A lost civilisation: 3,000-year-old cemetery discovered in Swat

Published: November 15, 2012
Archaeologists discovered the cemetery at Odigam, which is home to ancient graves, pottery and ornaments. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/EXPRESS

Archaeologists discovered the cemetery at Odigam, which is home to ancient graves, pottery and ornaments. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/EXPRESS

Archaeologists discovered the cemetery at Odigam, which is home to ancient graves, pottery and ornaments. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/EXPRESS     Archaeologists discovered the cemetery at 
Odigam, which is home to ancient graves, pottery and ornaments. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/EXPRESS

Archaeologists have caught another glimpse of Swat’s glorious past — revealing secrets of a civilisation that have been buried in the earth for over 3,000 years. 

The Italian Archaeological Mission on Wednesday discovered an ancient cemetery dating back thousands of years at Odigram, Swat — a site experts believe was built between 1500 BC to 500 BC.

The site was home to unique ancient graves, pottery, ornaments made of bronze and copper, spindles and hairpins — a discovery made under the framework of the Archaeology Community Tourism (ACT) project.

A total of 23 graves have been excavated at the site that seems to be an ancient cemetery, indicating that they belonged to the pre-Buddhist era.

The newly-discovered vessels symbolise simple but competent craft — ranging from copper pins used to fix hair to small perfume bottles which might have been used by women during that time period. Personal ornaments including bronze earrings and spindles made out of ivory were also unearthed from the site, which indicates the type of role woman played back then.

“In some graves, we found two skeletons, one in a primary position and one in a secondary position. The structures of the graves are also unique. Some have small walls, some have been dug in clay while others are made up of clay benches,” Roberto Micheli, an expert of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, told The Express Tribune.

ACT specialists working on the site told The Express Tribune that this particular cemetery was not the only one that could have existed during that time; in fact, there could have been hundreds of such in Swat.

“It clearly indicates that Swat Valley was thickly populated at that time. Most probably they were the Dards (a group of people defined by linguistic similarities and not a common ethnic origin, predominantly found in Eastern Afghanistan) and in my view these Dards were somehow linked culturally to the people presently living in Kohistan and Kalash valleys,” revealed Massimo Vidale, a professor of Archaeology at University of Padua. “They probably spoke the Indo-European languages. We can say that the present culture of Kalash and Kohistan in Chitral valley can be linked with the ancient culture of Swat,” Vidale explained.

“What we can understand from the graves is that they were a very powerful civilisation. They were socially well organised and apparently very peaceful because no weapons were found from the site, unlike most civilisations,” Vidale said.

The professor was of the view that the people of this civilisation had very complex rituals since the excavated graves revealed that one grave contained two bodies placed strategically such that they face each other. “They might be relatives: Father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister or wife and husband. This signifies the emphasis they placed on the strong bonds of familial ties.”

The ancient remains were discovered at Odigram, which was the capital of Swat during the Hindu Shahi period between the 8th and 10th century. The region was identified as Ora by Aurel Stein, the city where Alexander the Great fought one of his battles.  Ruins of Raja Gira’s Fort and the Mahmood Ghaznvi Mosque were also excavated by Italians here.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2012.

View more pictures here.

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Reader Comments (34)

  • Thor
    Nov 15, 2012 - 9:30AM



  • Human
    Nov 15, 2012 - 9:39AM

    Amazing news .
    Pakistan is blessed with so many gifts .
    Why are we so stupid to let uneducated Men lead us , lead our country .
    Lets throw all these political parties OUT .
    Call in the army for some time till we find & get a good leader who has no jagirs here .


  • antony
    Nov 15, 2012 - 10:13AM

    WHY SHOULD ITALIANS excavate to know the history and treasures of ancient forefathers of pakistanis .. This does not make Italians proud of their ancestry ..Just time for pakistanis to learn their glorious ancestry to reduce violence from their blood.


  • Nov 15, 2012 - 10:18AM

    @Human: This is an extraordinary discovery of the past. Nevertheless, will the Taliban and the Lashkars allow it to remain as a relic of history or blow it up like ‘Boko Haram’ in Timbuktu?’

    What is disappointing is that, our Pakistani archaeologists did not make the discovery. Salams


  • Zen
    Nov 15, 2012 - 10:26AM

    Pakistan has such a rich history, older than pyramids…Great civilizations used to live in Pak cities like Harrapa, Mohenjodaro, Taxila. But instead of being proud on our past and try to find identity from our own great history, we focus more on ummah and islam…linking ourselves with Arabs…..no wonder we have serious identity crisis now and are so confused


  • kfjf
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:02AM

    Amazing. Archaeological discoveries made in Pakistan …. political parties suck, we need military rule.

    Could you please explain the steps in the middle, or was it just one giant leap?


  • Jehanzeb
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:03AM

    So people did live in this part of the world before 712AD!


  • ss
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:05AM

    Sometimes i wonder if we (pakistanis) deserve to be blessed with a country like Pakistan??



  • Nov 15, 2012 - 11:05AM

    Amezing news of swat, fazal khaliq is great journalistRecommend

  • roadkashehzada
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:07AM

    happened three times already.army itself has the jagirs here and they collect all the jagirdars for their own interest.and after ten yrs of their rule we find ourself in bigger mess do we still need to do that for the fourth time?


