,000 years.

Ruins of houses at Mehrgarh

Most of the ruins at Mehrgarh are buried under alluvium deposits, though some structures could be seen eroding on the surface. Currently, the excavated remains at the site comprise a complex of large compartmental mud-brick structures.

The function of these subdivided units, built of hand-formed plano-convex mud bricks, is still not clear but it is thought that many were used probably for storage, rather than residential, purposes. A couple of mounds also contain formal cemeteries, parts of which have been excavated.

Although Mehrgarh was abandoned by the time of the emergence of the literate urbanized phase of the Indus civilization around Moenjodaro, Harappa, etc., its development illustrates the development of the civilization’s subsistence patterns, as well as its craft and trade.

Mr Jarrige said that many beautiful ceramics had been found at the site in Balochistan and were believed to be of the era as early as the eighth millennium BC. The French archaeologist said that studies suggested that the findings at Mehrgarh linked this area to the Indus civilization.

There are indications that bones were used in making tools for farming, textile, and there is also evidence of the use of cotton even in that period. Mr Jarrige pointed out that the skeletons found at the site indicated that the height of people of that era was larger than that of the later period.

He said that the architecture at that time was well developed. Rice was the staple food for those people and there were also indications of trade activities.

The French expert spoke of the difficulties he and his team faced during the exploration work in the area and regretted that some time back, owing to a feud between the two tribes, the Mehrgarh site had been vandalized and the exploratory work had come to a standstill. The work has not yet been resumed fully.

He also expressed his concern over the situation where a large number of antiquities belonging to Mehrgarh and other archaeological sites in Zhob and Loralai were available in the market. He called for efforts towards curbing such business, arguing that these antiquities belonged to the entire humanity, and not just a few individuals.

He, however, made it clear that the objects discovered by his team had fully been accounted for and handed over to the concerned officials. He said he would soon be publishing a book on the discoveries at this site, and hoped that this site would also come well-known like certain other sites in the country.

Earlier, Consul General of France Jean-Yves Berthault said that numerous French archaeologists had been carrying out exploration activities in different parts of the country, particularly Balochistan, for over three decades now and making significant discoveries viz-a-viz the history and heritage of mankind.

A 12,500-year-old sphinx discovered in Pakistan

A 12,500-year-old sphinx discovered in Pakistan

The Balochistan Sphinx, or the Lion of Balochistan, is a rare shape in modern-day Pakistan. The oddly-shaped building, which is located in Lesbela, Pakistan, resembles the famous ancient Egyptian Sphinx in Giza in some details.

As a response, modern historians and writers believe that long-lost cultures flourished before ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, hence this odd Pakistani formation has, therefore, been the subject of debate and discussion.

The odd geological formation in Pakistan was only revealed to the world when, in 2004, the Makran Coastal Highway opened up, and people started transiting near the geological formation. The highway linked Karachi with the port town of Gwadar on the Makran coast.

Despite a complete archaeological survey, the odd Pakistani “Sphinx” is often passed off by experts as a natural formation. Different images from different angles of the geological formation may suggest a certain resemblance to the more famous Egyptian Sphinx; a monument thought to have been carved out of a single, massive limestone block, sometime around 4,500 years ago, during the reign of Khafre, the man who is also credited with building the second-largest pyramid at the Giza plateau.

Photographs of the Balochistan Sphinx—located in the Hingol National Park—cause more confusion than clarity, and some people may find it hard to believe that such a geological formation was indeed carved and shaped by natural forces. For some, the location where the oddly-shaped formation stands may seem as if it were carved sometime in the distant past.

​​Some features of the site reminiscent of architectural features.

A glance at the “Sphinx” appears to show a well-defined jawline, as well as clearly noticeable facial features such as eyes, mouth, and nose. These also seem to be perfectly spaced, as if carved in perfect proportion to one another.

So, wouldn’t this suffice to say that the Balochistan Sphinx was carved by man and not my nature? Not really. We could be seeing something that resembles the Sphinx of Egypt because of Pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon that causes us to see things that aren’t there.

Also, it is impossible to clearly state that something is or is not a monument, or carved by man, by simply looking at what appears to be a rock formation in the middle of nowhere.

Without a proper archaeological survey, we can’t possibly know whether the oddly shaped geological formation was carved by weather erosion or by ancient civilizations.

A 12,500-year-old sphinx discovered in Pakistan
Sphinx of Balochistan

Throughout the years, different opinions defined the odd formation as one of a natural origin, and one of artificial origin. The opinions are divided.

