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December 9, 2016

110 archaeological sites discovered in Jamrud

Peshawar

December 9, 2016

Official says it may promote tourism in militancy-affected area

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Director Archaeology and Museums Dr Abdul Samad disclosed on Thursday that they discovered 110 sites, three of them 30,000 years old, in what he called ‘first archaeological survey in Fata’ after the British era, hoping it would open a new period of tourism and prosperity in the militancy-affected tribal areas.

Talking to reporters here, he said the first archaeological survey was launched in Jamrud subdivision on personal initiative of Captain (R) Khalid Mahmood, the political agent of Khyber Agency.

“Captain Khalid Mahmood approached us after his first visit of the tribal region following he took charge as political agent and sought our technical assistance in discovering archaeological sites,” Dr Abdul Samad said.

Political Agent Khalid Mahmood and other members of the political administration were also present in the press briefing.The political agent said they began their work from Jamrud subdivision and would extend the archaeological surveys to the adjoining Landikotal and Bara subdivisions and later to the remote and mountainous Tirah valley. “This is just the beginning as we discovered these sites without any excavation. There could be pre-historic sites and even major cities if an organised excavation was undertaken in Fata,” the political agent hoped.

He said that besides these sites, there are 34 historic railway tunnels in Khyber Agency and each tunnel was contracted to local elders for protection.Dr Abdul Samad said their four-member team, led by him, with the assistance of political administration and Pakistan Army, completed their task in Jamrud in one and a half months. He said they didn’t use any machine during their work. “Out of these 110 sites, three were 30,000 years old from the Buddha, British and Muslim periods,” he added.

Dr Samad said the sites included old structures, rock arts or rock paintings, tunnels and bridges, include eight from Buddha period.A 33-year old Dr Samad, who used to teach at the Hazara University, is having rich archaeological knowledge of the Gandhara civilisation.

According to Dr Samad, there are 6,000 sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the number of such sites is double in the hitherto ignored Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).He said some of the sites discovered in Jamrud were contemporaries of the sites explored in Sangahu, a small village in the Katlang subdivision of Mardan district. It is also called Kashmir Smast or cave.

Dr Samad, however, said the sites in Sangahu were discovered in 10 years of excavation.Both Dr Samad and the political agent were, however, concerned about the preservation of these historic sites, saying some of the sites are private properties of the local tribespeople. “Since the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Antiquities Act 2016 is not extended to Fata, therefore, we can’t force owners of these private sites not to demolish them. What we can do right now is to convince them about the importance of these historic sites for them and their areas,” Khalid Mahmood said.

Terming his work as first archaeological intervention in Fata, he said the British started archaeological research in South Asia in the early 19th century including the then NWFP (now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). During that time, they tried hard to conduct archaeological survey in Khyber Agency but due to security situations they could not succeed in their work.

He said Alexander the Great, Central Asians, Muslim invaders crossed Khyber Pass as it was crossing point and a gateway between Central Asia and South Asia since ancient times.

Also, Dr Samad said it was a crossing point for Buddhist pilgrims. He said that once properly investigated, these rock carvings and archaeological discoveries are anticipated to push back the documented history of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Those discoveries can be dated back to their way of living, the religion and rituals they practiced and the reasons of succumb,” Dr Samad said.

He said archaeological experts from the United Kingdom, France, China and some other places had approached them and wished to support them in their work.