PESHAWAR: For the first time two archaeologists from Pakistan and UK have joined hands to trace the origin of Kalash people, rumoured to have ancestral link to Alexander the Great, living in the remotest part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Dr Abdul Samad, an archaeologist who is also currently the director of archaeology and museums Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, along with Dr Ruth Young, a British researcher and professor of archaeology at Leicester University, would be working together for three years to study and trace the origin of Kalash ethnic community living in three valleys of Chitral district.
“We would be studying ethnology, archaeology, stories about Kalash and their Greek descendants in a scientific way,” said Dr Samad, who convinced his British co-researcher after eight long years to come to Khyber Pakthunkhwa.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, despite being an ‘amazing place’ for researchers and archaeologists, has suffered more due to ‘bad image’ in the last decade or so than anything else.
Dr Abdul Samad and Dr Ruth Young will carry out the three-year project
“Pakistan has amazing sites and archaeology here offers a lot of scope,” says Dr Young, who did her PhD in 1977 and conducted excavation in Charsadda, Swat and Dir. She has been a regular visitor to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa till 1990s.
“No archaeological excavation has ever been done in Kalash so it would be interesting to know in a remote valley about a remoter group of people,” she told Dawn. Dr Young finds it interesting that there has been this little pool of people in Hindukush Mountains for thousands of years and there are so many myths about their origin.
“Have they always been separate or there was a division over time. Do they also believe they are descendants of Alexander the Great or they have other stories,” says Dr Young, who plans to look for the answers for these questions.
She says that culture evolves and changes but what has kept Kalash unique from the others and what they think about their own origin would be their focus during the research.
“We don’t want to make them look like fossil but how do they see themselves? What is important about their origin -- do they believe in Alexander myth. We want to find this out,” she adds.
Dr Young and Dr Samad would be embarking on this first-ever interesting research to trace the origin of Kalash people, also called Kalasha, living in three valleys of Chitral with their unique culture and language soon. The three-year project is supported by the British Council and would be jointly conducted by the two archaeologists involving the Kalash community.
The project is unique due to its focus on Kalash community, which is isolated in remote valley and mostly comes under focus only to attract tourists every year to the festivals held by them. This project has more significance for the entire province. A foreign researcher coming back to work and excavating the archaeological richness means that true face of this region would be presented to the world too.
Dr Young, who spent her day visiting the Peshawar city, says that she is so impressed with the ‘spirit of old Peshawar’. She visited the beautiful and historic Sethi House, Gor Khathree and old bazaars of Peshawar city.
“There are historic buildings in all over the world which are preserved nicely but they lack the spirit. Old Peshawar city still has that spirit,” she says.
“I think preservation and conservation is difficult. There are safety issues with old buildings. There is dust, mud and chaos but Peshawar city has a character and spirit,” she says while talking about how the old buildings in Peshawar can be preserved.
Sooner or later Peshawar will be peaceful so the city planners and local communities should get involved how to make use or preserve these historic and old buildings, Dr Young says.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2015