Preamble In the last ten years 59 painted shelters were documented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. These rock-art sites were mostly discovered in the upper Kotah valley, in the Swat-Malakand region, at an average height of 1,000 m asl (49 sites). To this group have to be added other 10 analogous sites documented in 2010 in Swabi and Manshera Districts. 1) The painted shelters discovered are similar in regard to their location, techniques utilized, style and subjects. Therefore, they have been considered physically as a relatively homogeneous group. 2) The rock shelters are situated on bare eroded crystalline rock on the edge of steep sloping ground or ravines. The paintings are hosted within natural cavities. The rock shelters rise to approximately the same absolute height, and are sometimes located in the vicinity of major mountain passes, springs, or along ancient paths. 3) In general, it is difficult to ignore the impression that most sites were chosen due to their visual dominancy. The rocks, boulders or pinnacles, which host the paintings rise as landmarks and are visible from a considerable distance. The painted walls are often not easily accessible or visible. For the painter as well as visitors and onlookers, access to most of the shelters was always quite difficult. Arriving to them often necessitated climbing, sometimes painstaking sliding, and then in some cases required one to lie on one’s back. In these cases, the ceiling and other paintings had to be observed from a short distance, only a few centimetres from one’s face, and only one painter or onlooker at a time would have been able to enter the shelter to observe the figures. In general, it is evident that the paintings had been traced, and had been observed, by individuals or very small groups, sitting or crouching. 4) All the paintings were made utilizing mineral pigments made with base metals. Tests performed did not reveal the existence of organic substances such as casein, for example, which should have been present in the composition of the pigment. The ochre tints utilized are listed in order of their frequency: carnelian red, crimson red, orange red, scarlet red, white, and cadmium yellow. The latter color is used at only a single site. 5) The application of color was most likely done with the artist’s fingers. In all cases, the breadth of the application is similar to and differs only slightly from the average width of a finger; in one case, signs of fingerprints were documented. In no case was there evidence of the use of brushes or sticks. 6) All of the figures within each individual painting appear to be part of a complex: apart from few exceptions, one does not have the impression that the figures were added gradually. There is very few evidence of the overlapping of colors or shapes, or of additional layers of colors. Methodology of the research 1) The paintings were contact-traced onto transparent polyethylene sheets using permanent markers, then reduced to the necessary scale. Digital color calibration of the photograhic documentation was carried out when necessary. Thanks to this, in many cases it was possible to integrate the contact copies made on site, where color spectrum was not distinguishable from the rocky surface. 2) To some extent the study of rock art is actually an anomalous sub-discipline of archaeological science. This is true, at least with regard to two aspects: it is the only field where the site is not potentially subject to a destructive analysis (which is after all the final result of digging), and it deals with only the meaningful data itself, which, due to its nature has escaped the analogical-inferential process that characterizes the interpretation of data from an excavation: a dozen beads and fifty pottery fragments do not make up a workshop per se, but only thanks to the associative ability of the three-dimensional mind of their excavator. One important aspect to consider is that while an excavation is a complex site consisting of numerous multi-formed data or objects (ceramics, minor finds, coins, etc.), a rock art site is both a site and an object in itself, no more or less than a vase, painting or a sculpture. From the art history point of view, in contrast to a sculpture or a vase, a cave painting is always contextualized. In this sense a rock art site can provide us with a subject for experimental study, endowed with its testability. However, it is a potential testability. As the site conditions are maintained intact, the conditions exist for reversibility and repeatability of the experimental inquiry. At the same time, however, the nature of experimental investigation lies in the field of interpretation. The broader horizon, which we would like to be able to capture from the data presented, namely the reconstruction of the human landscape, the psychological ratio of the phenomenon of the painted shelters of Swat-Malakand, obviously has its limits. Beyond the rare cases when it has been possible to cross direct/indirect archaeological data with the rock-art evidence, the consistency of this study is based mainly on its logic, which is a parameter which is only partially objective, in and of itself it is, alas, an interpretation. 3) Attempting to interpret rock art not only as a manifestation of self-experience, but also as a mode of communication (especially visual), means trying to recognize semantic patterns which are more or less specialized. As with semantic patterns, where possible, the distinction between pictograms, ideograms and psychograms is useful. This is the case, of course, if by pictogram one intends an objective representation of an object, and by ideogram one intends a more complex, conceptual representation. For example, a central cruciform shield which dominates a scene with warriors armed with shields, is an ideogram, while shields which have been taken up are pictograms; an anthropomorph which is larger than the human figures which surround him, even if not dissimilar to the symbol ‘man,’ could be an ideogram. Instead, a psychogram is a sign that no longer represents an object as much as an action, or a modification of both (as can be said of adjectives and adverbs): an abstract element that is introduced as a visual sign on the rock. Generally, enigmatic symbols such as points, sinuous lines, zigzags, etc.. represent the most common vocabulary present in psychograms. These observations permit us to utilize terms such as ‘lexicon,’ ‘syntax’ and so on, which would otherwise be ambiguous. The interpretation of individual design types (in terms of semantic elements) is briefly reviewed in the following index. 10 Thesis 1) The rock-paintings cultural phenomenon in Swat-Malakand, Swabi and Hazara is comprised within the chronological limits of 2nd Millennium BCE and the first-half of the 1st Millennium CE. The location of the shelters is not associated (inside or outside) with satisfactorily preserved archaeological deposits. One likely consequence is that their dating will depend primarily on the study of the material culture portrayed in the designs themselves, as well as the study of comparative stylistic considerations, and the analysis of topographic contexts. In general any rock art site tends to retain many elements of doubt, which are more numerous than the confirmed facts. The privilege that is accorded to internal chronological stages, or a relative chronological history where detectable, for example in the overlapping of asynchronous paintings on the same medium, often represents the only answer in determining the timing of a site. In Swat, after nearly fifty years of excavation and archaeological research in a geographic basin, which is quite small, it is not absurd to indirectly attempt to cross the archaeological data with the logical deductions suggested by the visual analysis of the painted complexes, even though initially decontextualized. The following summary is based on the visual evidences provided by the paintings. a) Active Buddhist buildings did not exist in Swat either before the 2nd century BCE or after the 10th century CE. Paintings containing representations of Buddhist architecture should probably fall within this period, and more precisely between the 1st and the 4th to 5th centuries CE. b) No representations of horses are present in Swat before second half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Horses are represented with an increased frequency in Swat only after the first half of the 1st millennium; however, representations of horseback riders do not appear before the end of the same Millennium. Vice versa, representations of horses with crenellated manes and covered tails, which are present in some paintings, should not be dated from later than the 4th to 5th centuries CE. Consequently, the representations of horses in the concerned paintings were without doubt produced within a period, which began after the 5th century BCE and terminated within the second half of the 1st Millennium CE. However, in 5 Sites, besides the presence of agricultural ideograms, there are also indicators of horsemanship and breeding, figures of heroes and large anthropomorphs, and the absence of Buddhist structures. All of these Sites are characterized by the physical characteristics of ‘Hermitages’ or ‘Sanctuaries’. The majority of the other Sites, have in common the presence of Buddhist architecture, horsemanship, war scenes, hunting, breeding/livestock/farming and sheep-farming; and the forms are enriched with body modification. Among these, 4 Sites contain representations of triśūla-like ideograms; in two cases they are associated with representations of Buddhist architecture. 2) In Swat-Malakand the rock-paintings area probably corresponded to the living area of the local human communities and/or to their subsistence space. It appears possible that, even if our paintings do not represent not a culture in itself, they none-the-less represent a widespread phenomenon in time. It is found to be parallel to or to fall within a chronological arc characterized by a series of cultural macro-phenomena, all of which have been archeologically documented: (a) The existence of the of small agricultural settlements and centers of exchange, which relate culturally to a period contemporary to the Late Harappan phase (Localization Era; Swat Period IV c. 2nd millennium BCE); (b) the so-called ‘Gandhara Grave Culture’ (henceforth: the ‘graveyards’; end-2nd millennium BCE - mid-1st millennium BCE); (c) the progressive intrusion of Buddhism with its cultic foundations, from 3rd century BCE, that reached its peak, both in quantitative terms and spatial distribution from the 1st to the 4th-5th century CE; (d) urban settlements created and linked to the same local power system described above (end-2nd century BCE - 5th century CE); (e) the foundation of Brahmanic cultic centers under the Shahi dynasties (7th century-11th CE). All these macro-phenomena had an evident and recognizable impact on the social history of the antiquity of the Swat valley and represent phases of acculturation. Acculturation phases might coexisted with phases of cultural marginality (or late persistence of earlier cultural forms) in remote areas of Swat. These macro-phenomena obviously do not represent a totality of ancient Swat and its chronological arc. In fact there is no direct trace of these macro-phenomena in the iconography of our