Skip to comments.7,000 Year Old Civilisation Site Needs Attention (Pakistan)
Posted on 10/26/2004 5:50:36 PM PDT by blam
7,000-year-old civilisation site needs attention
By Muhammad Ejaz Khan
QUETTA: Mehrgarh necropolis is one of the archaeological sites discovered in Balochistan during the last five decades, where a city had been buried for centuries under tons of earth. It tells us about the oldest human settlements in the South Asian region.
The site, 140 kms southeast of the provincial capital, is located on the bank of the Bolan river near a settlement of Raisani tribe in the Bolan district. Archaeologists say it is one of the three oldest villages in the world, the other two being in Palestine and Iraq.
French experts, with the collaboration of Pakistani archaeologists, have conducted excavations at the site in various phases, revealing in the process the 7,000-year-old heritage of the Neolithic (new stone age) site. Among the relics discovered from Mehrgarh were skeletons buried along with necklaces of pearls and small items of earthenware.
Research in the artefacts discovered at the site is still underway, a provincial archaeological department official told The News. Although this research remains incomplete, the inhabitants of Mehrgarh are presumed to be of Mediterranean extraction, a local archaeologist said. He added that it was possible that some inhabitants may have belonged to the Mongol race.
During the excavations, the archaeologists discovered clay female figurines associated with fertility rites, and believed to have been worshipped by the natives. Similar figurines have surfaced in other archaeological sites in the province. Several of these statues are carved with necklaces, and have their hands on their breast or waist. Some have children on their laps.
The people of that era used to wear woollen or cotton clothes. Some of the deities had their braid on their back and shoulders. Most of the male statues wore turbans, which is still in vogue in Balochistan. While the opinion of several archaeologists that several of the statuettes discovered at the site might have been childrens toys is plausible, there are many who link these terracotta figures to be religious beliefs and the eon-old concept of the power of nature and female deities. Moreover, terracotta figures of bulls have also been discovered at Mehrgarh pointing to the possible worship of animals or their exalted status as life-givers for the food they yielded.
The figurines reveal the attire the women possibly wore; lace-like material round their waists and adorned their upper bodies with necklaces. Archaeologists are still clueless as to how they wove the material and whether they used cotton or wool to make their garments.
It is interesting to note, however, that the male figurines have turbans much like those worn by the inhabitants of Balochistan today. Reflecting artistic talent and painstaking workmanship, these figurines provide some of the best clues to life in that period. During the diggings, experts say seven layers of habitation were discovered. Each layer was different from the other denoting the levels of progress as the Mehrgarh inhabitants moved from one phase of civilisation to the next.
Some stone mills, used for grinding wheat and barley, were also found besides the mud bricks used in the construction of huts. Impression of the ears of wheat and barley were found on some bricks showing that when the bricks were cast, the ears were spread on the ground. It proves that the people of this era used to cultivate these corps. The experts also recovered cottonseed and cereal, which was quite astonishing for them as they were not expecting the cultivation of cotton in such a primitive age.
As civilisations moved on and basic comforts led to a more settled life, the people of this area acquired further sophistication, reflected in the beauty of their earthenware. Engraved in black and yellow and reflecting the developing aesthetic sense of the inhabitants, these showed off traditional designs of wild deer, fish, flowers and geometrical figures.
Experts believe it was perhaps at this point that the Mehrgarh settlement, discovering copper as excavated implements of that period reveal, entered the Bronze Age. The age of metals had begun. Where previously, in the days of mud dwellings, stone implements and weapons had been used to hunt wild animals and cultivate crops, the discovery of metal had now led the Mehrgarh civilisation to new realms of progress.
Artefacts collected by the French archaeological missions in Balochistan have frequently been exhibited in the national museums of Karachi and Islamabad. An exhibition was also organised in Paris in 1989.
Despite claims of the federal and provincial governments to save the national heritage and archaeological sites, the 7,000 year-old Mehrgarh site is affected due to some disputes in the Bolan district. "We do not consider them tribal disputes, as it is a political dispute," said Nawabzada Lashkari Khan Raisani. "In 2001, some armed men allegedly patronised by some government officials bulldozed our houses and affected the Mehrgarh site from where a large number of valuable items had been looted," he says.
This was an attempt of the then government to build up political pressure against the Raisani tribesmen, he alleged. In view of the situation, the French archaeologists, who were working at that time on the site, wound up their camp and left the site.
Nevertheless, the officials of the district administration of Bolan told The News, they had deployed heavy contingents of Levies force in the area to maintain law and order in an attempt to save the archaeological site. But, due to the law and order situation in the area no French or Pakistani archaeologist resumed excavation since 2001, they added. The district administration claimed to have issued NOC to a team of French archaeologists, who are expected to visit the site this year.
The Mehrgarh site was handed over to the federal archaeology department in 2003 by declaring it a national monument, but no attention has been paid and the officials of the provincial archaeology department say the provincial government has allocated only Rs 3.6 million in the current budget for saving and promotion of historical sites due to which they cannot take care of the site. The people belonging to Mehrgarh say no official of the federal or provincial governments visited the site during the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, Mehrgarh is seasonally threatened by the course of the Bolan river. Floodwaters and rains have also been responsible for the partial damage to the site. It is imperative, say archaeologists, that the authorities wake up and take action now to prevent further damage. However, they point out that given the apathy and lack of funds with the archaeology department, it is highly unlikely that Balochistan or even the federal authorities would be able to save the site without international assistance. And unless they are able to do so, the gentle footfall of history at one of the oldest settlements in the world, might be silenced forever.
"the inhabitants of Mehrgarh are presumed to be of Mediterranean extraction"
I wonder why that is a presumption?
After 7,000 years you'd think they'd be able to manage things on their own.
It was the olives and baklavah.
Yes, Pakistan, needs some attention, alright. If you get my .."drift..."
I'd like to give it the attention of a "Daisy Cutter".
Someone should clue these people in about Bible dates. There aint no place on earth 7000 years old.
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The bible doesn't say that...some monk made-up all that BS about the earth being 6,000 years old.
Thanks blam. I'm a little mystified by this. 7,000 years old, one of the three oldest villages? If it means, "in continuous occupation", then maybe)Well Blam....occupied and still a farming community.....am one of the inhabitant of this 7000 year old town :):):)....Mehrgarh was the first among the Indus Civilazitions to domesticate cattel and barley...surprisingly after thousands of years this is also the first farm in Balochistan to introduce Mechanical Agriculture..although the Daisy Cutters didnt reach in time,,,but somone else set out to destroy ancient archeological site..and also my home :(:(:(