Discoveries besieged: Buried archeological treasure unlikely to see light of day

K-P govt abandons excavation project of Aziz Dheri months before completion.

K-P govt abandons excavation project of Aziz Dheri months before completion. DESIGN: SAMRA AMIR


The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Directorate of Archeology and Museums scrapped the excavation project of Aziz Dheri archeological site in Swabi district months ahead of its completion. The plug was pulled with interesting findings abandoned on the verge of discovery.

“The project began on January 11 and was expected to continue till the end of June. However, it was terminated citing lack of funds by the outgoing director of archeology on March 22,” said a source privy to the matter.

According to him and other insiders, a complete votive stupa – a grave-like structure used to store holy relics – was discovered during a month-long excavation drive. In addition, a large cache of antiquities, including coins, seals and sculptures were also found.

The discovery of the votive stupa in Aziz Dheri is the third of its kind in the 100 years of archeological endeavours in Gandhara. “The first votive stupa was discovered in 1913-14 by Sir John Marshal in Taxila, while the other by Dr Abdur Rehman of the University of Peshawar in Butkara, Swat in 1985-86,” he said, adding: “The third in Aziz Dheri was discovered in February 2013.”

The source claimed the excavation resulted in unearthing 309 coins dated between 120AD and 458AD, 109 seals and around 60 sculptures, making it one of the largest finds in the history of Gandhara archeology.

He said the site is still in very good shape, with stucco plaster and red stucco-lustro paint applied for protection. Stucco is used as a decorative coating that hardens the surface when applied; stucco-lustro is a form of plaster applied to create glossy surfaces.

However, salinity and termites threaten the site’s existence. Since the project was terminated, the red paint has started to erode. The source claimed he was shocked upon his visit to the site a month ago, saying the weather has taken its toll on the archeological treasure.

Chemists and engineers are imperative for Aziz Dheri’s preservation, he added. “Though a shade was built over the stupa, it is not enough, and glass panels are absolutely necessary for protection.”

He termed the project’s termination a “blunder” and alleged the outgoing director probably wanted to use the discoveries to extend his tenure. “The government, however, did not grant him one, which is why he called off the project.”

Acting Director of Archeology Nidaullah Sehrai acknowledged the project was terminated by the outgoing director. “We will allocate money for this project again after we get funds from the government,” he added.

Attack on police

On June 4, unidentified gunmen on motorcycles opened fire at a police guard present at the site. The guard died on the spot, while the culprits took away his gun and managed to escape. Sources at the archeology department claimed police detained around 10 employees involved in conservation work, and tortured them for days.

“This site is very popular among illegal diggers because it is rich in antiquities. Previously, staff working there have also been harassed,” said one of the officials. “The police, however, did not extend any security despite requests.”

Case investigation officer Gul Sher Khan said the attack is being investigated, but the motives behind it remain unclear. We are not sure whether this attack was related to illegal-digging or something else, he added. “We have made arrests and are investigating.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2013.


lawangeen | 9 years ago | Reply

It will happen, as the whole of District Swabi is running by only an 11 scale gallery assistant at Hund Museum, there were posts for field officers but they were converted to Superintendent by the previous director thus giving benefits to clerks, and the present acting director has submitted their promotion case. there is no place no higher post for archaeologist in this department so these incidents will happen,

Adnan Ahmad | 9 years ago | Reply

I am a General visitor Of Peshawar Museum. i will highlight some issue regarding Peshawar museum . I visit Peshawar museum 3 month Ago and condition of museum was not Good. In Gandahara section some sculpture were laying on Floor of Showcase , in coin section more then 20 coin were laying on showcase floor, Condition of cleanness was Bad. toilet of museum show the story of Public Letren . On Islamic Section work was start i ask what is going on in this section i receive a reply that showcase and other stuff is changing in progress. Co-indecently i visit Museum some days ago i saw the same story again then i try to find Peshawar Museum Curator but he was not in his office. then i ask some official they reply new minister is coming so that y work in under progress in islamic section . New Minister for Sport will inaugurate This new section Display. So in A poor country A minister will inaugurate a museum for 10th time . This museum is running from more then 100 year . So soon New Minister Mamu banay ga .. Minister mamuu baan jayee :) munna bahi

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