paintings if we exclude Buddhist architecture, and hypothetically ideograms and deity of the Brahmanism of late antiquity. For a moment, let us hypothesize that the community which we credit with the paintings lived in the main valley, far from the area where the painted shelters are, and the shelters were visited by the valley community for ritual purposes. This possibility is not currently supported, in that we have noted that there are irrelevant points of contact between the lexicon of the painting and the graphic and ideological heritage of the cultures that lived in the main valley. On the contrary, we believe that the painted shelters are an expression of communities, which were peripheral or subordinate to the cultures of the main valley; however segregated to the living space of the middle and upper valleys of Kandak, Kotah and Thana. The same context would seem to be applicable to the rock paintings in the areas of Swabi and Mardan as well as for those found in the Tanawal in Hazara. The ecological space available coincides with the economic areas dedicated to hunting and gathering, pastoralism/sheep-farming, and subsistence farming: in fewer words, with the wild. This situation, mutatis mutandis, is similar to that present in Swat. Until today (but the situation is rapidly changing), the most privileged agricultural lands, even in the lateral valleys and the along the main roads of communication, are owned by ethnic Yusufzai landlords (khans). The right of possession is legitimated by the 16th century Yusufzai military conquest, and the permanent distribution of the lands amongst the khans during the Miangul rule in the first half of the last century (Yusufzai State of Swat). Landlords and their kinfolk farmers live mainly in the main valley, as they have means of communication and mobility; they speak Pashto and their principal market town (in the study area) is the urban center of Barikot. In addition to these farmers, the area is occasionally populated by seasonal workers from Sindh, who come to the area during harvest period and live in large camps on the outskirts of villages along the main valley. A third group consists of people who are ethnic Kohistani, and speak Dardic languages such as Torwalak, Khowar and Busharik, and who are related to the possession of pastures, forests and land in Upper Swat. Ajari shepherds from these areas practiced seasonal transhumance. They pass through the territories of the Yusufzai khans in the main valley directly to winter pastures in the plain S of Swat. This use of passes which is paid for in terms of products and especially timber rights (these also pass through the territories of Barikot, both via waterway and inland passage) and the related conflicts, represent the main moment of interaction between the society of the main valley and the population of Kohistan. A fourth group represents actually true stable stakeholders of the khans of the Barikot area: the Gujari communities of the upper valleys of Kotah and Kandak. These depressed areas and the valuable conifer forests in the high mountains are considered valuable common pool resources, but both nevertheless are the patrimony of the khans of Barikot. They are awarded to semi-nomadic communities, Gujars and Ajars, which have been in the area for several centuries, which have come and gone during their various phases of displacement from Kashmir and Punjab. The Gujars are semi-sedentary pastoralist group, who also cultivate products typical of non-irrigated terrains. The Ajars, a semi-nomadic community, are mainly shepherds and breeders. Both are traditionally considered by the Yusufzais as Swat’s aboriginals and slaves. They are tied to the Yusufzais by a relationships characterized by patronage and corvées, from which rises their freedom to utilize the land in exchange for services, among other things the sale of bush products (such as timber, fruit, and berries – wild grapes as well as medicinal herbs), of milk (and butter) and lamb, honey, etc. 3) Two early proto-historic rock-paintings, which might represent various cultic scenes, were documented in the sector of the area closer to the main valley of Swat river. The standard chronological arc of these paintings covers a period from the end of the 1st Millennium BCE (?) to the 2nd half of the 1st Millennium CE. However, some painted complexes remain outside this chronology: paintings where there are no representations of horses, of Buddhist architecture, and pastoral contexts; paintings, which instead contain composite ideograms and pictograms referring to an agricultural context. Late Bronze age facies (Period IV) is undoubtedly characterized by a strong expansion of agriculture and the use of new polished stone utensils such the so-called ‘perforated knives’, scythes typical of the Kashmir and Sino-tibetan area; the dominant role of agriculture is recognized both by those who hold that the Period IV culture, although not uniform was fundamentally sedentary as well as by those who believe it to be a semi-nomadic culture. Agriculture might be the only possible element of contact between the dominant culture in this phase in the valley and two Sites with rock paintings (Sites 03, 04). These shelters display highly symbolic compositions, the syntax of which is based on associations, oppositions and combinations of iconographic themes. The elaborate structure suggests co-literate cultural contexts, that is, typical of primary orality cultures that nevertheless possess a complex mythopoeietic and lexical heritage. The dominant theme in these shelters seems to be agriculture. In the open mouth of the natural gigantic face of Sargah-sar 1, three types of actors, are represented in scenes of plowing, sowing and consecration of the field. Men and women, equipped with farm implements, have the task of plowing; other men, who seem to occupy a hierarchically higher position (they have typical, upside-down U-shaped legs), have the task of sowing the plowed land which is represented through the symbol of a grid-like ideogram. Lastly a large anthropomorphic figure, with the same characteristics as the sowers, is depicted inside a large ploughed and sown field ideogram. At Kakai-kandao the presence of animals in a similar painted ritual is limited to a monkey. At Sargah-sar, a peripheral sector of the painted shelter is dominated by a heroic scene. An individual with U shaped legs armed with a shining shield is represented between two animals facing each other: an ibex surmounted by an anthropomorphic figure and a large feline; the former possibly representing the killing of the ibex. The action of the hero or deity is emphasized by a couple of dots. It is not ruled out that his solar-like shield is a chackra, like those represented in other earlier paintings In this scene we see again, although expressed through a syntactic language, an association between the themes of the feline and the ibex, symbols which are dominant in the earlier phase at Gogdara I (Olivieri 1998) and at Muhammad-patai rock carvings site (Olivieri, Vidale et al. 2006: fig. 19). The ibex icon doubtless corresponds to the hypostasis of one of the many devi of the mountain, known throughout the Karakorum-Himalaya area until recent times. At Sargah-sar 1 and Kakai-kandao 1 the main compositions are surrounded by secondary figures: archers, dancers or figures with body modifications or open hands extending outwards. The open hands theme has often been associated with a state of shamanic trance or ritual death. These observations probably bring us nearer to the meaning of these remotely located paintings. The action of painting and observing could be linked to long periods of isolation and deprivation and associated with forms of initiatic ritual. The composite central ideogram in Site 04 has been interpreted as an icon referring to sacrificial rituals connected plowing and sowing. This ritual finds its direct reference in a Ṛgvedic environment, as well as in related cults in Dardic horizon. 5) From late proto-history onwards, the paintings included in their lexicon icons linked to war, militarism and horsemanship. The icon of the horse was possibly the first foreign borrowing in the paintings’ visual lexicon. The horse icon was the eponymous animal of the Assakenoi, the group living in Swat at the end of the 4th century BCE according to Alexander’s accounts. Representations of horses started being common in Swat in the graveyard’s iconography and culture. One may suggests that the painted shelters and graveyards coexisted. We tentatively imagine a scenario where the main valley and its agricultural land were occupied (for different purposes: grazing, agriculture and funeral rituals) by the community of the graveyards’ culture, while the external areas were inhabited by indigenous communities or otherwise different. The presence of small graveyards in remote areas could be explained by an attempted intrusion, the temporary occupation of grazing areas, such as during the summer season, carried out by small groups associated with the community of the main valley, or as an expression of the process of acculturation to the new burial customs on the part of small groups. In both cases, this could explain the reduced size of the mountain areas graveyards (in Kandak), as well as the simplicity of the cysts, sometimes of a megalithic character, as well as the scarcity of the burial assemblage. The hypothesis of a partial acculturation of the peripheral community could explain the interesting modification of the symbolic heritage of the paintings, which accepts, as revealed in some Sites (such as 05 for example) in addition to the already familiar themes, icons of a culture focused on pastoralism and warmanship (as the cultures of the graveyards probably were). Another aspect converges in the same direction is the engraving of carts, banners, horses and riders, typical of rock production contemporary to the graveyards. When these icons are carved inside a Site with earlier paintings (Site 04), the remaining external space is reserved for them, which does not interfere with the previously painted space. Assuming that agriculture played an important role in the ideology of the authors of some paintings, one can also imagine that the occupation of privileged areas (i.e. the main valley) by alien groups was a loss for the early painters’ communities: we do not know if it could be considered an economic loss, but it was certainly a loss of prestige. This may explain the partial acculturation/subalternity of the mountain community towards the main valley cultures. 4) From the beginning of the 1st Millennium CE onwards, the rock-paintings area progressively moved towards more remote areas because of the expansion of the Buddhist monastic communities. 