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Ancient Tombs Discovered in Pakistan's Swat Valley

Nov 25, 2012 04:23 AM EST

An ancient cemetery dating back to 3,000 years has been discovered in Pakistan's Swat Valley, a region known for lush green valleys and beautiful mountains.

A team of Italian archaeologists led by Luca Maria Olivieri found the cemetery, with a collection of about 30 graves, at Udegram, a site in Swat which is known for Buddhist treasures. The graves were found in clusters and slightly overlapping, shedding light on ancient funeral rites, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"Some graves had a stone wall, others were protected by walls and enclosures in beaten clay," Maria Olivieri told AFP.

"The cemetery... seems to have been used between the end of the second millennium BCE and the first half of the first millennium BCE," he added.

According to the archaeologists, the bodies were placed in open graves that were surrounded by wooden railings. The graves were then opened again in order to burn the bones, after which they were closed and a burial mound was built over the remains of the dead.

Experts noticed that male bodies were buried with quality flasks and cooking pots, while the women were buried with bronze hairpins and semi-precious beads. Some iron fragments were also found, showing ancient traces of the metal appearing in the region, the news agency said.

Archaeologists have been excavating the site at Udegram from the 1950s, but this is the first time that they have noticed the graves. The tombs have been found to exist even before the Buddhism Gandhara civilization, which lasted from the first millenium B.C. to the sixth century A.D.

The Gandhara civilization was spread across regions in northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, including Swat. It was during the Gandhara civilization that Buddhism emerged and spread towards the east up to Japan and Korea, according to Pakistan tourism website.

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