Italian Archaeological Mission in Swat celebrates 58 years of work


ISLAMABAD: With a casual formula, based on two bastions of the Italian National identity, culture and gastronomy, the Italian Embassy in Islamabad celebrated the achievements of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Swat.
Italy’s Ambassador Adriano Chiodi Cianfarani, in his opening remarks, underscored that “in Pakistan our archaeologists have been operating since 1955, with the first surveys conducted by Giuseppe Tucci, the famous Tibetologist and orientalist, whom established, thanks to the support and vision of the Wali of Swat a permanent mission of the Italian Institute for the Far and Middle-East in Saidu Sharif as from 1956.”
. In fact, the Italian mission has obtained, over the past decades, great results, with the successful excavations in the Buddhist sanctuaries, the uncovering of proto-historic graveyards, early and late-historic settlements, and very significant Islamic monuments. Just to mention few of their landmark dates and achievements: In 1984, the mission discovered Bazira (Barikot), a fortified city of the Indo-Greek times, in 1986 the third most ancient mosque in Pakistan, built under a general of Mahmud of Ghazni in 1048, in Udegram, was uncovered, restored and opened for worship. In 2000, the archaeological map of the Swat Valley was launched; in 2012, a 3000-year-old necropolis was unearthed. Finally, in 2013, a new archaeological museum in Saidu Sharif was completed, inaugurated and opened for the public.
Specifically on the museum, that was reproduced on some of the banners that beautifully decorated the Italian compound, the Italian ambassador mentioned that “it offers a further tangible proof of Italy’s commitment in contributing to protect the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan, providing visitors with an enhanced and modern structure housing, a unique collection of Gandhara pieces, that is already drawing researchers and tourists from Pakistan and abroad”.
Finally, in thanking the excellent work of all the players involved: the Economic Affairs Division of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the army deployed in the Swat Valley and the KP authorities, Chiodi Cianfarani concluded, “The Italian effort to discover, look after and pass on to the future generations the historical legacy of Swat has also played an important role. We believe in portraying a more comprehensive image of Pakistan, showcasing the ‘soft’ side of this beautiful country. This is not just the ‘hard country’ that too often international media focuses on, it is also a land boasting of a very rich historical heritage that needs to be known and understood, inside Pakistan and abroad. The commendable works of the four generations of the Italian archaeologists, and their local teams have allowed the people of Swat and Pakistan as a whole, to reconnect to its rich past: be it prehistoric, Buddhist, Hellenistic or Islamic. In fact, as a panellist pointed out in the recent Islamabad Literature Festival, it is only by owning our past that we would be able to define ourselves for the future”.
Head of Economic, Cultural and Press Federico Bianchi introduced Luca Olivieri and Feryal Gauhar, and then took the Italian Archaeological Mission Head Olivieri in presenting the achievements of his team, recalled that a significant part of the mission’s funding comes from a project financed within the framework of the Pakistan-Italian Debt-for-Development Swap Agreement (PIDSA), a joint venture of the Pakistani authorities, at federal and provincial levels, and the Italian government. Feryal Gauhar introduced a 30-minute movie on the restoration of the Buddha of Jahanabad, blasted on the model of the larger, giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, and restored by the Italian mission. The event was attended by many diplomats and media personnel. All of them appreciated the initiative and thanked the ambassador for great hospitality.

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