6) The Buddhist contact-phase is echoed in the paintings through representations of Buddhist architecture, without necessarily inferring a religious conversion of the local human communities. The complex relationship between mountain areas and main valley can be better understood if we return to the more solid ground of the long period of contact between the painters’ communities and the Buddhist communities. We may infer that the first group was not composed of Buddhists, from the fact that representations referring to the world of Buddhism are depicted solely through the depiction of their architecture, while the icons of the cult, or representations of the Buddha and Boshisattva, are completely absent from the graphic repertoire of the paintings. In their language, architecture represents an exterior representation, we would call it documentary, as it refers to physical evidence; their inner purpose, their psychological meaning is not at first clear. It could be a mere description, although this does not fit given in the context of isolation in which these paintings are found. However, we never find representations of Buddhist architecture in contexts defined as ‘Sanctuaries’ or ‘Hermitages’, but in ‘Public painting places’. It is evident that at a certain moment the Buddhist communities intruded into the ecological space of the painted shelters’ people. It is possible that this phase of contact, not unlike other stages defined in rock-art as ‘post-contact phases,’ typical of contexts in areas colonized by Europeans in the recent past, has had some form of conflict. It is certainly clear that the two communities, one Buddhist and the other involved with the paintings, were competing for the control of the mountain areas. In the later phases, the Buddhist communities have expanded in the upper mountain territories following a process of acquisition of visual and vital space, which at this point included mountain passes, springs, summer pastures and forests. These spaces were considered to be a part of the economic wealth of the monastic community. At this time, one could assume the gradual reductio ad silvam of the community of the painted shelters. It almost seems possible to be able to recognize a true progressive shift of the location of the paintings, evident in the Kotah valley. The oldest shelters are found in the middle of the valley (for example Sites 03, 04, 05, 09, 19), then others (where the representations of Buddhist architecture prevail) are placed at the higher portion of the valley. In a later phase (giving credence to different factors, such as details relating to horsemaship, and the association of triśula-like ideograms), when we can assume that the mountain communities welcomed elements of Brahmanism, (undoubtedly due to the pre-existence of a common religious substratum), the paintings are almost entirely outside the valley Kotah, on the S slopes that divide the Swat basin from the Buner-Mardan basin. One also notes that in almost all these pictures complex forms utilizing body modification prevail. In the same area paintings can be found with iconographic features which refer to a pastoral, or ‘Kafir’-Dardic, graphic vocabolary (Sites 12, 38 and 46). 7) In this phase the local human communities, even if subordinate, might have been socially and economically interacting with the Buddhist communities. Since the beginning of our era, and for approximately four centuries, the archaeological data display a building boom, with more than 100 sacred areas identified within about 400 sq km in the ager of Barikot. Territorial expansion was not uniquely related to the individual appearance of buildings, but to the acquisition of agricultural land in its control, exploitation and irrigation and, we believe we may also say, control of mountain passes, springs, pastures, forests, and their products (e.g. butter, timber, fruit, and honey). An interesting post-2nd century CE inscription from Malakand, which was recently published, shows that also hydraulic/irrigation infrastructures could become part of the system of donations and liberality towards Buddhist community. This fact fits perfectly with the picture suggested by the conclusion of our survey work carried out in the Barikot area of Swat in 2000-2006. Once the land became part of the monastic properties, we must expect that the monasteries managed the properties and were active in their economic improvement. In this respect their territorial expansion not only must have eroded the living space of mountain communities, but must have also forced them to a certain extent to be involved in agricultural work, and other related activities. Even if it resulted in their conversion, it is not possible to know, as there is no evidence. We believe that we can say that Buddhism, inasmuch as it had a popular character, did not have universalist ambitions: at least in contexts such as these, its main target would have been to have on its side the political elites, merchants and craftsmen (in other words, the residents of the cities). But if even these, as the evidence at Barikot shows, forms of popular religion persisted, we can imagine that the communities of mountains or forests, although involved in the activities of the monasteries, were not converted. In this sense, the evidence offered by the cave paintings in our area is extremely interesting. In general, all representations of Buddhist architecture appear, as mentioned, to represent something alien, something ‘other’ than the world of the authors of the paintings. This is true in all cases, except Site 15, where it is perhaps possible to recognize a scene of armed conflict in which there are armed horsemen surrounding a sacred Buddhist area. The possible representation of a scene of conflict is reinforced by the depiction of an ideogram of a crossed disk standing on a horizontal line, and surmounted by a crescent; a kind of tamğa, as already suggested. It is not necessarily true, however, that the part of the community in conflict produced this painting. Indeed, perhaps also in this case one can see that the possible conflict (if we are speaking of this) has been observed from the perspective of a ‘third party.’ In conclusion, the presence of representations of Buddhist architecture, although not absolutely indicative of a conversion to Buddhism, indicates rather a situation of coexistence, certainly subordinate, and maybe positively oriented. This could be explained by the fact that, despite the fact that the gradual expansion of the foundations of Buddhist eroded the vital space of the mountain community, this expansion was accompanied by an integration of the communities on the outskirts of the monastic life, perhaps do to the performance of semi-servile corvées, i.e. procuring goods necessary for the monastic – not necessarily autharchic - economy (fruit, honey, etc). In short, the mountain community may have found in the Buddhist community a natural ‘market,’ for the skills and products of their natural world. Amongst these, possibly also the extraction of quarzite stones used as a flint (today called bakrai), and the production of mustard oil, or clarified butter for the miriads of lamps found by the archaeologists in the Buddhist monasteries and coeval settlements. Therefore, the representations of the Buddhist world in a certain sense come to acquire a ‘mythical’ dimension as they could be related to the welfare of the painters’ community, and as such - like a beneficent spirit – are to be conserved recognizing their merits through the activity of painting. As often occurs in ancient India, a holy place or a sanctuary is also revered by the worshippers of different creeds. In this sense, it might also be possible that through the work of the the painters’ communities, the image of the Buddhist architecture have been credited with being endowed with a sort of spiritual power. The presence of semi-forced labor related to the activities of the monasteries is well known. Perhaps less known is the network of collateral activities that could be associated with this people in the countryside, just as agricultural work, maintenance of the water infrastructures, mountain passes and springs, and various other corvées or duties related to the forest activities. 8) As in the area were found several stone structures interpreted, after ethno-historical records, as “wine-presses”, the role of wine might have been relevant (at least one of these infrastructures was discovered inside a painted shelter). One of these activities could be the harvest of wild grapes and their crushing or pressing. Interesting data originating from research conducted between 2000 and 2006 regards the documentation of 20 infrastructures for pressing grapes found in areas of high altitude in the valleys of Kandak and Kotah that could produce (if considered contemporary) up to 6-8.000 hl of wine per year. The majority of these presses are concentrated in an area of approximately 50 hectares. There are two types of structures: a tub (or tank) carved from a boulder of gneiss or granite, with a drain hole at the bottom, and ‘scoop’ or rectangular carved grooves, having the same size as the tanks, joined by an overflow canal, carved out of the surface of flat sub-horizontal gneiss or granite boulders. Both types are also typical of a ‘tribal’ environment, the so-called ‘Kafirs’, where the production of wine was part of ritual tied to the winter solstice. A very important fact concerns the discovery of a low tank or ‘palette’ inside a shelter at the base of the wall that houses a painting (Site 11). The output channel corresponds to a cavity in the shelter, a type of funnel under which the containers were to be placed which collected the juice. It is therefore possible that the community (or tribe), which produced these paintings also picked the grapes and squeezed them to produce the wine. But who were to be the recipients of the production? Was the wine produced only for use within the community or was it also sold? One fact deserves to be noted: there are two types of artifacts which are very different from one another, and the type of tank infers the use of metal-type instruments; similar tanks, except for the presence of the exit hole, have been documented within or near the Buddhist sacred areas. In this sense we may hypothesize that the tanks for pressing were made by the same people who had cut the tanks without the exit hole in the sacred areas. The latter might have been used as vats for fermentation of the grape juice, similarly to the rougher structures documented in ‘Kafir’ environment. This finding would seem to indicate that the grape harvest took place in the mountains, where the grapevines probably grew, semi-wild, as they still grow today, along with holly-oaks and other local species. The grapes were pressed inside the cultivation areas and the juice transported to the Buddhist foundations, where the fermentation took place in complex work-stations. These were composed, of a multiple series of tanks, or surfaces with tanks and holes. The latter could be meant for posts utilized to set-up tripods to suspend filtering pots. If that is confirmed by further analysis, it does mean that the final recipients of the juice production actually were the monastic communities. What is quite interesting is that the range of wine-presses corresponds approximately to the area of the painted shelters contemporary to the Buddhist presence, while they are not found to the S, in the Mardan watershed, where later pictures prevail. It could be worth noticing that: a) the terrains on the S watershed are also less suitable for grape cultivation due to the humid winds prevalent in the monsoon summer season; b) it seems clear however that the painting community has shifted to the S, and we tend to think that the area of the paintings correspond with the living area occupied by the painters’ community. If the last point is correct, we therefore may hypothesize that wine production, as an economic activity, was concentrated essentially during a precise historical period, i.e. those corresponding to the golden age of Buddhism in Swat. It is worth quoting an important passage in the Mūlasarvāstivāda-vinaya, a text which is generally taken to refer to the 2nd century CE and ancient NW India. This passage shows that the production of non-alcoholic (boiled) grape juices were presented as direct teachings of the Buddha. The presence of these traditions within a Buddhist environment may perhaps reflect an attempt by the monasteries to channel local drinking habits towards a direction of temperance. 