Initial excavations by an Italian archaeology mission at Kandak and Kota in the Barikot area have apparently revealed treasures that include prehistoric rock carvings, paintings of social and hunting scenes and pottery specimens “preserved in good condition,” according to the mission’s director. The Italians deserve kudos for continuing their work under the most trying circumstances during the past many years since Swat became the scene of utter lawlessness because of militancy in the area. Indeed, Italian archaeologists are no strangers to the valley where they have had a presence since the discovery of the riveting Butkara site in the late 1950s in the backyard of the administrative capital, Saidu Sharif.
No doubt, the many foreign archaeologists, particularly the Italians in Swat and the French in Mehrgarh, Balochistan, have played an important role in preserving Pakistan’s historical treasures. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the role of the national archaeology department as the custodian of these and other historical sites. For instance, we have not heard of the fate of the artifacts housed in the Swat Museum at Saidu and the Chakdara Museum on the road to Dir.