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24 February 2013
Piecing together the prehistory of the Himalayas

A team of archaeologists from the University of York are to discover, survey, and record mountain archaeology in the Nepalese Himalayas. The Himalayan Exploration and Archaeological Research Team (HEART) will spend four weeks documenting high-altitude artefact scatters, rock shelters and formerly inhabited hand-cut cave systems that were used either as settlements and/or tombs dating back to the 3rd century BCE.
     The five-strong team, led by Dr Hayley Saul, of the Department of Archaeology at York, will be based in the Mustang valley in the Annapurna massif where they will use digital 3D imaging to survey and record the features as part of a new initiative to piece together the prehistory of the high Himalayas. They will also trace the way mountain cultures have occupied and adapted to the landscape through time, seeking to set Himalayan archaeology in a broader global framework.
     Dr Saul says: "Despite the fact that a lot of important processes, such as the domestication and movements of many plants, converge on this area very little is known about its pre-history." Following a reconnaissance expedition in 2011, she realised that many archaeological remains in the dessicated environment of the high mountains while well-preserved, remain unrecorded and undated. Dr Saul adds: "There is potential that these remains could contribute hugely to our understanding of significant prehistoric events. We shall keep interference of remains to a minimum and seek to involve local people in our work."
     As well as the archaeological investigations, the team is working in association with a charity Community Action Nepal to develop heritage-based initiatives to stimulate local economies in the mountains. HEART plans to stage an exhibition of archaeology and Nepalese art, including indigenous crafts and Tibetan Thanka art, in York and London in autumn 2013. All profits go to Thanka art schools in Kathmandu and Bahrabise.

Edited from Past Horizons (19 February 2013)

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