Muzaffarabad, June 27, 2013: ( by TARIQ NAQASH)
The picturesque Neelum valley in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) was home to a vibrant civilization in ancient times, latest exploration and documentation of some archeological sites of the area has revealed. The exploration and documentation of these sites was initiated by Rukhsana Saeed, a PhD scholar from the Quaid-e-Azam University’s Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations (TIAC) under the supervision of renowned archaeologist Prof Dr Muhammad Ashraf Khan in October last year. “The latest detailed survey was conducted in the second week of June, during which some important new sites were discovered and documented in the Neelum valley,” Rukhsana told Greater Kashmir here.
She said due to its geographical location on the crossroads of Silk Road and its connecting routes, Neelum valley attracted pilgrims, monks and travelers from as far as Korea in the east, Bengal in the southeast and Tibet and Central Asia in the northwest. She claimed the Valley used to be a great religious hub and syncretism, which was evident from the inscription on steep semi-vertical rocks on extreme borders of the valley which she had documented during the survey. The inscriptions are under the consideration of linguists for further study and deciphering, Rukhsana said, adding there were some ancient sacred sites of pilgrims from certain periods as well, which had also been documented by TIAC.
According to her, the details of dresses and accessories of figures on rock slabs showed that the Valley had strong cross-cultural links with other civilizations of the area. This was concluded from the figurines on the commemorative stones found in the Valley, she said. Rukhsana said that some of the coins found from area of study had been identified as from the seventh century AD while some others had not yet been deciphered. Some of the artifacts were found from the places which were mentioned in ancient texts as sacred, such as Sish Pari, towards the left bank of river Neelum in extreme east, she said. These artifacts were found by locals and presented to research team for documentation, although these are small in numbers but had great archaeological value, she added.
Rukhsana also shared some pictures of these sites with Greater Kashmir but declined to identify the exact places where these were discovered, saying it was for the sake of their protection and preservation. She said such sites were always endangered, as unscrupulous elements would resort to illegal digging and illicit trafficking of artifacts found there.
She said TIAC was preparing for excavation and a trail trench would be started around Sharda, in the upper belt of Neelum Valley, in the first week of July. Rukhsana said she was going to present a paper on new archeological discoveries in PaK at an international conference in Colombo in August, this year.