9) In a later phase new elements appear in the paintings’ lexicon, and, amongst them, Brahmanic icons. In the upper Kotak valley, the late paintings are bright ochre, almost orange, in colour. Human figurations are sometimes represented in profile and the subjects depicted here definitely reflect a mixed Buddhist/Brahmanic religious symbolism. At Takht-gat (Site 26) a possible Shiva representation is flanked by a couple of fighters. These representations might be regarded as transitional, leading towards a radical ideological change in Swat. For example, at Palangai 1 (Site 41) a rider holding a trisula-spear is associated with a possible representation of a Hindu templ, Buddhist architecture and wild animals. Some of the latest paintings, for instance those of Lal-kamar 1 (Site 27) and those found in a second shelter at Palangai 2 (Site 42), focus on warlike themes and horsemanship: warriors are represented while holding typical late ancient weapons, such as round shields, conical helmets and sabres; mounted on horses using heavy Sogdian-style saddles, stirrups and reins - the same features we found in the carved mounted warriors, partly obliterated by a monumental Brahmi-Sarada rock inscription, near Talang (Site 18), Kotah valley (8th-12th century CE?). To the same group belong some paintings showing interesting but tricky scenes, associated sometimes with representations of Buddhist architecture, as at Lal-kamar China (Site 33), Loe-band (Site 36) a and Drema-palangai (Site 48). 10) The iconic features of the rock-paintings phenomenon might be pertaining to a “Kafir”-Dardic cultural environment, hypothesized as aboriginal in Swat since proto-history. Side by side with the spread of Brahmanism and the Vajrayana, the rock art data also shows a revival of aboriginal cults and cultures that the Buddhist centers had controlled and managed but, probably never converted. In time, the rural communities may have regained control over the land, the pastures and the passes, thereby changing radically the economy of the valleys. At the top of the ridge dividing Swat from Malakand Agency, we found some other painted shelters. The paintings depict caprids, horses and highly modified hieratic characters. The most important shelters are Palwano-gata (Site 12), Dab 1-3 (Sites 38-40) and Khaista-kamar 1, 2 (Sites 46, 47). These late pictorial documents emphasize the possession of cattle, and they might reflect the re-acquisition of grazing land and control of the passes by native tribes. The typical style of the caprids – schematic and linear, is the same as in the recent paintings of the Kalasha peoples of Chitral. Conclusions All the painted shelters display coherent features in terms of style technique and physical setting. The majority of them are executed in simplified linear-style, with red-ochre pigment, and are housed in shallow gneiss shelters. Despite their coherency, major stylistic changes can be detected: from an early simplified linear-style similar to a late evoluted linear-style showing a significant enrichment of details. Syntax and spatial organization progress from an early well-organized structure toward a less ordered one. Notwithstanding the paintings show a reduced capacity of osmosis toward the main Swat valley cultures (henceafter:‘macro-phenomena’), during relevant contact-phases a progressive enrichment, integration and/or mutation of the lexical heritage occurred. One notes the use of a recurrent lexicon consisting mainly of ideograms, pictograms and psychograms. Earlier paintings feature the dominant presence of grid-like ideograms. Major iconic scenes are: (a) agricultural rituals, (b) cultic role of the ibex, (c) heroic figures/anthropomorphs in a central or dominant role with body-modifications, (d) hunting scenes and wild animals, (e) farming scenes. These categories can be traced to self-representations produced by the culture which also produced the painted shelters. The first two categories are uncontaminated self-representations of their authors’ ideology and they are never associated to lexical items attributable to elements of the main valley cultures. The latter three categories are also commingled with representations of ‘alien’ icons, like warriors on horseback and representations of Buddhist architecture. Despite their omogeneus physical setting, the painted shelters display a gradation of isolation and visibility. It has been possible to establish that some paintings are housed in rock-shelters which could be defined as ‘Sanctuaries’, others paintings in shelters defined as ‘Hermitages’, ‘Public or signaling sites’, and ‘Casual/Private painting places’. The major self-representative paintings are found in the first two types of shelters in Kotah’s central valley. The other typologies of shelters are equally present in the upper valley of Kotah. Generally, the paintings located on the S slopes of the area, are housed in sites of the fourth type. The phenomenon, in time, physically shifted from the middle valley of Kotah, toward the head of the valley, and then again, in a later phase, to the S slopes of the watershed that divides Swat from the plains of Mardan. This shifting was accompanied by a progressive de-ritualization of the shelter as a physical place, and it is contemporary to the progressive movement of the Buddhist communities towards areas of high altitude. Its peak falls in the second half of the 1st millennium CE. If the most ancient paintings have been dated to a pre-(Buddhist) contact phase (end-2nd – mid-1st Millennium BCE), then all other elements represent indicators of post-contact phases. The later contact phase occurs simultaneously with the diffusion of Brahmanistic forms in lower Swat, and can be roughly placed at approximately the 7th Century CE. Now, let me remark some points about the paintings' lexicon. While the evolution of these painted shelters seems to cover a wide time span, some elements are recurrent. For instance, grids and dotted squares, common in the earlier paintings, survive in later paintings, even if slightly modified and possibly transformed in their meaning. The same form of continuity is detectable in anthropomorphs, that often dominate the painted scenes from Protohistory to Late-Antiquity. Another aspect of continuity is body modifications and figures with outstretched fingers. In particular, outstretched fingers are typical of dominant figures and might suggest a state of trance or death. This feature is found not only in Swat, but also in the Upper Indus, where dozens of example survives, as well as elsewhere in Eurasia. Actions and rhythmic gestures could generally be named as 'psycograms'. Psycograms in our images consist of wavy lines connecting and/or deformed figures: elongated arms might convey the idea of property, friendship or control, and elongated arrows could indicate the act of striking the target, and so on. This aspect is also typical of our paintings from earlier sites to the latest ones. It is interesting to note that not every kind of pictograms (signs in which we identify representations of objects, animals, human figures) show the same degree of formal evolution in time. Mounted warriors, for instance, show an evident increase in details, characterised in the latest examples by particular details such as reins, saddles, armours and weapons. A similar trend occurs in the depiction of felines and horses. On the other hand, stupa images show a peculiar decrease in details, their architecture being transformed into mere symbolic representation. Finally, if we look at the painted shelters as a whole, their syntax clearly shows a regressive evolution. The composition initially created a complex language, centred on associations of ideograms surrounded by coherent pictograms. The syntax was simplified when this complex code was replaced by more paratactic repetitions of ideograms and pictograms. Even if prestigious – like the hands and battle-axes, the symbols, due to the absence of a real syntactical center, appear redundant. In late sites, such syntax patterns became totally unstructured and chaotic. In summary, we are faced with hierarchically structured tribal communities, living in an ecologically undisturbed area. Their rituals are expressed mostly through the worship of agriculture, and possibly the cult of the ibex; the production of wort had some ritual character too. It appears that the first two activities were carried out by an upper rank individuals (priests?). Relevant or recurrent local deities have not been identified: the representation of the anthropomorph in a cultivated field and the binomial leopard-ibex appear only once, but in a highly representative context: within a shelter defined as ‘Sanctuary’. However, dominant anthropomorphs are recurrent. Self-representative symbols, such as axes or handprints, are only seen once, but also in this case, in a particularly significant context. The community is for the most part permanent, and carries out a series of recurrent tasks which are of great importance for the social life in this mountainous area. The community participates in agricultural activities (subsistence), hunting, and harvesting (grapes). It is a non-literate society, which possesses a significant mythopoeic patrimony. The community also has a strong sense of rock landscape symbolism and psychic dynamics, the latter revealed not only through the use of color (red), but also by the presence of psychograms. It is not inconceivable that the community’s religiosity was characterized by forms of shamanic or magical asceticism, as suggested by the presence of a dominant anthropomorph and body modifications. In these religious formats, the role represented by rock shelters as a place of isolation at particular moments assumes a significant role, and the painting was an expression of those moments. Finally, it appears that the painted shelters were visited several times and the paintings altered, possibly on the occasion of holidays or seasonal celebrations. It is assumed that this community engaged in a funerary cult which left no taphonomic traces. Now, the consideration of these factors would seem to lead toward an early form of the otherway defined as ‘Kafir’-Dardic environment. At this moment, we choose not to enter into a discussion regarding the linguistic and cultural differences between the two contexts, nor their chronological correlation. Certainly there is an agreement as to the presence of these ancient languages in ancient NW India, possibly as early as 2nd millennium BCE. At various stages, the ‘Kafir’-Dardic cultures have been gradually marginalized until they filled an area coinciding with the Hindukush-Karakorum mountains and their piedmont. In Swat, the existence of these cultures is positively attested since very early times, and are still recorded in modern times.

