Swat: A team of Pakistani and Italian archaeologists has discovered the oldest Buddhist shrine in the town of Barikot in the Swat Valley, a formal announcement was made in a press release last week.
Although other archeological sites in the area date back to 150 and 100 BC, experts say the Buddhist shrine is even older.
It is believed to have been built during the reign of Chandragupta Morya in the third century BC. However, the final confirmation of this idea will be possible after the radiocarbon dating, which will take some time.
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Barikot was also one of the important cities of the Gandhara civilization at that time, which was also written by the ancient Greek and Italian historians as “Bazira” and “Varasthana”.
Due to its unique environment, wheat and rice crops were grown here twice a year. These crops were so plentiful that their surplus produce was sold in other areas.
Archaeological site adjacent to the oldest Buddhist shrine in Barikot. (Photo: Kafuskari University).
Despite being one of the major centers of ancient Buddhism, it is not yet clear how Buddhism came to Barikot and how it became more and more popular here.
Archaeologists are still struggling to gather enough evidence before reaching the final conclusions about the location of the Buddhist monastery.
Historians write that when Alexander the Great passed through here to invade India in the 4th century BC, seeing the fertile ground, he first captured the barracks and proceeded after gathering a large quantity of wheat and other grains for his army.
Wheat and rice were widely grown in the fertile barracks of ancient times. (Photo: Kafuskari University)
It should be noted that work on the archeology of Gandhara civilization in the northern regions of Pakistan has been going on since 1955 with the extensive collaboration of Pakistani and Italian experts under the patronage of various national, regional, and international cultural institutions.
It is also the oldest global archeological mission in Asia, turning 67 years old. Its current head is Dr. Luca Maria, from the University of Kfoscari, Venice.
Archaeological excavations in Barikot will continue this year as experts hope to find more.