Chilas: Vandals destroy Centuries-old rock carvings

Zulfiqar Ali Khan

The ancient petroglyphs, carved on rocks near Chilas Town, are being threatened by painting graffiti and defacing the ancient images and symbols. While travelling on KKH, one can easily observe a rock near to Chilas city where a government-run education project has boldly painted an educational awareness banner on top of the prehistoric images and symbols.

Photo: Zulfiqar Ali Khan
Photo: Zulfiqar Ali Khan

Shahab Ghauri, a senior journalist from Chilas, reports increasing incidences in which people paint on the old rock carvings and carve their names or slogans. He said some seem to also use sharp tools to deface the images.

Also Visit: [Pictorial] Ancient stone carvings around Chilas city of Diamer district

Diamer district hosts one of the largest landscapes of rock carvings as historically the area has served as a gateway to the Indus and Gandhara valley civilization. The archaeological sites are already endangered due to the mega project of Diamer Bhasha dam and realignment of KKH. The treasures were dated from 6th millennium BC to the arrival of Islam in Chilas from the 16th c. AD.

Photo: Zulfiqar Ali Khan
Photo: Zulfiqar Ali Khan

Asad Ullah, Pamir Times Reporter in Chilas, informed that the treasures are protected by the Pakistan Antiquities Act but ironically, the antiquities authority has left the valuable treasures at the mercy of vandals and treasure hunters. He said WAPDA has conducted surveys and the plan was to preserve whatever it can by cutting the rocks for display at the British time Chilas Fort.

Harald Hauptmann of Heidelberg Academy for Humanities and Sciences, Germany has documented large numbers of these carvings in Chilas area. According to his records, about 37,051 carvings on 5,928 boulders or rock faces will be inundated in Diamer-Basha Dam. In an interview with Dawn, he has mentioned that some 3,000 very important stupas and similar number of drawings will be submerged after the construction of the dam.

Also Read: Threatened rock carvings of Pakistan

Photo: Zulfiqar Ai Khan
Photo: Zulfiqar Ai Khan

According to a report prepared by Rogers Kolachi Khan & Associates on Cultural Landscape of Chilas the proposed site of the dam hosts some 30,000 ancient art carvings and inscriptions which may vanish forever due to the construction of this reservoir. The report mentions that “The third threat is less a threat than a certainty; the flooding of all land below 1100m above sea level by  the Diamer Basha Dam reservoir being constructed west of Chilas town. A lake will be created over 100 km long that will change the landscape irrevocably and will affect every resident of the area, in some cases dramatically”.

Read Rogers’ Complete Report: Chilas Rock Carvings Cultural Landscape Project

The graving situation demands a comprehensive and urgent action to establish a museum in Chilas and preserve the replicas and originals carvings along with other cultural heritages of the Diamer district.

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