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Reconstruction of an ancient cultural landscape in Baluchistan, Pakistan: surveys and excavations in Sohr Damb/Nal, Pakistan

Baluchistan is a key region in view of cultural developments in the Indo-Iranian border area. In the period from around 4500 BC to 2600 BC, human activity spread to previously unsettled areas, new technologies and cultural styles and the exploitation of raw materials became widespread, interregional trade networks evolved, the first cities emerged, and around 2600 BC, the first Indus Valley civilization. After a long break in settlement, lasting from around 1700 BC to around 200 BC, the spread of Islam made it important as a transit region.

Inaccessible for several decades of the 20th century, only three major archaeological international projects have taken place here since 1973. In addition to the French missions, the German-Pakistani Archaeological Mission to Kalat investigated the Central and South-Eastern highlands from 1996 to 2007. Since then any further fieldwork has been prevented by political tensions.

The survey carried out from 1996 to 2000 in south Baluchistan resulted in the discovery of some 413 archaeological sites ranging in date from 4500 BC to the 19th century, whose temporal and geographical spread has led to vital findings on the development and culture of the region. The results are being broadened by investigations in Sohr Damb/Nal, a 13-metre tell, and the surrounding area (2001–2007). The mound is one of the leading sites covering the period from 3500 BC to 2300 BC in the Indo-Iranian area.

Post-excavation analysis campaigns have taken place in Karachi since 2008. In 2010, the team was entrusted with the analysis and care of a collection of 768 whole vessels from Baluchistan, which were confiscated by customs and are now in the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi. This material is a fascinating testomony to a bygone period of flourishing cultural activity in what remains to this day a very sparsely populated area. The project includes the documentation, conservation, and lastly the display of the objects in a small public exhibition.

Partners: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut; Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi; Sindh Secretariat, Government of Sindh
Project management: PD Dr. U. Franke, Deputy Director, Museum für Islamische Kunst
Project team includes: St. Langer (†), E. Cortesi, A. Gubisch, A. Lange, Dr. Th. Urban, S. Hageneuer, D. Lau
Project website:
Funding: DFG (2001-2013); German Federal Foreign Office, cultural preservation programme (1996–2000, 2013)
Duration: 1996 to 2013