Karakorum Rescue Project 
Pakistan 2021

Heritage Documentation & Education
Community Outreach

Led by our project coordinator Abdul Ghani Khan, our team in Gilgit-Baltistan is ready to commence our Karakorum Heritage project, supported by the Prince Claus Heritage Emergency Grant and the Caliph Alliance, for the documentation of ancient rock art in the Karakorum mountain range of the Pakistani Himalayas. The fieldwork is entirely non-evasive and conducted in collaboration with and as a new educational initiative for the local communities of the region.  On this webpage, we will regularly update our progress by means of stories from the field, videos and Open Access material. 

Project Summary

Abdul Ghani Khan (MPhil) will oversee the project in Pakistan, through the coordination of the fieldwork. Importantly, he will also 
lead the outreach and education program developed with the local communities, including workshops and collaborative initiatives to ensure a sustained heritage protection for the threatened rock art for and by the local population of the region. 

Destruction and vandalism of ancient Buddhist rock art (2019-2020).

As the project’s academic advisor, Dr. Marike van Aerde will coordinate the data study and (Open Access) publications of the project’s rock art documentations and subsequent interpretations. In due course, students and/or PhDs may also be able to get involved with analyses, as part of our ongoing research team Routes of Exchange, Roots of Connectivity

The main current threat to the Karakorum petroglyphs is the building of the Diamer-Basha dam in the near future, which will flood several valleys that contain large numbers of as yet unrecorded/unstudied ancient rock art, and that will likewise force the relocation of many local villagers. In addition, vandalism and destruction of especially ancient Buddhist rock art continue to occur frequently due to lack of available education, prevailing superstitions, and/or looting and the illegal market for ancient materials.

Damaged/looted rock art in situ.

Abdul Ghani Khan at the Karakorum.

Our Karakorum heritage project will therefore focus not only on the emergency documentation of the threatened rock art, but will set up a local collaborative educational program that will directly involve the local communities in the role of guardians of the region’s heritage. This program is already in development in collaboration with local governments in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.