Friday, August 21, 2015

The Akra mound in Bannu, which dates back to 6th century BC during Achamenid rule

The best known are the Akra mounds lying nine miles south west of Edwardesabad. There is a picturesque, but rather highly coloured account of them in Edwardes "Year on the Frontier," Volume I, pages 335 to 341. These mounds now consist of several rounded eminences, each covered with potsherds, stones and rubbish of sorts. The highest rises abruptly about 250 feet above the level of the country immediately surrounding it and covers an area of 33 acres. No ruins exist on it, and the only traces of masonry to be found are at the northern end where tunnelling has exposed portions of arches and brick walls. The kiln bricks found are all very large. A shaft sunk to about 40 feet in 1868-69 at the southern extremity of the mound only resulted in the exhumation of a few bones. The stratum pierced was clay. This hillock and its more insignificant neighbours are gradually but very slowly disappearing, their materials having been in request for generations past as manure. Judging from the quantities of chips of bone found, the chief mound must have been utilized for some long period as a common sepulchre by the inhabitants round about. It is the bone-earth (phosphate of lime) which makes Akra so valuable to the cultivator. Sir Robert Egerton, when Financial commissioner, visited the mounds, and at his suggestion they were declared Government property. The villagers are allowed to excavate as formerly, but are expected to bring in antiquities when found. The popular tradition ascribes the earliest occupations of Akra to Hindus to whom succeeded Greeks, Indo-Grecians and Indo-Scythians. Subsequently Hindus colonized the place calling it Sat Ram, and remained in possession until Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni destroyed it and them. Coins and other antiquities establish the settlement here of Hindus, and of races acquainted with Greek art, also of Muhammadans in later times. Thus four years ago, a villager brought in an inscribed stone he had turned up, when ploughing below the chief mound. It is now in the Lahore museum, but has disintegrated from exposure to the air. All that General Cunningham and the Sanskrit Professor at St. Petersburg could pronounce about it was, that the inscription was in ancient Sanskrit and had it been better preserved and more perfect, it "would have been invaluable." Again small moulded Buddhist (?) images are constantly laid bare here after rain. They are usually terra-cotta, but are sometimes of slate, sandstone, or soapstone. The coins found are most copper and of many sorts. Among coins lately obtained at Akra are several Graeco Bactrian copper coins of Eukratides, Philoxenes, Menander and Apollodotus; but the majority found are of the Barbaric kings, Azas, Mayas, Wema Kadphises, Kanerki, and Hwerki; coins of the Brahman kings of Kabul, Samanta Deva and Syalpati, and of the Ghaznavide kings, Sabuktagin and Mahmud are also found together with a few later Musalman coins up to Iltitmish (Altamash). Probably the place was gradually abandoned after Mahmud's raid. The most valuable antiquities are small cut cornelians and agates, apparently the stones of Greek signet rings. The following figures are beautifully engraved on some of them, a helmeted head, a horse, a bull, two cocks, etc. They are clearly of Greek design. A small mound similar to those at Akra exists at Islamnagar and another at the Tochi outpost. There are few others, but their size is very insignificant.