Painted Rock Shelters of the Swat-Malakand Area From Bronze Age to Buddhism - Materials for a Tentative Reconstruction of the Religious and Cultural Stratigraphy of Ancient Swat

OLIVIERI L
2012

Abstract

Preamble In the last ten years 59 painted shelters were documented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. These rock-art sites were mostly discovered in the upper Kotah valley, in the Swat-Malakand region, at an average height of 1,000 m asl (49 sites). To this group have to be added other 10 analogous sites documented in 2010 in Swabi and Manshera Districts. 1) The painted shelters discovered are similar in regard to their location, techniques utilized, style and subjects. Therefore, they have been considered physically as a relatively homogeneous group. 2) The rock shelters are situated on bare eroded crystalline rock on the edge of steep sloping ground or ravines. The paintings are hosted within natural cavities. The rock shelters rise to approximately the same absolute height, and are sometimes located in the vicinity of major mountain passes, springs, or along ancient paths. 3) In general, it is difficult to ignore the impression that most sites were chosen due to their visual dominancy. The rocks, boulders or pinnacles, which host the paintings rise as landmarks and are visible from a considerable distance. The painted walls are often not easily accessible or visible. For the painter as well as visitors and onlookers, access to most of the shelters was always quite difficult. Arriving to them often necessitated climbing, sometimes painstaking sliding, and then in some cases required one to lie on one’s back. In these cases, the ceiling and other paintings had to be observed from a short distance, only a few centimetres from one’s face, and only one painter or onlooker at a time would have been able to enter the shelter to observe the figures. In general, it is evident that the paintings had been traced, and had been observed, by individuals or very small groups, sitting or crouching. 4) All the paintings were made utilizing mineral pigments made with base metals. Tests performed did not reveal the existence of organic substances such as casein, for example, which should have been present in the composition of the pigment. The ochre tints utilized are listed in order of their frequency: carnelian red, crimson red, orange red, scarlet red, white, and cadmium yellow. The latter color is used at only a single site. 5) The application of color was most likely done with the artist’s fingers. In all cases, the breadth of the application is similar to and differs only slightly from the average width of a finger; in one case, signs of fingerprints were documented. In no case was there evidence of the use of brushes or sticks. 6) All of the figures within each individual painting appear to be part of a complex: apart from few exceptions, one does not have the impression that the figures were added gradually. There is very few evidence of the overlapping of colors or shapes, or of additional layers of colors. Methodology of the research 1) The paintings were contact-traced onto transparent polyethylene sheets using permanent markers, then reduced to the necessary scale. Digital color calibration of the photograhic documentation was carried out when necessary. Thanks to this, in many cases it was possible to integrate the contact copies made on site, where color spectrum was not distinguishable from the rocky surface. 2) To some extent the study of rock art is actually an anomalous sub-discipline of archaeological science. This is true, at least with regard to two aspects: it is the only field where the site is not potentially subject to a destructive analysis (which is after all the final result of digging), and it deals with only the meaningful data itself, which, due to its nature has escaped the analogical-inferential process that characterizes the interpretation of data from an excavation: a dozen beads and fifty pottery fragments do not make up a workshop per se, but only thanks to the associative ability of the three-dimensional mind of their excavator. One important aspect to consider is that while an excavation is a complex site consisting of numerous multi-formed data or objects (ceramics, minor finds, coins, etc.), a rock art site is both a site and an object in itself, no more or less than a vase, painting or a sculpture. From the art history point of view, in contrast to a sculpture or a vase, a cave painting is always contextualized. In this sense a rock art site can provide us with a subject for experimental study, endowed with its testability. However, it is a potential testability. As the site conditions are maintained intact, the conditions exist for reversibility and repeatability of the experimental inquiry. At the same time, however, the nature of experimental investigation lies in the field of interpretation. The broader horizon, which we would like to be able to capture from the data presented, namely the reconstruction of the human landscape, the psychological ratio of the phenomenon of the painted shelters of Swat-Malakand, obviously has its limits. Beyond the rare cases when it has been possible to cross direct/indirect archaeological data with the rock-art evidence, the consistency of this study is based mainly on its logic, which is a parameter which is only partially objective, in and of itself it is, alas, an interpretation. 3) Attempting to interpret rock art not only as a manifestation of self-experience, but also as a mode of communication (especially visual), means trying to recognize semantic patterns which are more or less specialized. As with semantic patterns, where possible, the distinction between pictograms, ideograms and psychograms is useful. This is the case, of course, if by pictogram one intends an objective representation of an object, and by ideogram one intends a more complex, conceptual representation. For example, a central cruciform shield which dominates a scene with warriors armed with shields, is an ideogram, while shields which have been taken up are pictograms; an anthropomorph which is larger than the human figures which surround him, even if not dissimilar to the symbol ‘man,’ could be an ideogram. Instead, a psychogram is a sign that no longer represents an object as much as an action, or a modification of both (as can be said of adjectives and adverbs): an abstract element that is introduced as a visual sign on the rock. Generally, enigmatic symbols such as points, sinuous lines, zigzags, etc.. represent the most common vocabulary present in psychograms. These observations permit us to utilize terms such as ‘lexicon,’ ‘syntax’ and so on, which would otherwise be ambiguous. The interpretation of individual design types (in terms of semantic elements) is briefly reviewed in the following index. 10 Thesis 1) The rock-paintings cultural phenomenon in Swat-Malakand, Swabi and Hazara is comprised within the chronological limits of 2nd Millennium BCE and the first-half of the 1st Millennium CE. The location of the shelters is not associated (inside or outside) with satisfactorily preserved archaeological deposits. One likely consequence is that their dating will depend primarily on the study of the material culture portrayed in the designs themselves, as well as the study of comparative stylistic considerations, and the analysis of topographic contexts. In general any rock art site tends to retain many elements of doubt, which are more numerous than the confirmed facts. The privilege that is accorded to internal chronological stages, or a relative chronological history where detectable, for example in the overlapping of asynchronous paintings on the same medium, often represents the only answer in determining the timing of a site. In Swat, after nearly fifty years of excavation and archaeological research in a geographic basin, which is quite small, it is not absurd to indirectly attempt to cross the archaeological data with the logical deductions suggested by the visual analysis of the painted complexes, even though initially decontextualized. The following summary is based on the visual evidences provided by the paintings. a) Active Buddhist buildings did not exist in Swat either before the 2nd century BCE or after the 10th century CE. Paintings containing representations of Buddhist architecture should probably fall within this period, and more precisely between the 1st and the 4th to 5th centuries CE. b) No representations of horses are present in Swat before second half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Horses are represented with an increased frequency in Swat only after the first half of the 1st millennium; however, representations of horseback riders do not appear before the end of the same Millennium. Vice versa, representations of horses with crenellated manes and covered tails, which are present in some paintings, should not be dated from later than the 4th to 5th centuries CE. Consequently, the representations of horses in the concerned paintings were without doubt produced within a period, which began after the 5th century BCE and terminated within the second half of the 1st Millennium CE. However, in 5 Sites, besides the presence of agricultural ideograms, there are also indicators of horsemanship and breeding, figures of heroes and large anthropomorphs, and the absence of Buddhist structures. All of these Sites are characterized by the physical characteristics of ‘Hermitages’ or ‘Sanctuaries’. The majority of the other Sites, have in common the presence of Buddhist architecture, horsemanship, war scenes, hunting, breeding/livestock/farming and sheep-farming; and the forms are enriched with body modification. Among these, 4 Sites contain representations of triśūla-like ideograms; in two cases they are associated with representations of Buddhist architecture. 