THE antiquity of Islamabad can be seen in the prehistoric and proto-historic rock carvings found in Bagh Jogian, Sain, Phulgran, Bobri, Gumbat and Peja. These consist in cup markings and geometrical patterns. There are some petroglyphs depicting animals.The cup marks are also known as cupules. These are hemispherical, cup shaped, non-utilitarian cultural marks that have been pounded into a rock surface by human hand.
The cupules found in Peja are carved on the rocks, which lie to the south of the three natural menhirs (standing stones). There are two sites at Peja. At the first site there are total 16 cupules in two rows; each row has seven cup-marks flanked by one on either side.The second site also has the same pattern with 16 cup-marks running in double rows with each row depicting seven cupules flanked by one each on either side of the row. Near these cup marks there are also carvings of squares and vertical and horizontal lines. The symbolism of 16 is very intriguing. But at some other sites one finds 14 cup marks running in double rows with each row having seven-cup marks. What was the ancient artist?s purpose of making these cupules or what these symbols represented has not yet been understood. Their purpose could be ritual or these may be heraldic signs of some event. The geometric markings near the cupules may also have some meaning.
At Gumbat, there are two cupule sites. One depicts 14 cupules in two rows with each row having seven cup-marks. The other also depicts 14 cup marks in the same style. Close to these cup marks are the geometric designs particularly rectangles, circles, squares, vertical lines, chevron lines, and triangles. Apart from these small cup marks in groups there are some individual cup marks with the traces of the colours, which possibly were used to colour the cupules. These colours could have some ritual significance.
Remarkably, these cupules are found nearly all over Pakistan. We find them in Kandak valley in Swat, Gaji in Johi Tehsil of Dadu District, Tor Derai in Duki Tehsil of Loralai District. In Tor Derai there are numerous other rock carvings and inscriptions. There are two cupmark sites. One site has 14 and the other 16 cupules. In Gaj River in Johi Tehsil of Dadu, there are cupules carved on the mountain wall close to geometric figures made as if to magnify the geometric figure that was possibly a cult object among the ancient peoples of Sindh living in the Gaj perennial river and beyond. One can clearly see the traces of the colour in the cup marks of the Gaj River.
The symbolism of the figures of 14 and 16 and its meaning could be part of the ancient man?s belief system or it may be a representation of the prehistoric man?s cosmology. Whatever be its meaning this anthropological discovery proves the antiquity of the city of Islamabad, which is believed to be only 50 years old. The people of Islamabad should explore these ancient sites for fun and study and the archaeologists should also move out of their posh offices to survey and document the rich past of this modern city.
The writer is Staff Anthropologist at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). He may be contacted at