Buddhism in Punjab and inception of new research era

Archaeology as a scientific study is only about 150 years old. Interest in the past, however, is much older than that. If you stretch the definition enough, probably the earliest probe into the past was during New Kingdom Egypt (ca 1550–1070 BCE), when the pharaohs excavated and reconstructed the Sphinx, itself originally built during the 4th Dynasty (Old Kingdom, 2575–2134 BCE) for the Pharaoh Khafre. There are no written records to support the excavation--so we don’t know which of the New Kingdom pharaohs asked for the Sphinx to be restored—but physical evidence of the reconstruction exists, and there are ivory carvings from earlier periods that indicate the Sphinx was buried in sand up to its head and shoulders before the New Kingdom excavations.
Today archaeology is a precise science. Archaeologists’ tools include radioactive carbon dating and geophysical prospecting. The discipline is strongly influenced and even driven by humanities like history and art history. However, it is, at heart, intensely methodical and technical. But archaeology hasn’t always been precise. In fact, it hasn’t always been a science.
Archaeology originated in 15th and 16th century Europe with the popularity of collecting and Humanism, a type of rational philosophy that held art in high esteem. The inquisitive elite of the Renaissance collected antiquities from ancient Greece and Rome, considering them pieces of art more than historical artifacts, now rising of Archaeology Started by Buddhism in Punjab and Dawn of New Research Era.
For more than a century, the story of Buddhism and Buddhist Art remained confined to present day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The innumerable evidences from this part of the country overshadowed the pivotal role played by Punjab, the land of five rivers and Sapta Sindu, the land of seven rivers of the Ancient Vedic literature. In fact, the real history Buddhism started within the plains of Punjab. The remnants of that periods are laying buried underneath the mounds and waiting to be explored and to see sunlight prior to their last breath as these are being damaged/plundered by antiquity looters and farmers. These views were expressed by Punjab University Archaeology Department Chairman Dr. Muhammad Hameed.
Dr Muhammad Hameed, Chairman, Department of Archaeology, said that he and his team discovered a 2000-year-old civilization in the form of huge cultural/archaeological mounds scatter along the old river bed of Jhelum between Sargodha and Jhang. The presents find were discovered from Tibba Panj Pir and Tibba Rankinn located near small village Nihang, Tehsil Chota Sahiwal. Among the prominent finds include Buddhist period mounds/settlements, Buddhist narrative art in terracotta, Greco-Roman Buddhist art, and sacred/ceremonial tanks representing the four elements of the universe (water, air, fire, and earth). The relief panel is the only example found from the plain of Punjab and provided us the first glimpse of the classic narrative art being produced in this region.  The discovery of beautifully carved burnt bricks showing geometric, corinthian floral and lotus patterns identical to the typical Gandharan style   are clear cut indication of the presence of Buddhist stupa and monasteries which would have been equally popular and vibrant as was the case in Gandhara. The other small but unique finds include fragments of Stupa umbrella  Chattaras, human and animal footprints, grinding stones and dabbers used to finish pottery.
He said that it has also been confirmed that Buddhists were the inhabitants of the area and had established their religious buildings, stupas, and monasteries. This great achievement/effort of the research team of Punjab University will change the religious and cultural history of Punjab. The discovery shows that Buddhists established their own places of worship in Punjab and adopted a unique method of propagating their religion. These facts were hidden and unnoticed until now. Which have started to appear after our research.
Dr Muhammad Hameed said that the recent discovery has opened new research horizons and for that further research and surveys/visits to the above-mentioned areas are needed to find answers to various questions such as How did Buddhism reached in Punjab? What was the role of Punjab in the diffusion of Buddhist philosophy and Art? What was the shade of Buddhism in Punjab? How and when did Buddhism disappear from Punjab? Social, administrative, educational, and financial support and also assistance from the law enforcement agencies is needed to complete this work as well as to save our wonderful cultural heritage scattered in the plains of Punjab province. He expressed his views. He said that if there is no lack of budget, we can get even more ancient and historical information, we also need to develop interest of our students and young generation in this program as they are actual custodial our history, heritage and pride. 
Dr Hameed received his PhD degree from the Free University of Berlin. Dr Hameed has been associated with the Department of Archaeology of Punjab University since 2006. Besides teaching, he also has extensive administrative experience as a department head and member of several committees. He is part of national and international research projects involving exploration, documentation, heritage mapping, and excavation of potential sites. Dr Hameed is the recipient of many scholarships and research grants including his recent project “In Search of Sakala, the Lost City of Indo-Greeks: An Investigative and Analytical Study based on Archaeological, Environmental and Genetic Field Research in Sialkot (A Multidisciplinary (Perspective)” awarded by Higher Education Commission, Pakistan. Dr Muhammad Hameed is the first faculty member of the Department of Archaeology of Punjab University, to hold a foreign doctorate degree, and the first archaeologist from Punjab to win the NRPU (HEC-funded project) of 5 million. During his tonsure, several MoUs with national and international institutions have been signed. He is often invited as guest speakers in national and international universities to talk about Pakistan Archaeology.
During his chairmanship, Dr Muhammad Hameed started BS Archaeology as well as MPhil programme. For creating awareness among people and popularizing the subject of archaeology, Dr Hameed started various interactive programmes. This also includes the special lecture series dedicated to Ahmed Hasan Dani who is considered “Father of Archaeology in Pakistan. The other works include “Archaeology Talks Series”, “Lahore Nashist Lecture Series” and “Ancient Lahore Adventure Walk Series” all designed to make our youth familiar with our splendid heritage and its role in the overall formation of our history, culture, art and architecture.

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