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Early Archaeology in a “Native State”: Khans, Officers, and Archaeologists in Swat (1895–1939), with a Digression on the 1950s

Luca Maria Olivieri


In the aftermath of the British conquest of Malakand, the Swat valley became a sort of “quarry area” from which to extract sculptures earmarked for different destinations: military messes and private collections, museums in India and Great Britain, auction houses and the antiquary market in Europe, etc. All these activities were partially curbed and/or regulated thanks to a very advanced law, the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act (VII, 1904). Nonetheless, the legal situation in Swat remained unclear. Despite the efforts made by the legislators in British India to place the archaeological heritage under legal protection, in Native States, like Swat, there were no clear rules, and the procedures remained a matter directly discussed with the court. A recently discovered archival fonds illustrates that situation in detail. When in 1956, nine years after the end of British India, Giuseppe Tucci secured a Pakistani excavation licence for Swat, the situation was still unchanged. According to other documents, it was Tucci who convinced the wali to introduce the Act VII, 1904 in Swat. As a natural consequence, legal fieldwork started, and a museum with a Pakistani curator was established in Swat.

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