KARACHI: Numerous precious artefacts were discovered during the recent 51-day excavation at Bhanbhore’s various depths.
This was stated at a briefing on the excavation of Bhanbhore Season 2018, a joint archaeological mission of Italy and the National Museum of Pakistan with the Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Department of the Government of Sindh, held on Tuesday to highlight what has been unearthed and what remains a mystery.
Director of excavation Naheed Zahra informed the audience about the work done so far. She said that the excavation started on Dec 20, 2017, and ended on Feb 8, 2018. “The Pakistani team,” she said, “after a careful survey decided to mark a trench in the south of the mosque (in between mosque and southern gate). The greater part of the post is excavated and the debris is kept as an afterthought hence leaving less odds of untouched zone,” she said, thanking the Italian team for sharing their expertise in topography, photography and drawing here.
‘There was a palace and roads with access to a town’
She said that after cleaning the trench no visible artefact was found up to the depth of 14 centimetres. The soil was loose, grey and light brown all around the trench from 25cm to 50cm depth. But they found mix pottery fragments on the eastern side of a wall, with ashes, coal, and a large quantity of bones, seashell and ivory pieces with animal figurines.
“In 70cm depth of the south-eastern side of the trench we found circular stones that appeared to be part of a collapsed well wall,” she said. But at 83cm depth they came across huge amounts of pot shreds, coins, coin moulds, grey and glazed pottery.
All in all, the artefacts found in season 2017-18 include terracotta pottery fragments, plain and painted pottery, moulded pottery, rims, lids, copper objects, beads, bones, ivory, seashells, stones, iron object/ pieces, glass fragments and animal figurines.
The Italian archaeological mission was led by Valeria Piacentini, who has been working at Sindh excavation sites for over 50 years now. She said that resuming of fieldwork already carried out in Bhanbhore was due to the many unanswered queries they had about the place after previous excavations there. “After the recent fieldwork, we have some data about the structures. There was a palace and roads with access to a town. There was also a partition wall found. But it was not to partition Hindus and Muslims. It was probably built to distance the citizens from the enemy,” she said, adding that there is plenty of evidence of urbanisation.
They also found evidence of warehouses of exquisite pottery, iron and copper tools, wood and glass. “So there was activity and production of luxury goods in Bhanbhore. It was not just a town and a market. And all this dates as far back as the 1st Century BC,” she said.
Syed Sardar Ali Shah, Sindh’s Minister for Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, the chief guest on the occasion, congratulated the archaeologists for unearthing so much at Bhanbhore this time around. “You are the scientists of history,” he said to them. “But I feel that this is still the beginning. We have to go well beyond these findings to come to a conclusion about Bhanbhore.”
He also offered his department’s assistance in publishing Valeria Piacentini’s writings on Bhanbhore.
The new Consul General of Italy, Anna Ruffino, also spoke on the occasion about the importance of history and archaeological excavation; she spoke in Urdu to win the hearts of her audience.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2018