‘Balochistan still an unexplored archaeological zone’
KARACHI: In a brief but enlightening lecture, German archaeologist Dr Ute Franke touched on the historical and archaeological links that exist between Herat and Pakistan’s province of Balochistan.
The lecture titled ‘Antiquities of Herat with Special Reference to Balochistan’s Artifacts in Sindh’ was organised by the culture department of the Sindh government at the National Museum of Pakistan on Tuesday.
Dr Franke said that she would try and tell the audience about the historical links between Herat and Indo-Iranian borders. She mentioned the research and excavation works undertaken since the 1970s in different parts of Afghanistan, including Sistan and Helmand regions. She claimed the region was rich in archaeology. Herat was a later addition to the list of their projects, because no excavation had taken place there and they had an idea that it too brimmed with rich archaeological wonders.
Dr Franke said digging in Afghanistan enabled the archaeological missions to find objects (of bronze and other metals) dating back to the third millennium BC. Since the first millennium BC objects made with gold were chanced upon. During the Kushana kings’ tenure Indian ivories and glass beakers were discovered. Bamian’s Buddha statues were another example.
Regarding Herat, Dr Franke said it was usually thought that the Great Alexander had passed through this area, destroyed the city and rebuilt it, though there was no proof of it. Persian and Sassanian kings, too, had held sway over it. In the Islamic period, the city was under the Abbasid Khalifas. It had always been one of the regional centres known for its metals. In the 15th
century, Tamerlane invaded Herat that was why remnants of old Islamic architecture were found here.
Dr Franke said she wanted to go beyond that and learn about the pre-Tamerlane period. So excavation in the fortress of Herat was undertaken and objects belonging to the 9th and 10th centuries were found. While some of the pre-determined notions were proven wrong, what set the record straight were traces of Ghaznavi and Ghauri periods. A citadel was found (that had stability issues) and some standing monuments and objects such as Ghaznavi pottery were uncovered.
Dr Franke then spoke about an old museum in Heart, which once housed a great many precious objects. As the law and order situation in the country worsened, approximately 2,000 out of the 3,000 objects were lost or taken away from the museum. In 2008, a team under her guidance began working on the restoration of the collection of the museum. Then in 2011, the museum was opened. It had rare exhibits such as miniature paintings by renowned artist Bahzad and a sculpture that indicated links with the Indus Valley and Mundigak cultures.
Dr Franke then turned her attention to Balochistan to establish cultural linkages with Afghanistan, stating that it had existed since 3000BC. Different archaeological missions had carried out excavation programmes and three large excavations had so far taken place. Results showed that it was the core region for developing a civilization in the Indus Valley, she commented.
With the help of slides she showed materials such as lapis lazuli, shell beads and pottery figurines unearthed from Balochistan dating back to third millennium BC. Between 2600BC and 2400BC, there was a change in the style of pottery making and architecture and was similar to those made in Iran. So there was a cultural connection between these regions, she added.
Dr Franke pointed out that Balochistan was still an unexplored zone, recalling that the customs department had confiscated a big amount of Balochistan pottery being smuggled abroad in 2008. She along with her team was now working on their conservation. They belonged to the time period between third and second millennium BC. She hoped that once the objects were cleaned they’d be put on display in 2014.