Nimogram: Pakistani Archaeological Site Images

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http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/Arts.Nimogram

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The photographs in this collection are of an early Buddhist site, Nimogram, in the Swat District of Pakistan (map).

Its artifacts belong to the Gandhāran School of Art. Coins of the Kus̥ān̥a and Kus̥ān̥a-Sassanian periods excavated from the site are dated to the 2nd and 3rd century CE. Dr. Joan A. Raducha took the photos in the course of three trips to Pakistan. Two trips took place in 1979 and 1986 when she visited the site of Nimogram as well as the Swat Museum (that held the majority of items in galleries and in storerooms), and at the Taxila Museum (where a few items from Nimogram were on display). Her third trip was in 2010 when she visited the Taxila Museum storeroom where many of the objects were being held for safe-keeping after a car bomb damaged the Swat Museum in February 2008.

The site was excavated by staff of the Pakistan Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) in 1967 and 1968 (Inayat-ur-Rehman. [1968]). The majority of objects found at the site are sculptures, stone and stucco that decorated the Buddhist monuments at the site. Minor finds from the site include materials used in construction, coins, and votive objects.

One of the great strengths of the Nimogram collection is that all the artifacts came from this single site. In the case of 312 objects, a record was made of the specific location of the find within the site. (Antiquities Register of Nimogram Excavations [1967-68]) Thus the materials offer the possibility of gaining a better understanding of the decorative panorama of the site as well as an opportunity to study groups of sculptures made by the same hand or workshop, and the same motif interpreted by different hands.

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The digital collection is made up of five parts:

  1. Artifacts recorded in the antiquities register at the time of excavation
  2. Objects in the Swat Museum storerooms noted as stray finds from Nimogram, some of which are likely to have been found during the initial survey that led to the excavation
  3. Miscellaneous minor finds in the Swat Museum storerooms that were wrapped in paper or tagged as ‘Nimogram’ but without a specific accession number
  4. Site photographs and the DOAM drawing made in the first season of excavation; the numbering in this drawing, different from numbering used in later drawings, was presumably used when identifying the find site of objects during this first season
  5. Descriptions of the objects, with the iconographic details based on generally accepted knowledge

Acknowledgements

The Department of Archaeology and Museums of the Government of Pakistan (DOAM) collected, excavated and stored these objects and gave Raducha permission to photograph, study and publish them. Many individuals within DOAM provided Raducha with guidance and assistance including those listed below with their titles at that time: Director General Mohammad Ishtiaq Khan, Director Khurshid Hasan, Deputy Director Inayat-ur-Rehman, Curator of the Swat Museum Nazir Ahmad Khan, Director General Fazal Dad Kakar, Assistant Director, Archaeology Department Abdul Ghafoor, Curator of the Reserve, Taxila Museum Assadullah Khan, Curator of the Taxila Museum, Abdullah Naser.

Luca M. Olivieri,co-Director/Project Manager of the ACT Project of IsIAO – Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan,wrote descriptions of the minor finds in this collection and provided feedback and advice at several junctures as the digital archive project developed. Elizabeth Errington, Curator of South Asian Coins and Masson Project Coins of South and South-east Asia, Afghanistan and the Masson Collection in the Departments of Asia/Coins and Medals of the BritishMuseum wrote descriptions of the coins from the site. Neha Mohan, student and then a research intern at the UW-Madison (UW) library, provided invaluable support for the two year duration of the project. Staff members of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center, including Steven Dast, Peter Gorman, Melissa McLimans, Vicki Tobias and Leah Ujda, were enthusiastic and flexible working through many issues particular to making this collection available. UW South Asian bibliographer, Mary Rader, provided advice and encouragement at several decision points in the project.

Grant support for various stages of the research leading to the implementation of this project include: the Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship program(1979), the Smithsonian Institution (1986), the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (2010), and the US Department of State (2010). The implementation of this digital archive project was made possible through the support of the digital archive division of the University of Wisconsin Libraries and the UW- Madison Division of International Studies.

How to search the site

There are three ways to search this collection. The pre-selected searches on this page provide a quick overview of the types of materials in the collection. By clicking on one of the images you will retrieve all images designated with that particular subject. You can, on the search page, click “search the collection” to search by keyword and find a set of objects in which that word appears somewhere in the record for that object; the term may refer to the object or to one with which a comparison is made. You can also search by subject for a discrete set of terms that include both iconographic and structural features of the objects.

If you would like to link a published work about Nimogram to this page, or have any questions please contact the UWDCC.