2) In Swat-Malakand the rock-paintings area probably corresponded to the living area of the local human communities and/or to their subsistence space. It appears possible that, even if our paintings do not represent not a culture in itself, they none-the-less represent a widespread phenomenon in time. It is found to be parallel to or to fall within a chronological arc characterized by a series of cultural macro-phenomena, all of which have been archeologically documented: (a) The existence of the of small agricultural settlements and centers of exchange, which relate culturally to a period contemporary to the Late Harappan phase (Localization Era; Swat Period IV c. 2nd millennium BCE); (b) the so-called ‘Gandhara Grave Culture’ (henceforth: the ‘graveyards’; end-2nd millennium BCE - mid-1st millennium BCE); (c) the progressive intrusion of Buddhism with its cultic foundations, from 3rd century BCE, that reached its peak, both in quantitative terms and spatial distribution from the 1st to the 4th-5th century CE; (d) urban settlements created and linked to the same local power system described above (end-2nd century BCE - 5th century CE); (e) the foundation of Brahmanic cultic centers under the Shahi dynasties (7th century-11th CE). All these macro-phenomena had an evident and recognizable impact on the social history of the antiquity of the Swat valley and represent phases of acculturation. Acculturation phases might coexisted with phases of cultural marginality (or late persistence of earlier cultural forms) in remote areas of Swat. These macro-phenomena obviously do not represent a totality of ancient Swat and its chronological arc. In fact there is no direct trace of these macro-phenomena in the iconography of our paintings if we exclude Buddhist architecture, and hypothetically ideograms and deity of the Brahmanism of late antiquity. For a moment, let us hypothesize that the community which we credit with the paintings lived in the main valley, far from the area where the painted shelters are, and the shelters were visited by the valley community for ritual purposes. This possibility is not currently supported, in that we have noted that there are irrelevant points of contact between the lexicon of the painting and the graphic and ideological heritage of the cultures that lived in the main valley. On the contrary, we believe that the painted shelters are an expression of communities, which were peripheral or subordinate to the cultures of the main valley; however segregated to the living space of the middle and upper valleys of Kandak, Kotah and Thana. The same context would seem to be applicable to the rock paintings in the areas of Swabi and Mardan as well as for those found in the Tanawal in Hazara. The ecological space available coincides with the economic areas dedicated to hunting and gathering, pastoralism/sheep-farming, and subsistence farming: in fewer words, with the wild. This situation, mutatis mutandis, is similar to that present in Swat. Until today (but the situation is rapidly changing), the most privileged agricultural lands, even in the lateral valleys and the along the main roads of communication, are owned by ethnic Yusufzai landlords (khans). The right of possession is legitimated by the 16th century Yusufzai military conquest, and the permanent distribution of the lands amongst the khans during the Miangul rule in the first half of the last century (Yusufzai State of Swat). Landlords and their kinfolk farmers live mainly in the main valley, as they have means of communication and mobility; they speak Pashto and their principal market town (in the study area) is the urban center of Barikot. In addition to these farmers, the area is occasionally populated by seasonal workers from Sindh, who come to the area during harvest period and live in large camps on the outskirts of villages along the main valley. A third group consists of people who are ethnic Kohistani, and speak Dardic languages such as Torwalak, Khowar and Busharik, and who are related to the possession of pastures, forests and land in Upper Swat. Ajari shepherds from these areas practiced seasonal transhumance. They pass through the territories of the Yusufzai khans in the main valley directly to winter pastures in the plain S of Swat. This use of passes which is paid for in terms of products and especially timber rights (these also pass through the territories of Barikot, both via waterway and inland passage) and the related conflicts, represent the main moment of interaction between the society of the main valley and the population of Kohistan. A fourth group represents actually true stable stakeholders of the khans of the Barikot area: the Gujari communities of the upper valleys of Kotah and Kandak. These depressed areas and the valuable conifer forests in the high mountains are considered valuable common pool resources, but both nevertheless are the patrimony of the khans of Barikot. They are awarded to semi-nomadic communities, Gujars and Ajars, which have been in the area for several centuries, which have come and gone during their various phases of displacement from Kashmir and Punjab. The Gujars are semi-sedentary pastoralist group, who also cultivate products typical of non-irrigated terrains. The Ajars, a semi-nomadic community, are mainly shepherds and breeders. Both are traditionally considered by the Yusufzais as Swat’s aboriginals and slaves. They are tied to the Yusufzais by a relationships characterized by patronage and corvées, from which rises their freedom to utilize the land in exchange for services, among other things the sale of bush products (such as timber, fruit, and berries – wild grapes as well as medicinal herbs), of milk (and butter) and lamb, honey, etc. 3) Two early proto-historic rock-paintings, which might represent various cultic scenes, were documented in the sector of the area closer to the main valley of Swat river. The standard chronological arc of these paintings covers a period from the end of the 1st Millennium BCE (?) to the 2nd half of the 1st Millennium CE. However, some painted complexes remain outside this chronology: paintings where there are no representations of horses, of Buddhist architecture, and pastoral contexts; paintings, which instead contain composite ideograms and pictograms referring to an agricultural context. Late Bronze age facies (Period IV) is undoubtedly characterized by a strong expansion of agriculture and the use of new polished stone utensils such the so-called ‘perforated knives’, scythes typical of the Kashmir and Sino-tibetan area; the dominant role of agriculture is recognized both by those who hold that the Period IV culture, although not uniform was fundamentally sedentary as well as by those who believe it to be a semi-nomadic culture. Agriculture might be the only possible element of contact between the dominant culture in this phase in the valley and two Sites with rock paintings (Sites 03, 04). These shelters display highly symbolic compositions, the syntax of which is based on associations, oppositions and combinations of iconographic themes. The elaborate structure suggests co-literate cultural contexts, that is, typical of primary orality cultures that nevertheless possess a complex mythopoeietic and lexical heritage. The dominant theme in these shelters seems to be agriculture. In the open mouth of the natural gigantic face of Sargah-sar 1, three types of actors, are represented in scenes of plowing, sowing and consecration of the field. Men and women, equipped with farm implements, have the task of plowing; other men, who seem to occupy a hierarchically higher position (they have typical, upside-down U-shaped legs), have the task of sowing the plowed land which is represented through the symbol of a grid-like ideogram. Lastly a large anthropomorphic figure, with the same characteristics as the sowers, is depicted inside a large ploughed and sown field ideogram. At Kakai-kandao the presence of animals in a similar painted ritual is limited to a monkey. At Sargah-sar, a peripheral sector of the painted shelter is dominated by a heroic scene. An individual with U shaped legs armed with a shining shield is represented between two animals facing each other: an ibex surmounted by an anthropomorphic figure and a large feline; the former possibly representing the killing of the ibex. The action of the hero or deity is emphasized by a couple of dots. It is not ruled out that his solar-like shield is a chackra, like those represented in other earlier paintings In this scene we see again, although expressed through a syntactic language, an association between the themes of the feline and the ibex, symbols which are dominant in the earlier phase at Gogdara I (Olivieri 1998) and at Muhammad-patai rock carvings site (Olivieri, Vidale et al. 2006: fig. 19). The ibex icon doubtless corresponds to the hypostasis of one of the many devi of the mountain, known throughout the Karakorum-Himalaya area until recent times. At Sargah-sar 1 and Kakai-kandao 1 the main compositions are surrounded by secondary figures: archers, dancers or figures with body modifications or open hands extending outwards. The open hands theme has often been associated with a state of shamanic trance or ritual death. These observations probably bring us nearer to the meaning of these remotely located paintings. The action of painting and observing could be linked to long periods of isolation and deprivation and associated with forms of initiatic ritual. The composite central ideogram in Site 04 has been interpreted as an icon referring to sacrificial rituals connected plowing and sowing. This ritual finds its direct reference in a Ṛgvedic environment, as well as in related cults in Dardic horizon. 5) From late proto-history onwards, the paintings included in their lexicon icons linked to war, militarism and horsemanship. The icon of the horse was possibly the first foreign borrowing in the paintings’ visual lexicon. The horse icon was the eponymous animal of the Assakenoi, the group living in Swat at the end of the 4th century BCE according to Alexander’s accounts. Representations of horses started being common in Swat in the graveyard’s iconography and culture. One may suggests that the painted shelters and graveyards coexisted. We tentatively imagine a scenario where the main valley and its agricultural land were occupied (for different purposes: grazing, agriculture and funeral rituals) by the community of the graveyards’ culture, while the external areas were inhabited by indigenous communities or otherwise different. The presence of small graveyards in remote areas could be explained by an attempted intrusion, the temporary occupation of grazing areas, such as during the summer season, carried out by small groups associated with the community of the main valley, or as an expression of the process of acculturation to the new burial customs on the part of small groups. In both cases, this could explain the reduced size of the mountain areas graveyards (in Kandak), as well as the simplicity of the cysts, sometimes of a megalithic character, as well as the scarcity of the burial assemblage. The hypothesis of a partial acculturation of the peripheral community could explain the interesting modification of the symbolic heritage of the paintings, which accepts, as revealed in some Sites (such as 05 for example) in addition to the already familiar themes, icons of a culture focused on pastoralism and warmanship (as the cultures of the graveyards probably were). Another aspect converges in the same direction is the engraving of carts, banners, horses and riders, typical of rock production contemporary to the graveyards. When these icons are carved inside a Site with earlier paintings (Site 04), the remaining external space is reserved for them, which does not interfere with the previously painted space. Assuming that agriculture played an important role in the ideology of the authors of some paintings, one can also imagine that the occupation of privileged areas (i.e. the main valley) by alien groups was a loss for the early painters’ communities: we do not know if it could be considered an economic loss, but it was certainly a loss of prestige. This may explain the partial acculturation/subalternity of the mountain community towards the main valley cultures. 4) From the beginning of the 1st Millennium CE onwards, the rock-paintings area progressively moved towards more remote areas because of the expansion of the Buddhist monastic communities. 