Wednesday May 22, 2024

Appeal to save ancient rock carvings

By Ishrat Hyatt
June 30, 2020

Islamabad:Like many other popular organisations, the Asian Study Group (ASG) is also keeping up with its members by posting material relevant to its different groups to keep them entertained. The recent share by the ASG gives food for thought.

The area between Shatial and Raikot Bridge on KKH, extending more or less on 100 km, is just like a vast gallery of ancient rock art having more than 50,000 rock carvings and 5,000 inscriptions ranging from 9th century B.C. to 16th Century A.D. The tremendous diversity of these rock carvings not only provides insight into the history of various people with various socio-cultural and religious backgrounds but it also discloses the strategic importance of the region and its trade linkages. These rock carvings are slowly being destroyed/vandalized by persons who do not know their intrinsic value, says Aftab ur Rehman Rana, a Tourism Development Specialist, in an article shared through the ASG online programs.

These rock carvings will face a much bigger threat in the near future when the construction work on Diamer-Basha Dam will start. The construction of Diamer- Basha Dam will not only drown about thirty two villages and displace thousands of residents but at the same time thousands of these ancient rock carvings will also be submerged after the construction of dam. According to Dr. Harald Hauptmann, a renowned German archaeologist, who has been working on the petroglyphs in Gilgit-Baltistan since 1989, there are more than 50,000 rock engravings and 6,000 inscriptions in ancient languages like Kharosthi, Brahmi, Sogdian, Chinese, and Proto-Sharada and he fears that around 30,000 of which will submerge in the new reservoir and a greater part of this rock art gallery will be destroyed during the construction work of dam which will be a big disaster for the cultural history of this area.

These rock carvings unfold a magnificent chapter of human evolution through the centuries and they have been talking to humanity since thousands of years. There is an urgent need to preserve this treasure of history for the world and for the generations to come. The government needs to develop a comprehensive plan to save these rock carvings from any further vandalism. For long-term protection, a Rock Art Museum cum Garden should be established at a safe and larger place in Chilas or at Gilgit by shifting most of these rocks after proper documentation and developing replicas of carvings of some of the immoveable bigger rocks for display. Although it looks like a gigantic task but the protection of this global heritage will be a worthwhile effort. The government should approach institutions like UNESCO and also get help from friendly countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and others to provide financial and technical assistance for this bigger heritage conservation project. Once established, this Rock Art Museum cum Garden could not only become a great tourist attraction and source of economic activity for the region but will also become a focal point for researchers, writers and scholars interested in the study the human evolution through the centuries.