  • Super Star
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:08AM

    This is not a ” civilisation”. Civilisation started with the coming of the ” first Pakistani”leader Muhammad Bin Qasim who brought the light of Islam to this land and saved everyone from darkness of disbelief.!


  • roadkashehzada
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:09AM

    tell me a single country in the world which had sustainable progress in miitary rule. didnt u read, there were no weapons in the swat civilisation


  • Khan Jr
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:10AM

    Fascinating. However, there are many who would insist that this cannot be our ‘history’ as they insist that the history of thousands years of humanity preceding 1947 can only begin with the invasion of that Arab – Muhammad bin Qasim – and his army.


  • Ashraf P
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:17AM

    But they were not true Muslims.


  • Amir
    Nov 15, 2012 - 11:21AM

    Most Pakistanis will not find this exciting and feel proud because those ancient people were not Muslims.


  • kfjf
    Nov 15, 2012 - 12:07PM

    @Super Star:
    In case you were actually serious in your comment: please read it again. You may have missed the part where it says those ancient people did not even have any weapons. So who is the more “civilised”? The people who did not even own weapons to fight among themselves let alone hurt other cultures, or those who were bent on invading, conquering, destroying and converting?


  • reality
    Nov 15, 2012 - 12:28PM

    Swat remained the cradle of various civilizations. it is full of old remains but due to the neglect of the concerned departments all the sites are being looted by a powerful smugglers which have links in the department too.


    Nov 15, 2012 - 12:33PM

    As I said call in the army until WE Find someone Educated enuf to lead us all .If our leader was Educated the country wud have had educated people who them selves could have Discovered this Ancient Cemetery & not the Italians .
    We lack Educated people in our country all thanks to the Uneducated Criminal Leaders.


  • Field Reporter
    Nov 15, 2012 - 12:34PM

    Sorry for the spoiler but Pakistan history starts from 1947. Pre 1947 is all Indian subcontinent


  • Sobriquet
    Nov 15, 2012 - 4:45PM

    If Muhammad Bin Qasim brought “light” to the region that is today’s Pakistan, how come Pakistan is still in darkness (no electric power)?


  • unawared nation
    Nov 15, 2012 - 5:15PM

    listed guy mention mohammed bin qasim .seems that he doesnt know the history!!! LOL


  • Ali Nasir Khan
    Nov 15, 2012 - 5:18PM



  • Naila
    Nov 15, 2012 - 5:23PM

    Forget Pakistan’s history, the world history starts from millions of years ago, when all the continents were stuck together and called Pangea. That was WAY before the ‘Indian Subcontinent’. Now according to you, should we say that these amazing artifacts belong to the ‘Pangean’ people? lol :L


  • S Minhaj Zafer
    Nov 15, 2012 - 5:29PM

    @Super Star:
    Not your fault,this is what millions, like you are lead to believe.Although your fault is you started believing it, and never questioned it.


  • S Minhaj Zafer
    Nov 15, 2012 - 5:36PM

    @Super Star: Not your fault. This is what millions of others are also lead to believe, but your fault is, you started believing it, and never questioned it.


  • Max
    Nov 15, 2012 - 7:54PM

    If you read the article, it states it was 1500BC – 500BC. That means this region was Indian Subcontinent. Pakistan is only there since 1947. This was India thousands of years before Pakistan even existed. These people were Ancient Hindus.


  • Marcelo Amadeo
    Nov 15, 2012 - 8:42PM

    Does this have anything to do with the Mohenjo-Daro civilization?


  • Nov 15, 2012 - 11:28PM

    @ max swat was a separate state lol it joined in 1969 with pakistan


  • aatif
    Nov 16, 2012 - 3:06PM

    @the Skunk:
    pakistani archaeologists were part of the team.Recommend

  • Ahmer
    Nov 16, 2012 - 3:12PM


    Because we vote for the political parties.

    And how has Army done a better job? What have the last 3 Army rule brought us?


  • Max
    Nov 17, 2012 - 6:33AM

    I dont know why Pakistani people dont understand that they were part of India less then 80 years ago; no need to argue about it. Deep down all Pakistanis are just ex-Indians lol…Indian subcontinent included a huge region in BC which extended out to almost Afghanistan.

    for example:


  • Mango Man
    Nov 17, 2012 - 11:18PM

    Firstly, congratulations to the Archaeologists, Italians and Pakistanis!
    The problem you see from the comments above is the confusion that some readers have – Are they Pakistanis or Muslims and NOT Indians? With 65 years of history, denial of everything before 1947 leaves them with no history. The Indian sub continent had a far more civilized civilization than barbaric Arabs, who were no more than bandits raiding neighbors for food and women, than developing any sense of civilization. Showing Qasim as the harbinger of civilization shows the head-in-the-sand mentality more than ever. What civilization could a bandit bring to the great land of Punjab or Swat, which has been a cradle of civilization and culture for thousands of years before bandits came this way and burnt it down!


  • ghulam fareed
    Nov 20, 2012 - 7:00PM

    WE focus on Ummah and Islam because we are Muslims Alhamdollilah.Without Kalima and Islam we are nothing nor we could have get Pakistan without it.So we are proud to be muslims and the part of a great Ummah.These pre-historic people are our forefathers.If they were Muslims then they are our proud if they were not then they are not our proud. .


  • Marcelo Amadeo
    Dec 8, 2012 - 8:20AM

    No, dear Human. Pakistan is what it is because it’s muslim. Name one developed muslim country in the world. ONE!


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