History of Research on the Sacred Site of Nimogram[i]

In September/October of 1966, Khair-ul-Aman was the Tehsildar of the Shamozai area of Swat. Several local residents told him about a site near the village of Nimogram from which sculptures were being removed. He informed his uncle, Inayat-ur-Rehman, who was then curator of the Swat Museum that is located in Saidu Sharif. Together they visited the site, travelling part of the distance on scooter. When the terrain became too impassable, they covered the remainder of the distance on horseback. Upon arrival at the site, numerous sculptures were evident on the surface. Inayat-ur-Rehman returned to Saidu Sharif with four beautiful reliefs that were placed in the reserve storeroom of the Swat Museum. He determined that they were Buddhist Sculptures of the Gandhāran School, and the site likely represented the site of a Buddhist monastery and monument.

On Inayat-ur-Rehman’s recommendation, the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, (DOAM) sent Dr. Muhammad Sharif from the exploration branch to further investigate the site in order to determine the feasibility of excavation. In the course of his investigation, a group of surface finds were collected and brought to the Swat Museum, where they were placed in a storeroom.

At the request of Inayat-ur-Rehman, the Wali [ruler] of Swat accorded permission for the excavation of the site. (The Wali subsequently built a road to the base of the site.) With this permission and considering the potential of the site, the excavation of the site was carried out by the DOAM, then under the directorship of Dr. F.A. Khan.

The first excavation season was held for 43 days from 22 April to 3 June 1967. In that season, the stūpa complex was excavated and 396 entries were entered in the antiquities register. Included were numerous relief sculptures, stuccoes, sculptured architectural fragments, iron nails, hooks, rods, rings, and coins as well as some fragments of pottery. The excavation team was headed by Mohammad Rafique Mughal, assistant superintendant of archaeology, Exploration Branch; Nazir Ahmad Khan, assistant curator, Swat Museum; Hasan Shakir, photographer, Exploration Branch; Adbul Hamid, camp supervisor; Abdul Ghafoor, supervisor, Swat Museum, Mohammad Nabiullah Khan Daudi, head draftsman, DOAM head office; and Mr. Zaidi, pottery recorder. Inayat-ur-Rehman, then curator of the Swat Museum, assisted the excavation team in their work.

The second season of the excavation at the site extended from April to June 1968. The excavation team was headed by Nazir Ahmad Khan with Ghazanfar Malik, photographer, and Abdul Ghafoor, Mohammad Nabiullah Khan Daudi and Mr. Zaidi once again part of the team. In the second season, 97 sculptures, stuccoes, coins, stone and metal objects were recovered, all from the monastery area. Also, a skeleton was found in a niche in one of the walls of the monastery.

Mr. Inayat-ur-Rehman wrote the preliminary report of the excavations. It was published in Pakistan Archaelogy No.5, in 1968. In addition to a general description of the site, he included measurements of the major monuments, and the interesting fact that fragments of charred wood were found in the monastic area suggesting that a fire may have destroyed part of the site. Various museum catalogs and articles published since have included a selection of the artifacts, photographs of the monuments at the site, and drawings of the site.

In 1979 Raducha conducted her doctoral research focusing on narrative sculpture from the Kus̥ān̥a period in Pakistan and India. In the course of her study, she first saw some of the artifacts from Nimogram in the museum and storerooms of the Swat Museum. In 1986, she returned to the Swat Museum to photograph the sculptures from Nimogram. She was also allowed to photograph many of the minor finds. These included the objects in the accession register as well as objects labeled “miscellaneous and stray finds” from Nimogram.

A career in academic administration intervened but upon retirement in 2008, Raducha began to plan a project to make these images available to the scholarly community and the Department of Archaeology and Museums of the Governemtn of Pakistan. After exploring various possibilities for publishing the materials, she submitted a proposal to the UW Digital Library in the fall of 2009. The proposal was accepted, and in the spring of 2010, the project began. The library digitized Raducha’s slides and black and white photos and created a meta-database for descriptive information. In December 2010, while visiting Pakistan again, Raducha was able to re-examine and photograph details of some of the artifacts that had been moved to the storeroom of the Taxila Museum after a car bomb seriously damaged the Swat Museum where the objects had been held.

The digital site with the images and associated information was made available to the public in December 2011 as part of The Arts Collection of the digital library.

Site location

The excavation site locally called Sabunkhpa is located on a flat hilltop overlooking terraced fields with ranges of hills to the north, west and south and a narrow valley to the east. The village Nimogram, from which the site takes its name, is on the north eastern side of the valley beneath the excavation site. The site of Nimogram is located in the eastern part of the Shamozai tehsil of Swat, to the west of the Swat River. Nearby villages include Gamkot, Garhai (Garai) and Khazana. Though a seemingly remote area, Nimogram lies near an established mulepath that connects this area with Dir to the west and south and with the northern part of the Swat valley according to the detailed maps of Sir Aurel Stein. In fact, the village of Garai, one of several in the vicinity of Nimogram, is located on a mulepath hub for several distinct routes that traverse the region.

