Taxila


When it comes to ancient history, Pakistan contains its fair share of treasures, one of the prominent of these being the ancient metropolis of Taxila. It is a city of the Gandharan civilization, sometimes known as one of its capitals, whose history can be traced from early microlithic communities at the Khanpur caves up to almost 1000 CE. Taxila was a hub of Buddhism, a centre of learning, an urban metropolis and a meeting point of various cultures, namely the Achaemenids, Greeks, Mauryans, Scythians, Parthians, Kushans, Huns and eventually the Muslims.
Although it was lost to time for nearly 1000 years following its decline, the metropolis and its multitude of treasures came to light in the late 1800s CE under Alexander Cunningham who was an antiquarian for the British Raj and more prominently under John Marshall, the first director of the Archaeological Survey of India in the early 1900s CE, a time when archaeology worldwide had became a much more disciplined field and new discoveries were coming to light from all over the world. Along with discovering the Indus Valley civilization, Marshall also did major work in Taxila which bring to light this ancient and mysterious culture.

Location

The Taxila archaeological site is located in the province of Punjab, Pakistan, about 30 km north of the Capital Territory of Islamabad. It lies off the famous and historical Grand Trunk Road. The modern archaeological region of Taxila is composed of 18 sites of significant cultural value which were inducted as a whole into the UNESCO world heritage umbrella in 1980 CE.

The region is of particular interest when one looks at its ancient role as being a waypoint for the movement of caravans and even today it still holds the same function as in the 6th century BCE. This continuing function of the site as a waypoint tells us about the urban pattern of ancient Taxila (being more or less unchanged since antiquity) and how that affects development and the spread of crafts, settlements and markets as well as an institutional framework which develops as a result of the need to manage the surrounding population.

Although the region fell out of favor with the increase in sea trade in later times, the preceding centuries of occupation meant that a massive amount of archaeological data still remains in the region which has been slowly and gradually unearthed from the British era down to the present day.

Pre-History of Taxila

The beginnings of human occupation in the area can be traced back to the microlithic hunters of the period before 3500 BCE, most importantly at three important caves discovered in 1964 CE by Elden Johnson of the University of Minnesota at Bhamala, Mohra Moradu and Khanpur. Particularly at the Khanpur cave, 2.9m (9 ft 7 inches) of cultural deposit was found dating from 900 CE all the way back to the stone age.
Early agricultural communities developed around 3500-2700 BCE as is evidenced from the small mound of Saraikala - "small" being relative as it is 305 m (1000 ft) east to west and 610 m (2000 ft) north to south - excavated by Ahmad Hasan Dani, a pioneering archaeologist of Pakistan. This site contains evidence of stone, bone and handmade pottery. The stone objects include microliths, axes and maceheads along with parallel-sided blades, side and end scrapers, and assymetrical flakes and arrowheads. Ground stone tools are also found such as chisels as well as saddle querns, grinders and pounders for daily use. Bone tools belonging to five categories have been found including awls, perforators, spatulas, points and pressure flakes. Pottery is the third industry with the earliest examples being almost all handmade and divided into four subcategories.
The Bronze Age begins in the region around 2700-2100 BCE and is also evidenced at Saraikala with no break between the end of the neolithic to the Bronze age deposits. There is even a transitional period between the two ages which includes mixed implements of neolithic and bronze age varieties.








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