Ancient tombs discovered in Pakistan's Swat

Taliban insurgents led by cleric Maulana Fazlullah terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 to 2009
File picture. A Pakistani family crosses the River Swat by bridge at the hill station of Madyan. Italian archaeologists say they have discovered a cemetery that reveals complex funeral rites dating back more than 3,000 years in Pakistan's Swat valley, which was recently controlled by the Taliban.

Italian archaeologists say they have discovered a cemetery that reveals complex funeral rites dating back more than 3,000 years in Pakistan's Swat valley, recently controlled by the Taliban.

The Italian mission began digging in the 1950s at Udegram, a site of Buddhist treasures in Swat, the northwestern district formerly known as the Switzerland of Pakistan for its stunning mountains, valleys and rivers.

Archaeologists were aware of a pre-Buddhist grave site in Udegram, but only recently discovered the collection of almost 30 graves, tightly clustered and partially overlapping.

"Some graves had a stone wall, others were protected by walls and enclosures in beaten clay," Luca Maria Olivieri, head of the Italian mission, told AFP.

"The cemetery... seems to have been used between the end of the second millennium BCE and the first half of the first millennium BCE," he added.

The Italian mission began digging in the 1950s at Udegram, a site of Buddhist treasures in Swat
This handout picture released by the Italian archaeological mission shows a skeleton in an ancient grave discovered in Udegram, in northwestern Pakistan's Swat Valley. Archaeologists were aware of a pre-Buddhist grave site in Udegram, but only recently discovered the collection of almost 30 graves, tightly clustered and partially overlapping.

Olivieri says the tombs point to the culture that predates the Buddhist Gandhara civilisation that took hold in northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan from the first millennium BCE to the sixth century AD.

"The presence of a few iron fragments might be amongst the most ancient traces of this metal in the subcontinent," he said.

Archaeologists say the tombs point to  a culture that predates the Buddhist Gandhara civilisation
This handout picture released by the Italian archaeological mission shows a skeleton in an ancient grave in Udegram, in northwestern Pakistan's Swat Valley. Swat was formerly known as the Switzerland of Pakistan for its stunning mountains, valleys and rivers.

Bodies were first laid to rest in open graves, fenced in by wooden railings. Then the graves were re-opened and the bones partially burnt before the graves were sealed and a built.

Men were buried with high quality flasks, bowls and cooking pots, and women with semi-precious beads, bronze hairpins, and spindles.

Taliban insurgents led by cleric Maulana Fazlullah terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 to 2009, beheading opponents and burning down girls' schools as part of their determination to implement a harsh brand of Islamic law.

An army offensive in 2009 claimed to have defeated the insurgency, but isolated attacks continue.

In October, the Taliban shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in the head in Mingora, the main town of Swat, in a case that sparked worldwide condemnation.

She is now undergoing treatment in Birmingham, England.


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Nov 24, 2012
what does the shooting of Malala Yousafzai have to do with Pakistani Buddhist of second and first millinium B.c.?

Nov 24, 2012
Presumably the problems of doing archaeology in terrorist country.

Remember that this general group of terrorists are islamic and has destroyed buddhist remains before, specifically the unique giant buddha statues in the Swat valley.

So this is precarious work, and it is a testament to the archaeologists tenacity that they can get it down. Let's see if we can preserve this against the criminals! :-/

Nov 24, 2012
what does the shooting of Malala Yousafzai have to do with Pakistani Buddhist of second and first millinium B.c.?
Or "recently controlled by the Taliban" for that matter, mentioned more than once. Seems irrelevant to me too.

Nov 24, 2012
Oops. "Get it done", obviously.

Nov 25, 2012
what does the shooting of Malala Yousafzai have to do with Pakistani Buddhist of second and first millinium B.c.?

In that case , you are also forgetting that a country called Pakistan didn't exist until 60 years in the past. However the area would probably fall under Indo-Aryan influence for the time period.
Also if Talibarbarian's knew that this site existed they would've probably destroyed it like the Bamiyan Buddha's

Nov 25, 2012
Yes, there's a real risk any such site could go the same way as the Bamiyan Buddhas... The "time before Islam" is considered by Islam as "Jahiliya" - essentially, dark ages, of ignorance, depravity, debauchery and general impiety, thus any sign of any civilisation predating Islam is to be destroyed upon discovery, to preserve the dignity and respect of the One True religion and way of life.

The underlying belief is that all of the earliest civilisations were Islamic, following on from Adam (the first prophet), Eve and the garden of Eden. These became modified over time, developing into more 'pagan' belief systems, and as such, any evidence of these 'corrupted forms of Islam' are an affront to Allah, a temptation towards sacrilege, and must be seen to be vanquished.

Seems like dark age iconoclasm to us, yet, without a hint of irony, it's the exact opposite to them... They're not vandals, they're Ghostbusters, fighting the good fight etc.


Nov 25, 2012
Anyway, best of luck to the team here, hopefully they'll have time to record everything before the inevitable happens...

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