Pakistani and British universities work together to explore the archaeological history of Chitral valley in northern regions of Pakistan through British Council’s Higher Education INSPIRE (International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education) project.
Chitral is one of the most remote areas in Pakistan, due to its location in the foot of Tirich Mir, the highest peak of the Hindukush Mountain found in the northern regions of the country. While the valley known for its beauty and wildlife, the history behind the beauty is a little known fact. Chitral bears a rich historical heritage dating back to the Aryans which can be found all over the valley and its surrounding area in form of forgotten archaeological sites.
Through British Council’s INSPIRE programme a team of archaeologists from Hazara University Mansehra, Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan and Leicester University UK have begun exploring the wealth of cultural history found around Chitral valley. ” The chief aim of the partnership is to systematically explore the archaeology of Chitral valley and to develop ways of presenting and managing this unique heritage” said Dr. Abdul Samad. Abdul Samad also tells us that this is the first time in Pakistan the Transect method was used to survey sites. This method enables archaeologists through means of GPS and GIS systems to survey the area in one go, instead of going from village to village.
The advanced technology provided by the Leicester University UK led to excavations and documentation of more than 400 archaeological sites in the area. These discoveries will not only give international scholars’ insight on how Aryan’s entered the sub-continent but will also give residents a chance to understand their area’s past. One of the theories come out from these explorations is that the Kahlasa (indigenous people of the Kalaish valley) do not descend from the Greeks, as was previously thought, but in fact from the Aryans that had settled in these regions.
The project in addition to investigating the origin of the Aryan tribe in South Asia also aims to protect the area’s heritage. “Conflict between protection and development proves to be a global problem, with no exception in Pakistan.” Dr. Abdul Samad said talking about the importance of preserving history, “the saying you never know where you going until you know where you come from holds very true here”
As part of the programme a Heritage Survey was carried out, the purpose of this was to determine how much the native Chitrali people know about their areas history. While an alarming 97% of people who took part in survey confessed to not knowing much about Chitrali history, it was heartening to see that almost all wanted to preserve it and learn more. The findings will go a long way in helping make future policy developments for tourism in the area.
Next on the agenda is exploring the upper Chitral passes, which Abdul Samad is confident, will be begin a new chapter in South Asian Archaeology. The partnership and its consequent explorations will not only help develop local tourism, but also has the potential to re-define world history by helping us learn more about the rise and fall of a powerful civilization.