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Return to the Past! Back to Sindh (Pakistan) after 20 years

In the late 80s and early 90s, when I was still a youngish PhD student, I went for the first time to Sindh to work with the Italian Archaeological Mission that was surveying the flint quarries and workshops of the Rohri Hills. The hills consist of limestone flat-topped terraces (mesas/tablelands), dated at Middle Eocene/Early Oligocene period, which are rich in seams of excellent quality flint nodules. The flint was exploited since the Palaeolithic, and during the Bronze Age Indus Civilization the hills were probably the most important source of lithic raw material. During the field seasons of the mission we surveyed major parts of the hills discovering what are probably the biggest areas of flint extraction and processing in the world (see illustration below and reference for an article on this subject). Unfortunately, today the Rohri Hills quarries and lithic workshops are under great danger of disappearing due to an aggressive extractive industry for producing cement and raw material for constructions.

This year I was back in Sindh to start working in a different context through the JASPAR initiative but, happily, this new work meant that I am again collaborating with old friends such as Prof Veesar or Prof Shaik. Going back was really a jump in the past, a very positive one, which reconnected me with an area of the world I fell in love so many years ago and also with the fantastic people of Sindh, welcoming and supportive as ever.

Beyond the main Indus Valley that will be the focus of our work, the Rohri Hills are important for ModAgrO and RAINDROPS projects because of the rainfed cultivation carried out by some local groups. The first time I realized how the non-irrigated cultivation in the Thar Desert was a not-so-negligible resource was back in the 90s when I observed several examples of inter-dunal cultivation, sustained only by the yearly rains and stored water (here below is a photo from those days with inter-dunal fields just after they were flooded, between the fields and the dunes there are cultivated date palms).

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