One author, Bibhu Dev Misra, who runs this blog, argues the Balochistan Sphinx is part of a massive architectural complex, and that the Sphinx is clearly surrounded by the remnants of ancient temples carved into the bedrock.

Describing the Sphinx Bibhu Dev Misra explains that: A cursory glance at the impressive sculpture shows the Sphinx to have a well-defined jawline, and clearly discernible facial features such as eyes, nose, and mouth, which are placed in seemingly perfect proportion to each other.

But if it really is a manmade monument, who carved it and when was it carved?

The shape of the Sphinx of Balochistan is very close to the design and proportions of the Egyptian Sphinx.

Oddly enough, just as the ancient Egyptian Sphinx appears to have a headdress—called a Nemes—the Pakistani counterpart seems to have one as well. Of course, this may be just part of pareidolia kicking in, drawing dots between a well-known monument—the ancient Egyptian Sphinx—and a geological formation that resembles the Egyptian monument.

In addition to certain elements around the upper part of the geological formation bearing a resemblance to the Egyptian Sphinx, Bibhu Dev Misra argues that more symmetrical features near the alleged Sphinx are evidence of human activity, and contradict the notion that the site was carved by weather erosion.

The author argues that we can see a clear symmetrical formation of steps and pillars around the Sphinx, which offer further evidence to the idea that the Balochistan Sphinx was carved by man and not by nature.

“The steps appear to be evenly spaced, and of uniform height. The entire site gives the impression of a grand, rock-cut, architectural complex,” the researcher writes.

As for its age, it impossible to know. The age of 12,000 years has been thrown around by various blogs and authors. However, since we can’t know whether this is really Sphinx or not, it is impossible to suggest an age for the alleged Sphinx.

Without extensive archaeological fieldwork and archaeological excavations, we can’t possibly know whether the site of the Balochistan Sphinx was carved by a long-lost, forgotten civilization—as some authors think—or if it is just another site on Earth where weather erosion and geology carved a curious formation.

1,300-Year-old Hindu temple discovered in Northwest Pakistan

1,300-Year-old Hindu temple discovered in Northwest Pakistan

1300-year-old Hindu Temple of Lord Vishnu was discovered in Swat district of Pakistan. It is the first temple of Gandhara civilisation discovered in Swat district.

It has been discovered by Pakistani and Italian archaeological experts at a mountain in northwest Pakistan’s Swat district.

According to the reports, the archaeologist excavated a Hindu temple at Barikot Ghundai in Northwest Pakistan. Fazle Khaliq of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Department of Archaeology said that the temple discovered is of God Vishnu.

The discovery was made during an excavation at Barikot Ghundai.(Italian Archaeological Mission to Pakistan )
Vishnu is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. He is the supreme being within Vaishnavism, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism.

The temple is estimated to have been built the Hindus 1,300 years ago during the Hindu Shahi period, the archaeologist said.

The Hindu Shahis of Kabul Shahis, a Hindu dynasty which ruled the Kabul Valley (eastern Afghanistan), Gandhara (modern-day Pakistan), and present-day northwestern India from 850-1026 CE may have built the Hindu temple in the region.

During their excavation, the archaeologists also found traces of cantonment and watchtowers near the temple site.

The archaeologists have also found a water tank near the excavated site, which is believed to be used by the Hindus for bathing before offering their prayers at the temple.

Khaliq further added that Swat district is home to thousand-year-old archaeology sites and the traces of the Hindu Shahi period have been found for the first time in the area. Several Buddhist temples and worship places are also present in the Swat district.

Dr Luka, the head of the Italian archaeological mission, said this was the first temple of the Gandhara civilisation discovered in Swat district.

Only recently, newly discovered Buddha statue in Pakistan was ruined by Islamists

In July 2020, a newly discovered Buddha statue was smashed into pieces by local construction workers and a Muslim cleric on Saturday in Pakistan.

The relic was discovered while digging the foundation for a house in the Pashtun-dominated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Mardan district in Pakistan.

A video of the act showed the construction workers, along with a Muslim cleric, smashing the Buddha statue using a sledgehammer. They were seen walking over and destroying the life-sized Buddha status while expressing their acrimony against Buddhism, which they consider anti-Islam.

According to reports, the statue was destroyed on the order of a local Muslim cleric, who ruled that it is against Islam. ‘Your nikah would cease to exist and you will no more be a believer if the statue isn’t disposed of’, the cleric told the people at the site, who then followed his orders to destroy the priceless relic, which was accidentally discovered in a good condition.

In July 2020, in a similar incident, the ancient Buddhist rock carvings in the Chilas area of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK)’s Gilgit-Baltistan was desecrated by Islamists, who painted Pakistani flag and slogans on the rock-cut art.

According to reports, the incident came to light when the locals of Gilgit-Baltistan posted images on social media platforms. The Islamists had vandalised the rock carvings by writing Islamic slogans on the rock-art that belonged to 800 AD.

An Ancient society is 2,500 years older than the Egyptian Pyramids

An Ancient society is 2,500 years older than the Egyptian Pyramids

Ancient Egypt may appear as the epitome of an advanced early civilisation to many by its impressive pyramids and complex rules. However, recent research reveals the civilization of the Indus Valley in India and Pakistan, known for its well-planned settlements and outstanding art, before Egypt and Mesopotamia.

With its impressive pyramids and complex rules Ancient Egypt may seem to many the epitome of an advanced early civilisation. However, new evidence suggests the Indus Valley Civilisation in India and Pakistan, famed for its well-planned cities and impressive crafts, predates Egypt and Mesopotamia

Experts now assume that it is 8,000 years old – 2,500 years older than commonly believed – and still considered one of the oldest cultures in the world. Their study also sheds new light on why the seemingly flourishing civilization collapsed.

A team of researchers from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Institute of Archaeology, Deccan College Pune, and IIT Kharagpur, have analyzed pottery fragments and animal bones from the Bhirrana in the north of the country using carbon-dating methods.

‘Based on radiocarbon ages from different trenches and levels the settlement at Bhirrana has been inferred to be the oldest (>9 ka BP) in the Indian sub-continent,’ the experts wrote in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal. 

They used also used ‘optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) method’ to check the dating and investigate whether the climate changed when the civilization was thriving, to fill ‘a critical gap in information … [about] the Harappan [Indus Valley] civilization.’

While more tests are required, the study suggests the Indus Valley Civilisation pre-dates those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, which are also famed for their impressive ability to build organized cities.

It’s thought the civilization spread across parts of what is now Pakistan and northwest India in the Bronze Age and at its peak, some five million people lived in one million square miles along citadels built near the basins of the Indus River.

‘Based on radiocarbon ages from different trenches and levels the settlement at Bhirrana has been inferred to be the oldest (>9 ka BP) in the Indian sub-continent,’ the experts wrote in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal
Indian caretaker Hirabhai Makwana inspects the ancient bricks at the drainage site in the ancient town of Lothal. While more tests are required, the study suggests the Indus Valley Civilisation pre-dates those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, which are also famed for their impressive ability to build organised cities

Pottery and metals discovered at various ancient sites in the region indicate the people were skilled craftsmen and metallurgists, able to work copper, bronze, lead, and tin, as well as bake bricks and control the supply and drainage of water.

Anindya Sarkar, a professor at the department of geology and geophysics at IIT Kharagpur, told International Business Times: ‘Our study pushes back the antiquity to as old as 8th millennium before present and will have major implications to the evolution of human settlements in Indian sub-continent.’ 

The archaeological sites at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan, show the ancient people were adept town planners and farmers.

Discovered in the 1920s, the Unesco site of Mohenjo-Daro is one of the largest and most advanced settlements of the Indus Valley Civilisation, with streets arranged round rectangular brick houses, two large assembly halls, a market place, public baths, and a central well.

Individual households got their water from smaller wells and wastewater was channelled into main streets, with some more lavish properties boasting their own bath and a second storey.

It’s thought the civilization spread across parts of what is now Pakistan and northwest India in the Bronze Age and at its peak, some five million people lived in one million square miles along citadels built near the basins of the Indus River
Indian caretaker Hirabhai Makwana inspects the ancient bricks at the Acropolis site. Experts have previously suggested the seemingly successful and advanced civilization was gradually wiped out when the Indus River dried up as the result of climate change

Experts have previously suggested the seemingly successful and advanced civilization was gradually wiped out when the Indus River dried up as the result of climate change. There are many other theories too, including an Aryan invasion, catastrophic floods, changing sea levels, societal violence, and the spread of infectious diseases.

But the team has come up with a new theory.

‘Our study suggests that the climate was probably not the cause of Harappan decline,’ they wrote.

