PESHAWAR: Archaeologists in Pakistan have found 1,800 years old Buddha artifacts in the northwest of the country.
Abdul Samad, the provincial director of the Archeology Department said, the rare artifacts were found in the Swabi district, located some 83 kilometers from Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“We have found around 400 new antiquities belonging to Gandhara civilization during an ongoing excavation at Baho Dheri village of Swabi over the past six months,” he said.
The discoveries include a 73-meter-high stupa, the largest of its kind so far found in the region, and a rare 10-feet life-size statue of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
The stupa, which is 73-meter high, is the largest of its kind found in this region so far.
“This statue is not in intact form. We need to work to restore in its original shape,” Samad said.
Other antiquities include seated Buddha statues, some 1,800 years old original floor of the largest stupa, and a statue in meditation pose, he added.
“These antiquities are not mere art pieces but they were used for worship purposes,” he further said, adding that the Buddhist disciples used to take rounds of the stupa in the anti-clockwise direction.
Mostly, he said, round, Indian, and Ashokan-style stupas have been found in the region, some of them dated back to 2,200 years, in addition to square stupas, which were introduced by the ancient Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The latest discoveries are the outcome of an ongoing excavation in the region over the past six months.
“We have so far completed 40 percent of the planned excavation. Sixty percent (excavation) is still left,” said Fawad Khan, head of a 20-member team of archeologists involved in the excavation.
He said that more “interesting” discoveries are expected.
Khan said that the fresh discoveries have added a “new chapter” to the history of the Gandhara civilization.
Emerged in 500 BC, the ancient Gandhara civilization sprawled the region, which included Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Swat, Buner, and Bajaur situated in the northwest, and Texila in the northeast of today’s Pakistan, in addition to Kabul and northern Afghanistan.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is home to 70 percent of the sites in the country sacred to Buddhists.
“These latest discoveries, which include rare stupas and other artifacts will certainly boost the religious tourism in Pakistan, which is already picking up,” Samad observed.
Once known as the heart of the Gandhara civilization, Takhtbai or Takht-i-Bhai (throne of origins) – a small scenic town located some 112km from Peshawar – is the most visited site by the Buddhists, who flock to see the ancient monastery dated back to the 1st century, according to Samad.
In the entire Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders neighboring Afghanistan, there are some 20,000 archeological sites, of them, 2,000 belong to Buddhist civilization.