Islamabad: Islamabad’s newly developed neighbourhood of I-11 has turned out to be the site of a 5,000-year-old human settlement.
Archaeologists believe the collection of potsherds proves that “the site has been under active use for human habitation for over 5,000 years”.
Islamabad-based anthropologist Dr Nadeem Omer Tarar told Gulf News that “the most important finding is the discovery of a number of potsherds of Hakra appliqué type that established the prehistoric nature of the settlement”. The exterior and shape of pottery is observed on Hakra and later Harappan sites, he says. However, study of other antiquities, especially the lithic material, is required for detailed assessment.
Potsherds (broken piece of pottery) is the most common and useful finds in archaeology, which helps identify specific time periods.
What was discovered?
The presence of a large number of potsherds, beads, bangles and semi-precious stones at the site point to the Buddhist period, archaeologists say. “The cultural profile of the mound is a telltale sign of possibly a stupa or a monastery buried here,” says Dr Nadeem Omer, executive director of Centre for Culture and Development (C2D), the organisation conducting reconnaissance survey of the site. The C2D is involved in surveys to identify the undocumented archaeological sites for preservation and promotion.
Team of experts involved in the findings
A sample of archaeological finds, through surface collection, was documented by a team of experts, including Dr Nadeem Omer, cultural historian Izzah Khan, senior archaeologist Ansar Ahmad who were assisted in the field by Imran Baloch, Amjad, Ikram and Raja Shabir. Sheeraz Hyder, a historian of Potohar, contributed to the cultural profile of the site.
The initial assessment of the potsherds was made by Ansar Ahmad and re-examined by archaeological historian Zubair Shafi Ghouri.
Talking to Gulf News, Mr Ghouri said, “there is no doubt that the artefacts are at least 4,000 to 5,000 years old” from Early Bronze Age (3000—2000BC). “Only further discovery of tools such as knives and blades and its assessment can help accurately determine the period.” He termed it a remarkable discovery for Pakistan’s capital city. “It has unearthed Islamabad’s historic connections proving that it is a city of both ancient and modern civilisation,” he added.
Government urged to protect site and develop heritage tourism
The team of experts working under the umbrella of C2D have urged the government to protect the archaeological site that has the potential to develop heritage tourism in Islamabad. Researchers hope the identified sites would form the basis for excavations and conservation by the federal department of Archaeology and Museums, under the Ministry of National History and Heritage. In recent months, the government has accelerated efforts to protect heritage sites as promoting cultural and religious tourism is close to the heart of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Gateway to Islamabad’s treasured past
A preliminary hypothesis based on the careful study of a limited sample of potsherd has led the C2D team to conclude that it is “the sixth site (named Sarien) of prehistoric nature in the Potohar” in addition to previously documented prehistoric sites Siaray Khola, Hathial, Jangh Bahtar, Khanda and Pind Nosheri.
The latest findings are not the only gateway to Islamabad’s treasured past. City’s oldest historical site, Ban Faqiran, at the top of the Margalla Hills and the ancient caves, relics and murals at Shah Allah Ditta are reminiscent of Buddhist as well as Mughal periods.
Pakistan’s archaeological wonders
The first of Harappan civilisation sites were excavated in Pakistan’s Punjab province in the 1820s. The Harappans of South Asia are also known as the Indus Valley Civilisation — considered among the world’s oldest along with Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Pakistan is home to many archaeological sites and centuries-old civilisations like Mehrgarh (6500 to 2500BC), Indus Valley (3,000 and 1,700BC) and the Gandhara (530BC to 1,021AD), making it a revered destination for the followers of three major religions, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism.
Artefacts discovered from the site: