Sojourns into the Bronze Age

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro on the ancient rock art sites of the Sallari Valley

Sojourns into the Bronze Age
A trip to Khirthar in Sindh is expensive but allows for extensive documenting of rock art and other heritage sites. Each of the valleys of Khirthar is host to a large number of rock art sites. One has to go hiking to get to many a rock art site. Some sites can be approached by jeep but a majority of sites lie on the trekking routes Sometimes, one has to cross a deep gorge to get to a site, which is quite dangerous and difficult for a novice trekker. Local people have set up a wooden ladders made of logs and ropes, which have been fixed into rock walls. These ladders, locally called “Dar” overlook the “Kumb” (a depression where water accumulates). This serves shepherds who cross the deep Kumb to climb up and down. There is no other way to cross Dar Kumb in Sallari gorge, for instance. In fact, there is one upstream tract where it takes more than two hours to arrive a particular point. So, local people prefer crossing Dar Waro Kumb which is shorter as compared to the upstream route.

If anybody wants to visit Sallari valley, one should take all necessary edible items and medicines, as there is no shop nearby. There are no restaurants or hotels to eat or stay in. The best thing is to take with you a sleeping bag or a tent. One should also hire porters to carry their things. Porters can be hired at Sallari and Rajo Dero, the two main neighboring villages close to the Sallari valley.

Menhir at Khazani Wari Buthi

It takes a day or two to find a rock art site in these remote and narrow valleys of Khirthar. I spent several days in search of petroglyphs in Sallari valley and discovered six rock art sites in my first visit to the valley in 2013. In the second visit, I crossed Khurbi valley to enter in Sallari valley in 2015. Here I discovered yet more such sites. 2016 and 2017 were the most successful years for my research as I discovered a large number of rock art and other heritage sites in Sallari valley.

Before reaching any rock art site, one first comes across Charh Waro Muqam (a medieval-period graveyard) and later the ancient settlement site of Sallarkot that is situated 4 km west of Charah Waro Muqam. It is located on the left bank of Sallari Nai. Local people ascribe this Kot (fort) to “kafirs” (unbelievers). It is a fortified settlement site and belongs to early the Indus period. Sallarkot is rectangular in plan. Remains of the fort are still noticeable. More precisely, five rooms are found on the western side. On the eastern side are remains of four graves, out of which one has recently been illegally excavated.

Apart from Sallarkot, Khazani wari Buthi is another archaeological site in Sallari valley which is located 12 km west of Sallarkot. This site overlooks the confluence of Sallari Nai and Sor Chhur Dhoro. The Khazani Wari Buthi or hill has a commanding view of both Sallari and Sor Chhur hill streams. The site lies on an ancient route: people coming from the north, particularly the valleys of Buri and Solani, passed through or halted at the site and then went to the valleys of Makhi and Gaj.

View of a wooden ladder used for crossing the Dar Kumb

Red potsherds are scattered over the site of Khazani Wari Buthi. The potsherds are thick and undecorated. Flanged rims are also numerous. At this site one also finds a menhir. These are found at some places in the Sallari valley. Another prominent menhir is located in Charh Waro Muqam.

Apart from settlement sites and menhirs, Sallari is home to many rock art sites. Two of the sites are locally called Chiti Khoh 1 and Chiti Khoh 2. Chiti Khoh means “engraved rocks” and lies on the ancient Sallari route that leads to Khazani Wari Buthi and beyond to Chuk Thal, a plateau in Sallari Valley.

There also lies a huge boulder on the main route of Sallari Nai which is called Chiti Khoh. There are carvings of animals: horses, camels, riders and anthropomorphic figures – as well as some other signs on the boulder. Ibex images abound on the boulder. The horse riders are shown standing over their horses,  holding the bridle. The heads of the riders are shown in a triangular shape. One of the figures is shown holding either a stick or a lance. There is an interesting male figure engraved close to the ibex images. This is a an anthropomorphic figure with one arm extended and other rested on the hip. it could be the figure of a demon, deity or shaman.

One also finds some carvings of camels, with the riders shown holding a stick in one hand and the bridle in the other. They are always shown standing on camelback.

Chiti Khoh 2 is a rock shelter located north of Chiti Khoh 1. The rock shelter faces north and overlooks the “Gok Lop Dhori” (a tributary of Sallari Nai). It is situated at a height of 1,271 feet. One can have a commanding view of both Gok Lop Dhori and Sallari Nai from the rock shelter. There are a total of 30 petroglyphs on the rock shelter which are mainly of the Bronze Age. Giant figures holding lances, a bowman and bull images are the most ancient images engraved on the rock shelter. Ibex and camel images are also found here. Some recent strokes can also be seen on the shelter.

The image of the bowman is the most amazing. He is shown holding a bow and arrow in one hand, aimed at some game.

In one of the carvings a predator is shown attacking an ibex. Two giant male figures are engraved holding either lances or possibly clubs. Such giant figures in this style are not found in the rock art sites of other valleys in Khirthar. Images of deities or shamans are also found on the rock shelter. The most amazing figure is that of a male figure wearing a headdress with suspended tassels. This figure is probably of a royal or a deity. One also notices a halo which symbolizes the royalty or significance of the figure.

Just below this image is an engraving of another giant male anthropomorphic figure holding either a lance or club.

Overall, the technique and style of the figures is suggestive of Bronze Age, as mentioned earlier.

At Daro Waro Kumb are found some cup-marks. There are, in fact, 28 cup marks carved on the rock. Rock carvings are also found in Sallari Nai and in its tributaries (dhoras). The petroglyphs are a source of history and culture. Through some of images engraved on the rocks, one comes to know about the ancient economy, culture and religion of the people of Khirthar.

The author is an anthropologist at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad. He may be contacted

The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar