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Saadia Khalid
Monday, January 17, 2011
From Print Edition
 
 

 

Islamabad

 

As many as 30 ‘rock shelters,’ some dating back to the Stone Age, in the capital and its surroundings are on the verge of destruction due to the negligence of the relevant authorities.

 

According to information, there were around 30 ‘rock shelters’ in the city, which have either been partially destroyed due to construction work or facing danger of being destroyed.

 

A ‘rock shelter’ (also known as rock house, crepuscular cave or ‘abri’) is a shallow cave-like opening at the base of a bluff or cliff. ‘Rock shelters’ form because a rock stratum such as sandstone, which is resistant to erosion and weathering, has formed a cliff or bluff, but a softer stratum, more subject to erosion and weathering, lies just below the resistant stratum, and thus undercuts the cliff.

 

‘Rock shelters’ are often important archaeologically. Because ‘rock shelters’ 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 dating back to the Stone Age is situated in Sector G-13, which has unfortunately 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 by the prehistoric civilisation.

 

Talking to ‘The News,’ 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.

 

He said that their team found precious artefacts during a visit to a ‘rock shelter’ situated 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.

 

He said that the most important thing right now is to take immediate measures to preserve these sites, which otherwise would be destructed during development work as it happened in the case of Sector G-13. “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.

 

He said that the Antiquity Act 1975 provides protection and legal cover to archaeological and historical sites, but unfortunately it is not being implemented properly. “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 damaging,” he said.

 

He said that ideally there should be fence around these shelters, a guard to protect it from vandalism and a sign board to inform people about its history and significance,” he added.