SWAT: Archaeologists have discovered the oldest apsidal Buddhist temple in Pakistan in the Bazira area of Barikot tehsil in Swat.
The site was discovered by archaeologists from Ca ‘Foscari University and the Italian Archaeological Mission in collaboration with the provincial department of archeology and museums.
Italian Ambassador to Pakistan Andreas Ferrarese said Dawn that he was delighted that the new discovery was also made by Italian archaeologists.
“It’s so impressive to find something in common between the archeology of Pakistan and that of Italy. This is something that shows that even in ancient times we have a kind of globalization where people exchanged certain techniques and ideas of culture and religions, which is amazing. The more we look into the past, the more we discover that we have a future together, ”he said.
According to Professor Luca M Olivieri, director of the Italian mission, it is possible to date the foundation of the Buddhist sacred structure to the Maurya period, certainly to the 3rd century BC.
Italian mission director Prof. Luca M Olivieri says sacred structure dates back to Mauryan period
This was followed by a major reconstruction undertaken in the 2nd century BC.
When the Greeks arrived and re-fortified the city of Bazira, which they had known from the time of Alexander the Great, they found an existing structure built during the Maurya period during the time of Ashoka.
Since then, after the reign of King Menander in the middle of the 2nd century, the monument was improved and maintained in function for centuries until the 3rd and 4th centuries, when it was finally abandoned, the town of Kushan de Bazira having been razed by an earthquake.
“This is a surprisingly important discovery because it attests to a new architectural form of the Buddhist structure of Gandhara. We have only one other example of an apsidal temple in a town of Sirkap, Taxila.
“However, the apsidal temple of Bazira is to this day the first example of this architecture in Pakistan,” said Professor Luca.
He said the new discovery was revolutionary because it proved the presence of Buddhists since the third century in Swat.
The find also confirms the claim that the Indo-Greek ruler Menander and his successors supported Buddhism.
Archaeologists have unearthed not only a well-preserved four-meter-high monument, the Apsidal Temple, but also one of the main streets of the ancient city ultimately leading to the discovery of one of the city gates.
“We found coins, including a silver specimen issued by King Menander, an onyx seal decorated with a Hellenistic intaglio depicting the image of a youth in Greek attire with a Kharosthi inscription, a Kharosthi epigraph monumental, many other Kharosthi inscriptions on pots and shards of pottery belonging to the Indo-Greek cultural horizon such as fish
polished black plates and pottery that mimic Attic models, ”said Dr Michele Minardi, another Italian archaeologist.
The site was looted by illegal diggers between 2008 and 2010. If it had not been looted, scientific output would have been even greater, archaeologists said.
Dr Abdul Samad Khan, director of archeology, said the new find was important in different ways, including religious harmony, tolerance and multiculturalism during the Gandhara era.
“The entire province and Swat are extremely rich in archaeological treasures. So far, archaeologists have only explored about five percent of the sites and the remaining 95 percent are still unexplored, ”he said. Dawn.
Posted in Dawn, December 20, 2021