Pakistanís cultural treasure documented by Japanese archaeologist

by Sana Jamal, Pakistan Observer‎, March 10, 2012

Islamabad, Pakistan -- A renowned Japanese professor and archaeologist, Prof. Koji Nishikawa has spend more than two decades to come up with an excellent publication on Pakistan’s brilliant chapters of cultural history, titled ‘Ranigat, a Buddhist Site in Gandhara, Pakistan, surveyed 1983-1992’.

The comprehensive report, based on two volumes, is a fine photographic record of the excavations at Ranigat, one of the largest Buddhist sites in Gandhara, illustrating some 2000 rare photographs of excavated objects including sculptures, stone objects, stucco, terracotta, stone reliquary, and stone lamps.

Along with rare photographs and scientific research, the Report, illustrate the journey of 10 Japanese experts headed by Prof. Nishikawa as the director of the Kyoto University, Scientific Expedition to Gandhara, who undertook pilot excavation on the site of Ranigat during 1982 and 1992, discovering many Buddhist stupas, shrines and monasteries.

The learned Japanese scholar Prof. Koji Nishikawa, who compiled the rare publication, is on a short visit to Pakistan to present his report to the government. Briefing a selected group of journalists, Prof. Nishikawa, accompanied by Dr. Engr. Masaya Masui, explained his struggle and experience during the 10 year excavation project. “When we first began work at Ranigat, the locals refused to assist as they misunderstood our excavation project, but gradually they realised the significance of our contribution,” he told, adding that some 400 villagers assisted on the project started in 1980s.

“The excavation has been completed,” however, Prof. Nishikawa, stressed that the tough mission to maintain the achievements is still ahead. The government of Pakistan should consider promoting conservation education to preserve archaeological sites and encourage workers who are already engaged at historical sites. The veteran Japanese scholar who is extremely active in his profession since 1960s noted that “such archaeological projects can promote cultural exchange between East and West.”

The Gandhara region, situated at the crossroads of various civilisations flourished from the 2nd century B.C. to 6 century A.D stands as long-lasting tribute to cultural diversity. Located in the Buner district, 140 km from Peshawar in a hilly area, Ranigat is the largest Buddhist monastic complex in Gandhara. The remains, scattered over an area of 700x1100 square meters, are known after the name of a huge gigantic rock which is locally named as “Ranigat” meaning the Queen’s Rock. The site was declared protected under the Antiquity Act 1975 of Pakistan.

To the good fortune of Pakistan and persistent efforts of Japanese scholars, the structure of central area of the ancient site of Ranigat was discovered and first published in the Japanese finding in 1993. The excavation of the site began in 1983 based on the outcome of a research carried out on the Buddhist site in Gandhara by Kyoto University Scientific Mission. The report also adds that at the request of department of Archaeology of Pakistan, the Japanese continued to restore and maintain the structural remains even after the excavation was completed. It was due to the UNESCO/Japan Funds interest that additional excavation and further research on Ranigat was possible since 1994.

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