Much to the Sindh Culture Department’s consternation, at least 60 of the 163 antique and ornate articles seized from smugglers by the Jamshoro police, have turned out to be invaluable.
The pieces include a bronze statue of Buddha, 60 ancient coins including those from US, Saudi Arabia and Germany as well as from the Mughal period, Kashmir’s paper mache work objects, swords and guns and statues made of shell.
“At least 60 of them are invaluable,” the director of the Excavation and Exploration branch, Qasim Ali Qasim, told The Express Tribune on Thursday.
Most delicate were the statues of the laughing Buddha with a concealed engraving at its base, another one with him sitting on top of a lion in the ‘Abhaya Mudra’ position and an ivory casket inscribed with ancient Chinese containing three different poses of Buddha when opened.
According to Abdul Haq Bhanbhro of the department of archaeology, the metal statues of Buddha are from the Far East.
Another one that strikes the eye is the figure of a bathing woman which is made of shell. “I have rarely seen such a complete figure made from shell. It’s Italian art,” said Qasim.
Among the ancient battle items, the most notable artifacts include a Talpur dynasty shield inscribed with couplets of poet Hafiz Shirazi, four swords and five Baloch Musket rifles.
Qasim said he would forward a request through secretary culture for the transfer of the antiques and decorative items to the culture department. “The handover is expected to happen within three days.”
The artifacts were seized when police nabbed two men while they were waiting with the consignment near Jamshoro Toll Plaza on Wednesday. Their destination, according to sources, was Thatta. One of the suspects, Muhammad Sadiq Gabol, aged 60, is a retired watchman of the museum of Ranikot fort.
Gabol and his accomplice, Abdul Karim Chachar, 55, have been booked under the Antiquities Act of 1975, besides section 411 of Criminal Procedure Code. As per the act, the sale of antiques is illegal without registration with the archaeology department.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2011.
More pictures of the recovered antiques can be viewed here.