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10 December 2006
Dam threatens ancient Pakistani rock-art sites

Leading German archaeologists had mapped out thousands of years old archaeological remains which would be lost forever as a result of the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam, in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The reservoir would endanger the precious regions archaeological remains some 50,000 rock carvings and 5,000 inscriptions.
     Professor Harald Hauptmann, Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, who had been working on these sites with Dr Ahmad Hassan Dani of Quaid-i-Azam University since 1985, said it made him 'very sad' that ancient remains ranging from the Neolithic age to 16th century CE would be no more. Dr Hauptmann was heading the research project focusing on documenting and publishing the rock carvings and inscriptions to be found in the high mountain region of northern Pakistan. He said the greatest part of the rock art galleries of Diamer District would be destroyed as a result of the construction of the dam which was a tragedy. "Forget everything. More than 80 per cent will be submerged and the remaining rock carvings on the slopes be destroyed because of the construction of the new 100-km stretch of Karakorum Highway."
     Although, Professor Hauptmann was fighting a losing battle against Pakistanís appetite for energy, he was visiting the country to present solutions if not convince the government to shift the dam site. Describing the remains as the heritage of the whole world, Dr Hauptmann said: "We feel responsible to preserve this knowledge of the past for the future generations. We have documented more than 80 per cent of the carvings and scriptures." German archaeologists will bring their high-tech equipment to perform three dimensional scanning, take photographs and sketch the impressions and produce replicas to be saved in museums.
     Professor Hauptmann, who has been working on the archaeological sites of northern Pakistan for the last 25 years, suggested that the government should set up a museum and a cultural centre at Gilgit before undertaking this mega dam project, where the remnants of ancient civilisations could be preserved. He held the view that shifting mighty rocks is almost impossible, but their replicas can be made by using three-dimension scanning technology.

Sources: Dawn, The News (5 December 2006), Daily Times (10 December 2006)

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