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New discoveries increase importance of ancient site in Swat

The archaeologists claimed to have made new discoveries at Bazira, known in Classic sources as one of the cities besieged by Alexander the Great, in Barikot Swat.

New discoveries increase importance of ancient site in Swat
Archaeologists at work in Bazira, Barikot [Credit: Dawn]
The new discoveries that belong to late Bronze/Iron Age, some 1200 BCE, attest that the city was a fortified large settlement in protohistoric times.

The Italians and Pakistani archaeologists said that the new discoveries contradicted the earlier assumptions about the ancient settlement, which was believed to be a smaller rural site in protohistoric times.

Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, head of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, told Dawn that the joint Pakistani-Italian team found some new startling evidence during its latest excavation that might amplify the importance of Bazira not only in Pakistan, but also in the history of South Asia and Hellenized Far East.

“The recovery of faience (glass) beads, large evidence of copper smithing, and iron tools and weapons, are among the major early artifacts found in the Bronze/Iron Age Bazira,” he said.

According to him, the excavation reveals that the earlier fortified settlement became then a real city around the 6th century BCE. “Achaemenian pottery was found in the 6th-5thcentury BCE layers while Mauryan and Indic materials were found in the 4th-3rd BCE century layers. Moreover, striking evidence of Graeco-Bactrian pottery (with close comparisons with the famous site of Ai-Khanum, Afghanistan) and Indo-Greek materials, were found from late 3rd to mid-1st century BCE,” said Dr Luca.

He said that the new discovery of the Greek, the Brahmi and Aramaic inscribed sherds found in the Indo-Greek phase (2nd century BCE) showed clear hints of the existence of a multi-lingual and multi-cultural urban environment in that historical period.

Dr Luca said that the discovery of a burial associated with the foundation of the Indo-Greek defensive wall recalled similar evidences of foundation rituals in the Hellenistic and Roman world, often linked to the construction of city walls and public buildings.

“We do not actually know the real meaning of such discovery at Bazira. We are studying the coeval archaeological evidence, and meanwhile few samples of the human skeleton are going to be studied for DNA analysis by experts of Max Planck and Harvard Medical School,” he said.

Next season will be devoted to excavation of the evidence belonging to the late phases of the settlement (5th-7th century AD), when the city was already abandoned, and a large fortified settlement was built at the foot of the Ghwandai (acropolis).

“These late phases, associated to the Huna, Hephtalite and Shahi phases remain so far the most elusive, and the lesser investigated ones. We are expecting more exciting data from these historical phases, associated to the sunset of the ancient world and the rise of Islam,” said Dr Luca.

Faizur Rehman, the curator Swat museum, said that the new discovery increased importance of the site.

“At first we only knew from historical records that when Alexander came here he fought with Achaemenians but now we have reached to its evidence after findings of the new excavations,” he told Dawn.

Author: Fazal Khaliq | Source: Dawn [November 25, 2017]

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