ISLAMABAD, Feb 10: Archaeology never ceases to spring surprises. What has been just a mound on the Islamabad Expressway, made distinguishable by the figure of Quaid-i-Azam in steel and his words to the nation - Unity, Faith, Discipline - has more history underneath it than above.
Last week, experts in the field brought out from the place about 50 pieces of broken pottery, including a well-preserved terracotta pot from the Gandhara period.
“This pot could be as old as 2,000 to 2,200 years old,” beamed the Director General Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) Islamabad, Fazal Dad Kakar, holding up the five-inch tall ancient treasure from the mound known as Kangall Mound.
“People drive by it in thousands every day without realising that it is more than just a decorated hillock and hides secrets of the past,” a DOAM official observed rather sadly because the historical significance of the site had been known for long but its importance was underestimated and hence ignored.
The Kangall Mound was first documented as an interesting site in 1952 by Raymond Allchin, a leading British figure in the archaeology and culture of the sub-continent. It was again mentioned in research works towards the end of 1970s.
Finally, last week, a visiting American archaeologist, Dr Mark Kenoyer, considered a leading expert on the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation, led a team of the Department of Archaeology to the site in search of possible evidence of history.
And the initiative was rewarded with the finds by just scrapping the surface, no deep digging.
“Such kind of pottery is very common in Gandhara, especially in Taxila region. The pot may have been used for ritual purposes because of the round narrow mouth for a slow and controlled flow of liquid/liquor,” the Department of Archaeology and Museums official said about the flat based red polished pot.
Other pot shreds were imposed with different designs and colours.
“There are still some questions. The origin and the period of the finds will become clear after laboratory tests,” he said.
Others in the archaeology department grieved what historical evidence would have been lost forever when the civic authorities cut through the mound to build the Expressway and by the urban sprawl and encroachments around the Kangall Mound.
Dr Mark Kenoyer was sad too.
“It is unfortunate that the mound was bisected by the highway. I believe that there was a definite possibility of some major archaeological discoveries starting from the Pre-Buddha period,” he said.
DOAM officials generally agreed with Dr Mark Kenoyer’s initial impression that the different layers visible on surface confirmed that this large mound was full of archaeological potential and covered long historical period in the history of the Islamabad territory.
They found it more alarming that development schemes in the area were going on without seeking any NOC from Department of Archaeology and Museums — the ubiquitous No Objection Certificate.
“That is why the department has requested the Islamabad administration to provide us with the measurements/demarcations of the land so that we can protect it before it is completely lost,” the concerned officials said.
The department has also asked the government for extra funds to conduct a scientific survey and document all possible sites of historical value in Islamabad territory.