The noted German archaeologist and head of the Pak-German Project, Harald Hauptmann, has called for making all efforts to preserve the ancient rock art of GilgitBaltistan. He made this appeal during a lecture he delivered this week at the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations, Quaid-i-Azam University, on the archaeological heritage of Gilgit-Baltistan.
According to the scholar the world?s highest mountain ranges of the Hindukush, Karakoram and the Himalayas despite being insurmountable barrier for humans movement, have provided passes such as the Baroghil and Khora Burt, Kilik and Mintika and Khunjerab which have served as gateways for migrations, invasions, trade caravans and Buddhist pilgrims, creating the rich ethnic and cultural variety in these regions.
Prof Hauptmann discussed the evolution and development of rock art which represents a time space ranging from late Stone Age period to the coming of Islam. There are eight different stages in the development of the rock art which the Pak-German Project has determined and documented.
The first stage belongs to prehistory — from the late Stone Age to Bronze Age. During this period the most ancient group of carvings includes pictures of animals ? ibexes, markhor and bharal — and hunt ing scenes constitute only 5 per cent of the recorded findings. Less frequent are carvings depicting the hunter. His symbolic presence is also seen in palm and foot prints. These petroglyphs in rock art sites of Thor North and Dadam Das are dated tentatively to the late Epi-paleaolithic period or the 10th millennium.
The second group of mask-like images has a direct link to similar motifs in the rock art of South Siberia of the Okunev-culture found in the Minusinsk basin or Altai dated to the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC in the early Bronze Age. These are believed to be shamanistic expressions.
Another feature of the Bronze Age group are the more than 70 images of the so-called giants -naked male figures with extended arms, which are the most spectacular motifs in the rock art of GilgitBaltistan. They are found in Khanbarry, Dadam Das, and Chilas VI etc.
The third group shows animals carved in the fashion of Eurasian style belonging to the northern nomads of Central Asia known as Sakas or Scythians. The animals in this style are shown ?standing on tip toes.? The Achaemenid-Persian influence, reaching the Upper Indus valley since the late 6th century B.C, is seen in group 4 depictions of animals and males.The animals, ibexes, stags and horses are depicted in a bending posture typical of Achaemenid art. Male figures of warriors show men in broad belts, fringed skirts and leggings slaughtering a goat.
The 5TH group of carvings belongs to subsequent periods, known as the early Buddhist period, the so- called Indo-Scythians era of the Ist century BC and the better known era of the Great Kushana in the Gandhara period from its commencement during the 1st century and its collapse in A.D 275.This period is represented by images of Buddhist stupas resembling early stupas of Sanchi and Amravati sites in India.
The 6th group of carvings represents the golden era of Buddhism from the 5th to 8th century. This group of carvings is indicated by the Jatakas, the previous lives of Buddha, temptations of Buddha by beautiful daughters of the demon King Mara, Buddha?s first sermon and fine images of stupas.
The 7th group of petroglyphs shows battle axes and disc wheels found in 9th and 10th century sites of Diamer and Hunza. The last group of carvings depicts what is called the Renaissance of Buddhism in Baltistan reflected in the famous reliefs of a standing Buddha at Naupura near Gilgit, Manthal near Skardu and the relief of Sakyamuni Maitreya at Saling on the rock high above Shyok opposite Khaplu.
Hauptmann said to protect this heritage of rock art ethno-archaeological museums should be established at Chilas and Gilgit.
The writer is Staff Anthropologist at PIDE and Ph.D Scholar at Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He may be contacted