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Archaeologists discover a huge cache of ivory pieces in ancient Bhanbhore city in Pakistan’s Sindh

The Italian archaeologists working at the site state that this is the largest deposit of ivory pieces found anywhere in the world. Dr Simone Mantellini believes that working elephant tusks may have been a central pillar of the city's prosperity.

Amid excavation survey of Pakistan’s 2,100-year-old ancient port city of Bhanbhore in Sindh province, Archaeologists from Italy and Pakistan have discovered 40 Kg of Ivory remnants from the ruins of the ancient city.

This discovery had led the Archaeologists to believe that there must have been a big workshop for the commodity in that area, which might be dating back to 800 years, officials said on Thursday.

“Technical experts of archaeology from Italy and Pakistan have come to the conclusion that Bhanbhore was a trade and industrial city where a big factory of elephant ivory existed,” Sindh’s Director Heritage Muhammad Shah Bukhari told Arab News on Thursday, adding that the findings were disclosed in a technical seminar in Karachi a day earlier.

Sharing the findings with the participants of the technical seminar on Wednesday, Italian archaeologist Dr Simone Mantellini said that the antiquities recovered from Bhanbhore included 6,675 Ivory pieces, the largest such recovery anywhere in the world.

“Nowhere else in the world have ivories been found in such a large quantity. Ivories were found in Iraq but those were small in number,” Mantellini said, adding that such a huge recovery proved there was a factory for the commodity in the city.

No similar Ivory deposit or workshop has been found elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent. This discovery is unique, the archaeologists say.

Bhanbhore city in Pakistan’s Sindh province was found in the first century B.C.E. at the mouth of the Indus River and is located about 65 kilometres east of Karachi. Bhanbhore was controlled by Muslims from the 8th to the 13th century, after which it was abandoned. Department of Archaeology and Museums Pakistan has submitted the site’s name for UNESCO World Heritage Sites tag.

The city’s excavation began under Ramesh Chandra Majumdar in 1928, which was of course before the subcontinent’s partition into India and Pakistan. Following partition in 1947, extensive excavation of Bhanbhore resumed this time, under the direction of famed Pakistani archaeologist Fazal Ahmed Khan, from 1958 to 1965.

The strategic location of Bhanbhore city in the Indus River delta apparently made it a major port and commercial hub in antiquity, trading with peoples around the Indian Ocean and the Far East. Bhanbhore also featured a large fortified citadel around 14,000 square meters in area. The citadel was divided into eastern and western sections by a fortified stone wall in the centre. Previous excavations found buildings and streets beyond the walled city as well.

The city has also been tentatively identified as the starting point for the spread of Islam in Sindh during the Early Medieval period.

Based on the evidence now found of the vast Ivory industry, Italian archaeologist Dr Simone Mantellini presumed that the city possibly had a booming economy. Mantellini believed that working elephant tusks may have been a central pillar of the city’s prosperity. He added that earlier excavations in the 1950s and 1960s did find some finished ivory pieces too.

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