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24 May 2011
Pakistani rock carvings under threat

Between the western Himalayas, the Karakoram in the east and the Hindukush in the west, a mountainous northern region of Pakistan is the junction of the ancient routes which made the upper Indus a cradle and crossroads of different civilisations. Travellers, invaders, merchants, pilgrims and artisans from different ages and cultures used the legendary silk route and its branches to enter in the region. Many of them left their cultural and religious signs on the rocks, boulders and cliffs.
     The site of the proposed Diamer-Basha dam holds some 30,000 such ancient art carvings which may vanish forever due to the construction of this reservoir. The rocks also attracted later visitors and settlers to carve their own signs, symbols, inscriptions and artworks, accumulating an archive of some 50,000 rock carvings and 5,000 inscriptions from different civilisations, dating from the eighth millennium BCE (late Stone Age) to the coming of Islam in the 16th century CE.
     The Shatial, Thor, Hodur, Thalpan, Naupura, Chaghdo and other sites of northern Pakistan have clusters of carvings, but the Basha-Diamer area holds thousands of very important rock carvings. The site represents hundreds of inscriptions in Brahmi, Sogdian, middle Persian, Chinese, Tibetan and even ancient Hebrew languages.
     Dr. Ayesha Pamela Rogers - director of Rogers Kolachi Khan and Associates (RKK), contracted by the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) for the Heritage Impact Assessment survey - agreed that some 30,000 carvings on 5,000 rocks will be affected, and mitigation and conservation approaches are needed. She further said that WAPDA is committed to preserving whatever it can.

Edited from Dawn.com (18 May 2011)

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