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19 January 2011
Prehistoric rock shelters under threat in Pakistan

About 30 'rock shelters,' some dating back to the Stone Age, in Islamabad (Pakistan) and its surroundings have either been partially destroyed due to construction work or facing danger of being destroyed due to the negligence of the  authorities.
     A rock shelter is a shallow cave-like opening at the base of a bluff or cliff and is often important archaeologically. Because these sites form natural shelters from the weather, prehistoric humans often used them as living-places, and left behind debris, tools and other artefacts.
     According to archaeologists, one of the oldest rock shelters in Islamabad is situated in Sector G-13, but it has become a victim of development work. A portion of it has been badly damaged as developers are unaware of its significance and the city authorities are least concerned about the preservation of such ancient sites. During a recent survey of archaeological sites by the Taxila Institute of Ancient Civilisations (TIAC), a large number of potsherds from the site were collected which confirm that the site had been used in prehistoric times.
     TIAC Director Dr. Ashraf Khan said that the excavations of these rock shelters could prove to be a milestone in archaeological history of the country. "There are many rock shelters in the capital, which would be vanished from the scene if proper measures are not taken to preserve it," he said. His team found  artefacts during a visit to a rock shelter located in Sector G-13. "We have found pottery, tools and other utensils of daily use, which indicate that further excavation could reveal some interesting facts about the people and the lifestyle of the prehistoric people," he added.
     Dr. Khan said that the most important thing right now is to take immediate measures to preserve these sites, which otherwise would be destroyed during development work. "We have repeatedly asked the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to at least fence the surroundings of rock shelters so that they could not become the victim of construction work," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't have enough resources to do proper excavation and research of these rock shelters, but at least we could protect them from damage," he concluded.

Edited from The News International (17 January 2011)

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