6) The Buddhist contact-phase is echoed in the paintings through representations of Buddhist architecture, without necessarily inferring a religious conversion of the local human communities. The complex relationship between mountain areas and main valley can be better understood if we return to the more solid ground of the long period of contact between the painters’ communities and the Buddhist communities. We may infer that the first group was not composed of Buddhists, from the fact that representations referring to the world of Buddhism are depicted solely through the depiction of their architecture, while the icons of the cult, or representations of the Buddha and Boshisattva, are completely absent from the graphic repertoire of the paintings. In their language, architecture represents an exterior representation, we would call it documentary, as it refers to physical evidence; their inner purpose, their psychological meaning is not at first clear. It could be a mere description, although this does not fit given in the context of isolation in which these paintings are found. However, we never find representations of Buddhist architecture in contexts defined as ‘Sanctuaries’ or ‘Hermitages’, but in ‘Public painting places’. It is evident that at a certain moment the Buddhist communities intruded into the ecological space of the painted shelters’ people. It is possible that this phase of contact, not unlike other stages defined in rock-art as ‘post-contact phases,’ typical of contexts in areas colonized by Europeans in the recent past, has had some form of conflict. It is certainly clear that the two communities, one Buddhist and the other involved with the paintings, were competing for the control of the mountain areas. In the later phases, the Buddhist communities have expanded in the upper mountain territories following a process of acquisition of visual and vital space, which at this point included mountain passes, springs, summer pastures and forests. These spaces were considered to be a part of the economic wealth of the monastic community. At this time, one could assume the gradual reductio ad silvam of the community of the painted shelters. It almost seems possible to be able to recognize a true progressive shift of the location of the paintings, evident in the Kotah valley. The oldest shelters are found in the middle of the valley (for example Sites 03, 04, 05, 09, 19), then others (where the representations of Buddhist architecture prevail) are placed at the higher portion of the valley. In a later phase (giving credence to different factors, such as details relating to horsemaship, and the association of triśula-like ideograms), when we can assume that the mountain communities welcomed elements of Brahmanism, (undoubtedly due to the pre-existence of a common religious substratum), the paintings are almost entirely outside the valley Kotah, on the S slopes that divide the Swat basin from the Buner-Mardan basin. One also notes that in almost all these pictures complex forms utilizing body modification prevail. In the same area paintings can be found with iconographic features which refer to a pastoral, or ‘Kafir’-Dardic, graphic vocabolary (Sites 12, 38 and 46). 7) In this phase the local human communities, even if subordinate, might have been socially and economically interacting with the Buddhist communities. Since the beginning of our era, and for approximately four centuries, the archaeological data display a building boom, with more than 100 sacred areas identified within about 400 sq km in the ager of Barikot. Territorial expansion was not uniquely related to the individual appearance of buildings, but to the acquisition of agricultural land in its control, exploitation and irrigation and, we believe we may also say, control of mountain passes, springs, pastures, forests, and their products (e.g. butter, timber, fruit, and honey). An interesting post-2nd century CE inscription from Malakand, which was recently published, shows that also hydraulic/irrigation infrastructures could become part of the system of donations and liberality towards Buddhist community. This fact fits perfectly with the picture suggested by the conclusion of our survey work carried out in the Barikot area of Swat in 2000-2006. Once the land became part of the monastic properties, we must expect that the monasteries managed the properties and were active in their economic improvement. In this respect their territorial expansion not only must have eroded the living space of mountain communities, but must have also forced them to a certain extent to be involved in agricultural work, and other related activities. Even if it resulted in their conversion, it is not possible to know, as there is no evidence. We believe that we can say that Buddhism, inasmuch as it had a popular character, did not have universalist ambitions: at least in contexts such as these, its main target would have been to have on its side the political elites, merchants and craftsmen (in other words, the residents of the cities). But if even these, as the evidence at Barikot shows, forms of popular religion persisted, we can imagine that the communities of mountains or forests, although involved in the activities of the monasteries, were not converted. In this sense, the evidence offered by the cave paintings in our area is extremely interesting. In general, all representations of Buddhist architecture appear, as mentioned, to represent something alien, something ‘other’ than the world of the authors of the paintings. This is true in all cases, except Site 15, where it is perhaps possible to recognize a scene of armed conflict in which there are armed horsemen surrounding a sacred Buddhist area. The possible representation of a scene of conflict is reinforced by the depiction of an ideogram of a crossed disk standing on a horizontal line, and surmounted by a crescent; a kind of tamğa, as already suggested. It is not necessarily true, however, that the part of the community in conflict produced this painting. Indeed, perhaps also in this case one can see that the possible conflict (if we are speaking of this) has been observed from the perspective of a ‘third party.’ In conclusion, the presence of representations of Buddhist architecture, although not absolutely indicative of a conversion to Buddhism, indicates rather a situation of coexistence, certainly subordinate, and maybe positively oriented. This could be explained by the fact that, despite the fact that the gradual expansion of the foundations of Buddhist eroded the vital space of the mountain community, this expansion was accompanied by an integration of the communities on the outskirts of the monastic life, perhaps do to the performance of semi-servile corvées, i.e. procuring goods necessary for the monastic – not necessarily autharchic - economy (fruit, honey, etc). In short, the mountain community may have found in the Buddhist community a natural ‘market,’ for the skills and products of their natural world. Amongst these, possibly also the extraction of quarzite stones used as a flint (today called bakrai), and the production of mustard oil, or clarified butter for the miriads of lamps found by the archaeologists in the Buddhist monasteries and coeval settlements. Therefore, the representations of the Buddhist world in a certain sense come to acquire a ‘mythical’ dimension as they could be related to the welfare of the painters’ community, and as such - like a beneficent spirit – are to be conserved recognizing their merits through the activity of painting. As often occurs in ancient India, a holy place or a sanctuary is also revered by the worshippers of different creeds. In this sense, it might also be possible that through the work of the the painters’ communities, the image of the Buddhist architecture have been credited with being endowed with a sort of spiritual power. The presence of semi-forced labor related to the activities of the monasteries is well known. Perhaps less known is the network of collateral activities that could be associated with this people in the countryside, just as agricultural work, maintenance of the water infrastructures, mountain passes and springs, and various other corvées or duties related to the forest activities. 8) As in the area were found several stone structures interpreted, after ethno-historical records, as “wine-presses”, the role of wine might have been relevant (at least one of these infrastructures was discovered inside a painted shelter). One of these activities could be the harvest of wild grapes and their crushing or pressing. Interesting data originating from research conducted between 2000 and 2006 regards the documentation of 20 infrastructures for pressing grapes found in areas of high altitude in the valleys of Kandak and Kotah that could produce (if considered contemporary) up to 6-8.000 hl of wine per year. The majority of these presses are concentrated in an area of approximately 50 hectares. There are two types of structures: a tub (or tank) carved from a boulder of gneiss or granite, with a drain hole at the bottom, and ‘scoop’ or rectangular carved grooves, having the same size as the tanks, joined by an overflow canal, carved out of the surface of flat sub-horizontal gneiss or granite boulders. Both types are also typical of a ‘tribal’ environment, the so-called ‘Kafirs’, where the production of wine was part of ritual tied to the winter solstice. A very important fact concerns the discovery of a low tank or ‘palette’ inside a shelter at the base of the wall that houses a painting (Site 11). The output channel corresponds to a cavity in the shelter, a type of funnel under which the containers were to be placed which collected the juice. It is therefore possible that the community (or tribe), which produced these paintings also picked the grapes and squeezed them to produce the wine. But who were to be the recipients of the production? Was the wine produced only for use within the community or was it also sold? One fact deserves to be noted: there are two types of artifacts which are very different from one another, and the type of tank infers the use of metal-type instruments; similar tanks, except for the presence of the exit hole, have been documented within or near the Buddhist sacred areas. In this sense we may hypothesize that the tanks for pressing were made by the same people who had cut the tanks without the exit hole in the sacred areas. The latter might have been used as vats for fermentation of the grape juice, similarly to the rougher structures documented in ‘Kafir’ environment. This finding would seem to indicate that the grape harvest took place in the mountains, where the grapevines probably grew, semi-wild, as they still grow today, along with holly-oaks and other local species. The grapes were pressed inside the cultivation areas and the juice transported to the Buddhist foundations, where the fermentation took place in complex work-stations. These were composed, of a multiple series of tanks, or surfaces with tanks and holes. The latter could be meant for posts utilized to set-up tripods to suspend filtering pots. If that is confirmed by further analysis, it does mean that the final recipients of the juice production actually were the monastic communities. What is quite interesting is that the range of wine-presses corresponds approximately to the area of the painted shelters contemporary to the Buddhist presence, while they are not found to the S, in the Mardan watershed, where later pictures prevail. It could be worth noticing that: a) the terrains on the S watershed are also less suitable for grape cultivation due to the humid winds prevalent in the monsoon summer season; b) it seems clear however that the painting community has shifted to the S, and we tend to think that the area of the paintings correspond with the living area occupied by the painters’ community. If the last point is correct, we therefore may hypothesize that wine production, as an economic activity, was concentrated essentially during a precise historical period, i.e. those corresponding to the golden age of Buddhism in Swat. It is worth quoting an important passage in the Mūlasarvāstivāda-vinaya, a text which is generally taken to refer to the 2nd century CE and ancient NW India. This passage shows that the production of non-alcoholic (boiled) grape juices were presented as direct teachings of the Buddha. The presence of these traditions within a Buddhist environment may perhaps reflect an attempt by the monasteries to channel local drinking habits towards a direction of temperance. 