ISLAMABAD, Oct 1: US Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker on Friday presented a cheque for $32,887 to the Department of Archaeology and Museums director-general, Fazal Dad Khan, for preservation and restoration of a 5th century monastery, “Jinan Wali Dehri”, excavated near Taxila.

The cheque was handed over at a ceremony held at the Taxila Museum. The financial assistance has been provided under an ongoing US embassy programme, “The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP)”.

Talking to mediapersons on the occasion, the ambassador said in Pakistan, AFCP had funded several similar projects, including Masjid Wazir Khan in Lahore, Man Singh Haveli, Rohtas Fort, Masjid Mahabat Khan in Peshawar, and Sirkap site in Taxila.

He said the programme, which exhibited American people’s respect for other cultures, helped developing countries in preserving their cultural heritage. AFCP has so far supported 205 projects around the world, and provided a total of $4.2 million for similar preservation and restoration projects.

The ambassador termed the marvellous archaeological sites in the country an asset for humanity and said his government would continue extending support to Pakistan for preservation and restoration of the priceless cultural heritage.

The excavation work done at the “Jinan Wali Dheri” site in Taxila unearthed a Buddhist sanctuary complex, including an imposing stupa. The monastery comprises 17 cells and two entrances. The most remarkable discovery at “Jinan Wali Dheri” is mural paintings of the monastery corridor. The paintings depict images of Buddha and Bodhisatvas, and figures of worshippers. Most of the paintings have been defaced over the years, but a few fragments of paintings were recovered in much better condition.

The US ambassador was told that this type of mural paintings had yet not been discovered in any other Buddhist sanctuary of Gandhara civilization. Further excavations at the site may reveal more information about this important medium of Buddhist art.

Mr Crocker stayed in the Taxila Museum for quite some time and evinced keen interest in sculptures, engraved gems, coins, decorative arch panels, pottery, and other antiquities on display.

Federal Culture Minister Mohammad Ajmal Khan, Culture Ministry Additional Secretary In charge Khalid Saeed Haroon, US embassy Counsellor for Public Affairs Peter J. Kovach, embassy’s Cultural Wing Head Aysha Salam and Department of Archaeology and Museums (sub-regional office Taxila) Deputy Director M. Ashraf Khan were also present on the occasion.

Later, the media team from Islamabad was taken to “Jinan Wali Dheri” where a briefing was given by Archaeology and Museums Department Deputy Director M. Ashraf Khan.

Mr Khan said excavation work on the stupa side would resume after Eidul Fitr, adding that discovery of an assembly hall of monks was expected. He said the work was expected to take six months and required acquiring of adjacent land of about four kanals, for which negotiations were underway with the owners.

The official said some skeletons with arrows pierced in their skulls had also been found during the excavation, which showed that monks were killed by the White Huns some 2,500 years ago.

He said the antiquities recovered from the stupa included coins of the Kushan dynasty period and one silver coin of the White Huns, glass and shell bangles, stone and terra cotta beads, earthenware storage jars, bowls and small spouted pots, metal objects consisting of large copper bells, fragments of daggers and spear heads and nails.

Answering a question, he said there were some 10,000 stupas and monasteries in Pakistan, out of which only 150 had so far been excavated.

Responding to another question, he said there was a plan to organize an exhibition of rare paintings discovered during the excavation in January 2006, in connection with the Tourism Year.

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