Carbon-dating throws back the age of Lahore

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn, Aug 2 , 2014

Description: — Photo by AFP

— Photo by AFP

Over the last 15 years I have been writing a weekly column in the daily ‘Dawn’ of Lahore covering every aspect of the history of Lahore, and how this ancient walled city has been virtually decimated by the trader class as they expand their wholesale businesses.

Today over 70pc of the city stands decimated. Though one does feel that my work has not as yet been an outstanding success, yet at least it has set into motion a process that is now irreversible. The walled city, or what is left after the corporate carnage, is increasingly being seen as worth saving. After all it is the world’s largest walled city that still functions. If Pakistan’s political circumstances improve, and they surely will one day, irrespective of what the pessimists say, the walled city will become a tourist haven. The result surely will be that the coffers of the government, so a study reveals, will increase 1,500 times what the current tax returns that flow from the traders of the walled city. Surely it is only, and only, political corruption that prevents this from happening.

Sadly our rulers, all of them, have been hand-in-glove with these corporate ‘political donors’, adding to the problem. Even today the Lahore Walled City Authority is powerless Walled City of Lahore Authority bureaucracy refuses to let go of properties that rightly belong to the new authority to regulate and conserve for the future generations. It is, in simple terms, a matter of political and bureaucratic devolution, and given corruption levels in Pakistan (we are the most corrupt on Earth) it is this axis of power that has put the brakes on Pakistan.

All these weighty words I say because almost four years ago while going over some digging at Mohallah Maullian inside Lohari Gate, I happened to come across some pottery pieces that were found almost ten feet below the street level. In place of the historic house that had been demolished, a new concrete plaza has come up.

Those pottery pieces I kept aside and took to Britain last year as part of a larger research into the origins of Lahore. In the process I had to learn what little Sanskrit one could manage, and read 3,000-year old plus manuscripts, and ponder over the mysterious Indus script, as well as ponder on ancient Punjabi that led to Sanskrit emerging, as well as study the melting of the ‘ices’ 500,000 years ago as Punjab came into being, it was important to understand the ‘recent’ pottery discoveries that were emerging all over the walled city every time a historic building was destroyed.I have been lucky enough to work in the libraries of the University of Cambridge, and in the laboratories of this august university my pottery samples landed. Just last week the first findings came through.

I will share with you the initial basic findings for much more work on them is yet needed. Samples A, B and C all give a radio carbon dating of 2500 to 3100 years with a Standard Deviation of 1% (one per cent). This is mind-blowing stuff and puts the date of Lahore back by almost 2,000 years.

Armed with these results I had a session with a world authority on Harappa anthropology, as well as a senior professor of archaeology at the University of Cambridge. Their view is that this throws the pattern in which the Indus Valley Civilisation moved as different from the current theories. Lahore surely had come about during the Harappa Age.

Lahore is much older than most of us believed, and towards this end it is important that we take the conservation of our city much more seriously. The newer trader classes have got to seriously understand that in the long-term they will have to move on. In this lies their salvation. The origin trades will, and should stay. The newer trades must grow faster in a much more open environment, not in the stifling confines of a historic city.

In the portions that got burnt down in 1947 must come up a series of reconstructed buildings. In these will develop the ‘tourist industry’ of the future.

The old trades should and must stay and develop along modern lines. The Walled City of Lahore must, always, remain alive, thriving and excelling in the arts and trades that made them famous all over the world. In the meanwhile, research into the origins will go on. Many a life time will surely be spent, and should be spent, to try to unravel the most beautiful secret that belongs to all of us.

Published in Dawn, Aug 2nd , 2014




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