While the ancient people relied upon heavy and regular monsoons between 9,000 and 7,000 years ago to water their crops, after this period, evidence at Bhirrana shows people continued to survive despite changing weather patterns.

‘Increasing evidence suggests that these people shifted their crop patterns from the large-grained cereals like wheat and barley during the early part of intensified monsoon to drought-resistant species of small millets and rice in the later part of declining monsoon and thereby changed their subsistence strategy,’ they continued.

However, changing the crops they grew and harvested resulted in the ‘de-urbanization’ of cities and no need for large food storage facilities. Instead, the people swapped to personal storage spaces to look after their families.

‘Because these later crops generally have a much lower yield, the organized large storage system of mature Harappan period was abandoned giving rise to smaller more individual household-based crop processing and storage system and could act as a catalyst for the de-urbanization of the Harappan civilization rather than an abrupt collapse,’ the team wrote. 

Chinese built a dam to submerge engraved heritage rocks of Buddhism in Gilgit Baltistan

A resident of the area, Araib Ali Baig, wrote, “The art of rock carving is present in all regions of Gilgit Baltistan, mainly in the districts of Diamir, Hunza and Nagar and Baltistan”. “Speaking specifically of Baltistan, these engravings can be seen on former settlements and popular old routes along the Indus and Shyok”.

This is how China is ruining Buddhist treasure in Pakistan Occupied Ladakh

Since the Chinese company develops Diamer-Bhasha, a dam in Pakistan’s Gilgit – Baltistan region occupied Ladakh, most of the Buddhist relics in an around some of the ancient villages would be submerged.

The dam has come as an end to the rich Buddhist culture and treasure that was dominant before the 14th and 15th centuries when forced conversion by Muslim invaders from Central Asia started in the region.

However it is interesting to know that even the local Muslim population is criticizing the construction of the dam and destruction of Buddhist heritage.

Ancient Buddhist rock inscriptions in Gilgit Baltistan

The local population says that the Buddhist relics found in most of the villages in a form on engraved symbols on rocks, Gautam Buddha’s statues made of rocks among many other artifacts. These could help in making the region of the occupied areas as self-dependent by promoting tourism.

The controversy erupted in Gilgit Baltistan soon after the Pakistan government on 13 May signed Rs 442 billion contract with a Chinese company for the construction of the dam that would submerge about 50 villages uprooting a large chunk of the population.

The Diamer-Bhasha Dam is located on the Indus River in northern Pakistan between Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Diamer district in Gilgit Baltistan.

Many Muslim residents of the area have on the social media joined the debate against the destruction of the rich heritage that the dam would cause in the area.

One of them remarked that “the wealth of Indic history spanning over millennia will soon be submerged under waters of the dam in Gilgit Baltistan”.

A resident of the area, Araib Ali Baig, wrote, “The art of rock carving is present in all regions of Gilgit Baltistan, mainly in the districts of Diamir, Hunza and Nagar and Baltistan”. “Speaking specifically of Baltistan, these engravings can be seen on former settlements and popular old routes along the Indus and Shyok”.

The project will destroy a number of petroglyphs that are the talking rocks of the region. Unplanned development activities, commercial painting practices, chalk on the walls, hatred of local people for these pre-Islamic sculptures, and apathy from government departments have also led to the rapid disappearance of these historic rock art, said a comment.

Baig commented, “Inscriptions which were destroyed during the conversion of the local population to Islam in the 14th and 15th centuries AD. Even today, these inscriptions are easy to find in the villages located mainly on the east bank of the Indus, but they are in a state of disrepair”.

“Yes these sculptures belong to Buddhism. They can attract millions of tourists across the globe. Irrespective of religion we should preserve this ancient heritage”, commented another resident of POJK.

An archaeologist of the area, Dr. Ahmad Hasan Dani has classified these rock engravings into four categories. The oldest category includes rock carvings dating from at least two millennia BC and even dating back to the fifth or sixth millennium BC.

Such engraved rocks are of great heritage importance and the Buddhist spiritual and temporal leader Dalai Lama during a recent visit to Leh had called for preserving these ancient rocks scattered along the Indus River and other places in the Ladakh union territory (UT).

Dalai Lama made the appeal when he came to know that the ancient rocks with inscriptions of the Kushan period and the Bronze Age were decaying due to negligence.

Such rocks are scattered throughout Ladakh but the largest cluster of rocks carrying inscriptions and images of animals, hunting scenes, human giants, masks, and various other themes is in the Murgi-Tokpo Village that was properly preserving these.