Distinctive Features of Nimogram Artifacts

The objects from Nimogram are representative of the Greater Gandhāran school in terms of the iconography and general design: relief sculptures including both narrative scenes and decorative friezes, images of the Buddha as well as of minor deities. However, the frequent use of the full body halo for the Buddha, bracket figures including one with a figure of Herakles, series of relief panels carved by the same hand, and images of the goddess with various iconographic features are among the distinctive features worthy of further study.

The art of Gandhāra is known for its schist as well as stucco sculptures. The raw materials of the sculptural elements at Nimogram are largely typical of this Gandhāran artistic horizon. Schist, a hard stone, both black and green, as well as stucco objects were all found at the site. Stucco is generally thought to predominate later in time than the objects of stone. However, the use of soapstone, while not unknown at other sites in Swat, is a distinctive feature at Nimogram based on the sheer number of objects made in this medium. It was used both for images and for architectural details.

Another distinctive feature is the fact that many minor find materials were found and many catalogued in the course of excavations. Two types of these materials provide some suggestion for dating of the site. Five coins have been found at the site that are dated to the Kus̥ān̥a and Kus̥ān̥a-Sassanian periods, c. 2nd-3rd century CE. (Errington, object descriptions). Some of the minor finds show an affinity with findings from the nearby site of Saidu Sharif that have been dated to Saidu Sharif Period II-IV: c. 2nd-3rd century CE (Olivieri, object descriptions).

Other objects from Nimogram

The Musee Guimet in Paris has identified the provenance of a relief in its collection as Nimogram. It is a relief depicting the Great Departure. http://www.guimet.fr/en/collections-en/afghanistan-pakistan-en/339-the-great-departure

A relief of a small amorino figure, reputed to be from Nimogram, is in the possession of a private collector. It is included in this digital archive, you can search for NGPrivateCollection1.

Select Bibliography

References cited in this site

Antiquities Register of Nimogram Excavations. (1967-68) Government of Pakistan, Department of Archaeology and Museums. Unpublished.

Stein, Sir Aurel. (1930) “An Archaeological tour in Upper Swat and Adjacent Hill Tracts” Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India, no.4. Calcutta.

Callieri, Pierfrancesco. (1989) Saidu Sharif I (Swat Pakistan). Rome.

Callieri, P., P. Brocato, A. Filigenzi, L.M. Olivieri and M. Nascari. (1992) Bīrkot-ghwan̥dai 1990-92. A Preliminary Report on the Italian Archaeological Mission, IsMEO. Annali dell’Instituto (Universitario) Orientale, Napoli, 52, 4. Suppl. 3. Naples.

Coningham, R. and Ihshan Ali. (2007) “Charsadda, the British-Pakistani Excavations at the Bala Hasar”, Society for South Asian Studies Monograph No.5. Oxford.

Gőbl, R. (1984) Münzprägung des Kus̥ān̥reiches. Vienna.

Khan, Ashraf. (1993) Buddhist Shrines in Swat. Lahore.

Khan, Gul Rahim. (2010) “Copper Coins of Vasudeva and his successors from Taxila”, Gandhāran Studies 4, 39-162.

Micheli, R. (2007)“Ancient Earplugs form the Bir-kot Hilltop: A Neglected Class of Ornaments from Swat Northern Pakistan”, East and West 57 1-4: 101-112.

Rehman, Inayat-ur. (1968) “Swat Excavations,” Pakistan Archaeology, Vol. 5. Lahore.

The following references were consulted in an effort to utilize the most commonly accepted terminology for descriptions and categorizations:

Faccenna, D. (1964) Sculptures from the Sacred Area of Butkara I. 3 parts. Rome.

Faccenna, Domenica and Anna Filigenzi et.al. (2007) Repertory of Terms for Cataloging Gandharan Sculptures. Rome.

Foucher, Alfred. (1905-51) L’art Greco-bouddhique du Gandhāra, 2 vols. Paris.

Ingholt, Harald. (1957) Gandhāran Art in Pakistan. New York.

Zwalf, W. (1996) A Catalogue of the Gandhāra Sculpture in the British Museum. 2 vols.London. (Contains a comprehensive bibliography of the study of Gandhāra available at the time of publication.)


[i] The information for the “History of Research” and “Site Location” sections are based on Dr. Raducha’s recording of conversations with DOAM staff, her own observations, and three sources listed in the bibliography: Antiquities Register of Nimogram Excavations(1967-68), Inayat-ur Rehman (1968), and Aurel Stein (1930) listed in the bibliography.