Focus: The French Archaeological Mission in the Indus Basin in Pakistan

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For more than 60 years, France and Pakistan’s cooperation in archaeology has relied on solid foundations thanks to the long-term work conducted by the Indus Archaeological Mission from 1958 to 2002 and by the French Archaeology Mission in Makran from 1987 to 2007.

Research conducted by these two missions in Sindh and Balochistan on several hundreds of identified and documented sites produced data that has been inestimable regarding knowledge of the region’s protohistory. Interrupted in 2002 following the destruction of several villages and archaeological sites, the Indus Mission’s activities, led from 1974 to 2014 by Jean-François Jarrige, resumed their concentration on publication work. After 20 years of continual work, the Makran Mission founded by Roland Besenval also stopped its field activities in 2007.

While a very large number of sites were looted over the past decade in Balochistan, contact with the local authorities and populations was pursued as was research of French teams, with missions to study collections and provide expertise conducted in Karachi up until 2013.

At Pakistan’s request, and adapting to the new scientific and educational challenges, the two missions recently merged to create the Indus Bassin Mission led by Aurore Didier. In 2015, this mission revitalized an excavation and exploration programme in Sindh aiming at better understanding the origin of the Indus civilization.

These new activities include training programmes in the field and local universities for archaeology students and young professionals working in the area of Pakistani heritage and the development of a watchdog to preserve and promote the archaeological sites of Balochistan and scientific and technical support for the launch of new field work in this region conducted by young local archaeologists involved with the mission.

Showcased in 1988 at the Musée Guimet in Les Cités oubliées de l’Indus Exhibition, Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage regarding the protohistoric period endures until the present day with new promotional projects in which the Indus Basin Mission is actively participating.

Image Diaporama - Neolithic architectures at the Mehrgarh site. (...)

Neolithic architectures at the Mehrgarh site. Photo: Indus Archaeological Mission, C. Jarrige.

Image Diaporama - Ceramics from the Indus first civilization (...)

Ceramics from the Indus first civilization period (2500-2300) discovered on the Naushahro site in Balochistan. Photo: Indus Archaeological Mission, C. Jarrige.

Image Diaporama - Pillaged cemetery, dated 2800-2600 BCE, where (...)

Pillaged cemetery, dated 2800-2600 BCE, where the French teams conducted safeguard operations in 2004. Photo: French Archaeological Mission in Makran, R. Besenval.

Image Diaporama - Excavations on the Chanhudaro site in the (...)

Excavations on the Chanhudaro site in the Sindh province. Photo: French Archaeological Mission in the Indus Basin.

Image Diaporama - Training students on the Chanhudaro site. (...)

Training students on the Chanhudaro site. Photo: French Archaeological Mission in the Indus Basin.

Image Diaporama - Training students on the Chanhudaro site. (...)

Training students on the Chanhudaro site. Photo: French Archaeological Mission in the Indus Basin.

Image Diaporama - Team of the French Archaeological Mission in (...)

Team of the French Archaeological Mission in the Indus Basin. Photo: French Archaeological Mission in the Indus Basin.

Image Diaporama - Excavations of the Chanhudaro Indus site in (...)

Excavations of the Chanhudaro Indus site in 2016. Photo: French Archaeological Mission in the Indus Basin, A. Didier.

Updated: december 2016

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