French archaeologists explore rich Pak culture heritage

KARACHI: The cultural heritage of Pakistan is an extraordinary field for archaeologists. The Pakistani-French Archaeological Mission aims to carry out improvements in the chrono-cultural periodization of southern Sindh. This aims to lead new exploration and excavation in Sindh.

Almost a century of archaeological field research in Pakistan has significantly documented and enlarged the knowledge of the first urban phenomenon in South Asia, the Indus Civilization (2500-1900 BCE).

The Indus Civilization is known with the names of major Indus cities, including Harappa and Moenjo Daro, which are certainly the classic and most famous examples of remarkable planned cities discovered in the Indus Valley.

Director French Archaeological Mission Dr. Aurore Didier expressed these views while speaking at the 29th Public Awareness Seminar on Archaeological Research on the Indus Civilization in Southern Pakistan: Contribution of the Pakistani-French Mission (1958-2015) held at Prof Salimuzzaman Siddiqui Auditorium, International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi (UoK) here on Friday evening.

The seminar was jointly organised by Dr. Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), UoK and Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP).

Dr. Didier said that everyone knew that almost a century of archaeological field research in Pakistan had significantly documented and enlarged the knowledge of the first urban phenomenon in South Asia.

She said that Moenjodaro and Harappa were surely the classic and the most famous examples of remarkable planned cities discovered in the Indus Valley. The destruction of Harappa and Moenjo Daro linked with sudden drift in climate. International seminars, conferences and exhibitions on this ancient cultural heritage will be organised both in Pakistan and France, she informed the audience.

Since the founding of the ‘Mission of Indus’ (MAI) by Jean-Marie Casal in 1958, French archaeologists working in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology and Museums of Pakistan, have brought a significant contribution for the knowledge of this civilisation in Balochistan and Sindh and for enhancing the rich cultural heritage of proto-historic Pakistan.

The work conducted from 1967 to 2001 by Dr. Jean-François Jarrige at Pirak, Mehergarh and Naushero in the Kachi-Bolan region (Balochistan), has indeed allowed putting in evidence, for the first time in this part of Asia, a complete sequence of occupation from the 8th millennium BCE to 700 BCE.

Excavations carried out in the vast archaeological area of Mehergarh provided, in particular, the so-far earliest evidence of an incipient farming economy in South Asia and the remains of a rich Chalcolithic occupation characterized by exceptional achievements in the field of pyro-technological craft productions. Such discoveries were crucial for a better understanding of the emergence of the Indus Civilization around 2500 BCE.

In parallel, the Pakistani-French Archaeological Mission in Makran (MAFM), founded by Dr. Roland Besenval, implemented between 1987 and 2007 a pluridisciplinary program including surveys, excavations and environmental studies in the area of Kech-Makran (southwestern Balochistan).

Among its main achievements, the mission brought to light the rich Chalcolithic past of the region, filling a gap in our knowledge of the ancient population and economy of Southern Pakistan.

It also provided further clues for studying the expansion of the Indus civilization in south-western Pakistan, she said, adding that her team is currently focusing on details of transition linking pre-Indus and Indus civilisation periods.

She said that the archaeologists found a connection between the earliest cultures of Balochistan with that of Sindh, which includes how the Indus civilisation developed on that site and what the relationships between the different regions of the Indus territory and Balochistan’s culture were.

She said that in Makran her team had shown some link among the chalcolithic, period. Contribution of the Pakistani-French Mission is significant in expanding the knowledge of the first urban phenomenon in South Asia, she observed.