9) In a later phase new elements appear in the paintings’ lexicon, and, amongst them, Brahmanic icons. In the upper Kotak valley, the late paintings are bright ochre, almost orange, in colour. Human figurations are sometimes represented in profile and the subjects depicted here definitely reflect a mixed Buddhist/Brahmanic religious symbolism. At Takht-gat (Site 26) a possible Shiva representation is flanked by a couple of fighters. These representations might be regarded as transitional, leading towards a radical ideological change in Swat. For example, at Palangai 1 (Site 41) a rider holding a trisula-spear is associated with a possible representation of a Hindu templ, Buddhist architecture and wild animals. Some of the latest paintings, for instance those of Lal-kamar 1 (Site 27) and those found in a second shelter at Palangai 2 (Site 42), focus on warlike themes and horsemanship: warriors are represented while holding typical late ancient weapons, such as round shields, conical helmets and sabres; mounted on horses using heavy Sogdian-style saddles, stirrups and reins - the same features we found in the carved mounted warriors, partly obliterated by a monumental Brahmi-Sarada rock inscription, near Talang (Site 18), Kotah valley (8th-12th century CE?). To the same group belong some paintings showing interesting but tricky scenes, associated sometimes with representations of Buddhist architecture, as at Lal-kamar China (Site 33), Loe-band (Site 36) a and Drema-palangai (Site 48). 10) The iconic features of the rock-paintings phenomenon might be pertaining to a “Kafir”-Dardic cultural environment, hypothesized as aboriginal in Swat since proto-history. Side by side with the spread of Brahmanism and the Vajrayana, the rock art data also shows a revival of aboriginal cults and cultures that the Buddhist centers had controlled and managed but, probably never converted. In time, the rural communities may have regained control over the land, the pastures and the passes, thereby changing radically the economy of the valleys. At the top of the ridge dividing Swat from Malakand Agency, we found some other painted shelters. The paintings depict caprids, horses and highly modified hieratic characters. The most important shelters are Palwano-gata (Site 12), Dab 1-3 (Sites 38-40) and Khaista-kamar 1, 2 (Sites 46, 47). These late pictorial documents emphasize the possession of cattle, and they might reflect the re-acquisition of grazing land and control of the passes by native tribes. The typical style of the caprids – schematic and linear, is the same as in the recent paintings of the Kalasha peoples of Chitral. Conclusions All the painted shelters display coherent features in terms of style technique and physical setting. The majority of them are executed in simplified linear-style, with red-ochre pigment, and are housed in shallow gneiss shelters. Despite their coherency, major stylistic changes can be detected: from an early simplified linear-style similar to a late evoluted linear-style showing a significant enrichment of details. Syntax and spatial organization progress from an early well-organized structure toward a less ordered one. Notwithstanding the paintings show a reduced capacity of osmosis toward the main Swat valley cultures (henceafter:‘macro-phenomena’), during relevant contact-phases a progressive enrichment, integration and/or mutation of the lexical heritage occurred. One notes the use of a recurrent lexicon consisting mainly of ideograms, pictograms and psychograms. Earlier paintings feature the dominant presence of grid-like ideograms. Major iconic scenes are: (a) agricultural rituals, (b) cultic role of the ibex, (c) heroic figures/anthropomorphs in a central or dominant role with body-modifications, (d) hunting scenes and wild animals, (e) farming scenes. These categories can be traced to self-representations produced by the culture which also produced the painted shelters. The first two categories are uncontaminated self-representations of their authors’ ideology and they are never associated to lexical items attributable to elements of the main valley cultures. The latter three categories are also commingled with representations of ‘alien’ icons, like warriors on horseback and representations of Buddhist architecture. Despite their omogeneus physical setting, the painted shelters display a gradation of isolation and visibility. It has been possible to establish that some paintings are housed in rock-shelters which could be defined as ‘Sanctuaries’, others paintings in shelters defined as ‘Hermitages’, ‘Public or signaling sites’, and ‘Casual/Private painting places’. The major self-representative paintings are found in the first two types of shelters in Kotah’s central valley. The other typologies of shelters are equally present in the upper valley of Kotah. Generally, the paintings located on the S slopes of the area, are housed in sites of the fourth type. The phenomenon, in time, physically shifted from the middle valley of Kotah, toward the head of the valley, and then again, in a later phase, to the S slopes of the watershed that divides Swat from the plains of Mardan. This shifting was accompanied by a progressive de-ritualization of the shelter as a physical place, and it is contemporary to the progressive movement of the Buddhist communities towards areas of high altitude. Its peak falls in the second half of the 1st millennium CE. If the most ancient paintings have been dated to a pre-(Buddhist) contact phase (end-2nd – mid-1st Millennium BCE), then all other elements represent indicators of post-contact phases. The later contact phase occurs simultaneously with the diffusion of Brahmanistic forms in lower Swat, and can be roughly placed at approximately the 7th Century CE. Now, let me remark some points about the paintings' lexicon. While the evolution of these painted shelters seems to cover a wide time span, some elements are recurrent. For instance, grids and dotted squares, common in the earlier paintings, survive in later paintings, even if slightly modified and possibly transformed in their meaning. The same form of continuity is detectable in anthropomorphs, that often dominate the painted scenes from Protohistory to Late-Antiquity. Another aspect of continuity is body modifications and figures with outstretched fingers. In particular, outstretched fingers are typical of dominant figures and might suggest a state of trance or death. This feature is found not only in Swat, but also in the Upper Indus, where dozens of example survives, as well as elsewhere in Eurasia. Actions and rhythmic gestures could generally be named as 'psycograms'. Psycograms in our images consist of wavy lines connecting and/or deformed figures: elongated arms might convey the idea of property, friendship or control, and elongated arrows could indicate the act of striking the target, and so on. This aspect is also typical of our paintings from earlier sites to the latest ones. It is interesting to note that not every kind of pictograms (signs in which we identify representations of objects, animals, human figures) show the same degree of formal evolution in time. Mounted warriors, for instance, show an evident increase in details, characterised in the latest examples by particular details such as reins, saddles, armours and weapons. A similar trend occurs in the depiction of felines and horses. On the other hand, stupa images show a peculiar decrease in details, their architecture being transformed into mere symbolic representation. Finally, if we look at the painted shelters as a whole, their syntax clearly shows a regressive evolution. The composition initially created a complex language, centred on associations of ideograms surrounded by coherent pictograms. The syntax was simplified when this complex code was replaced by more paratactic repetitions of ideograms and pictograms. Even if prestigious – like the hands and battle-axes, the symbols, due to the absence of a real syntactical center, appear redundant. In late sites, such syntax patterns became totally unstructured and chaotic. In summary, we are faced with hierarchically structured tribal communities, living in an ecologically undisturbed area. Their rituals are expressed mostly through the worship of agriculture, and possibly the cult of the ibex; the production of wort had some ritual character too. It appears that the first two activities were carried out by an upper rank individuals (priests?). Relevant or recurrent local deities have not been identified: the representation of the anthropomorph in a cultivated field and the binomial leopard-ibex appear only once, but in a highly representative context: within a shelter defined as ‘Sanctuary’. However, dominant anthropomorphs are recurrent. Self-representative symbols, such as axes or handprints, are only seen once, but also in this case, in a particularly significant context. The community is for the most part permanent, and carries out a series of recurrent tasks which are of great importance for the social life in this mountainous area. The community participates in agricultural activities (subsistence), hunting, and harvesting (grapes). It is a non-literate society, which possesses a significant mythopoeic patrimony. The community also has a strong sense of rock landscape symbolism and psychic dynamics, the latter revealed not only through the use of color (red), but also by the presence of psychograms. It is not inconceivable that the community’s religiosity was characterized by forms of shamanic or magical asceticism, as suggested by the presence of a dominant anthropomorph and body modifications. In these religious formats, the role represented by rock shelters as a place of isolation at particular moments assumes a significant role, and the painting was an expression of those moments. Finally, it appears that the painted shelters were visited several times and the paintings altered, possibly on the occasion of holidays or seasonal celebrations. It is assumed that this community engaged in a funerary cult which left no taphonomic traces. Now, the consideration of these factors would seem to lead toward an early form of the otherway defined as ‘Kafir’-Dardic environment. At this moment, we choose not to enter into a discussion regarding the linguistic and cultural differences between the two contexts, nor their chronological correlation. Certainly there is an agreement as to the presence of these ancient languages in ancient NW India, possibly as early as 2nd millennium BCE. At various stages, the ‘Kafir’-Dardic cultures have been gradually marginalized until they filled an area coinciding with the Hindukush-Karakorum mountains and their piedmont. In Swat, the existence of these cultures is positively attested since very early times, and are still recorded in modern times.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/3722807
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