Many of the third century Buddhist relics seized from Karachi this month have turned out to be fakes, making it difficult for archaeologists to determine the exact origin of the authentic ones, a senior Sindh government official said on Thursday.
“Of the 300 Gandhara artefacts, many of them are copies,” said Sindh Culture Secretary Abdul Aziz Uqaili. “Our experts are still working on ascertaining the exact number of the fakes.”
The police confiscated the relics in two different raids from a warehouse after a tip-off. Some of them were too large to be lifted and a crane had to be called in to transfer them to the police station.
Uqaili, however, said that a good number of the relics were genuine. “Smugglers mix fake relics with real ones to pass them from the prying eyes of customs officials. If someone stops the consignment, they can just show that a second copy is being exported, which is not a big deal,” he said.
The region where Gandhara-age figurines are found spreads from Taxila in Punjab to the Jalalabad province of Afghanistan. “Many of the relics that are smuggled are illegally excavated from this belt,” the secretary said.
Some of the relics were also damaged due to the carelessness of police officers and labourers, and archaeological experts had to be called in to take care of the artefacts.
Earlier, National Museum director Mohammad Shah Bokhari told The Express Tribune that the artefacts were around 1,500 to 2,000 years old.
The biggest statue in the haul was of Buddha meditating with his devotees. The sculpture is 94 inches long and 70 inches wide.
Experts, including officials from culture department and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s archaeology department, are trying to ascertain the number of genuine relics. The police are still investigating the case, while a forensic analysis of the artefacts is yet to be performed.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2012.
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