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A group of locals posing with the ancient cross in Pakistan.    Source: Pamir Times

Mysterious Ancient Cross Found in Northern Pakistan

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Researchers have unearthed a massive ancient cross in a remote mountain area of northern Pakistan. The evidence suggests it is a Christian object from the Middle Ages , but there is also the possibility that it is a Buddhist symbol . It is believed that the cross comes from a time of great religious change in the region in and around what is now Pakistan.

The remarkable discovery was made by researchers from the University of Baltistan in the northeast of Pakistan. Prof. Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan and two of his colleagues were exploring the mountains of Skardu accompanied by local villagers when they made the discovery. They came across a massive ancient cross of similar form to that which has been a symbol of Christianity for centuries. But definitively ascertaining its origin and symbolism is not simple.

The heavy cross is carved from marble. ( Pamir Times )

Ancient Cross Weighs Between 3-4 Tons

The huge cross is carved out of marble and weighs between 3-4 tons (2,722-3,629 kg). It is 7 feet high (2.1 meters) and 6 feet (1.8 meters) in width. It was discovered about 1.12 miles (2 km) from the team’s base camp in a spectacular setting that overlooks the Indus River . The team leader is quoted by Herald Malaysia Online as stating that the cross seemed to have descended ‘directly from the heavens.’ The researchers were amazed by their discovery as there are no Christians in this part of Pakistan. Prof Khan is quoted by The Telegraph as saying that ‘villagers told researchers from the university they had always known about the cross, but had never bothered with it and left it where it was because it could not be moved.’

It is believed that the object is between 900 and 1200 years old. The experts have not been able to move it because of its size, and lockdown restrictions means that they have not been able to scientifically examine the cross. Their initial assumptions were that it was a Christian symbol.

The Silk Road Guided Christians Through Pakistan and India

Wajid Bhatti, an expert on Christian crosses at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, contacted the team and told them that he could identify the mysterious object. He is quoted by CBN News as saying that it is ‘a typical Thomonian Cross of India.’ According to Christian tradition, the apostle Thomas brought the gospel to India in 52 AD. There are still Christian minorities in both Pakistan and India numbering in the millions.

'Taxila Cross' in Lahore Cathedral, Pakistan is a famous example of a Thomonian Cross of India. ( CC BY 4.0 )

Bhatti, according to CBN News , also stated that ‘the cross is one of the biggest ever discovered on the subcontinent’. Smaller crosses that are similar in design have been found in the general region and as far south as Taxila in Punjab, Pakistan. He is quoted by The Telegraph as stating that ‘The region's position on Silk Road trading routes could have attracted Christian travellers ’. It is well-known that Christians propagated their faith along the route for centuries and even spread it as far as China. Members of the Nestorian Church were particularly active on the Silk Road.

Persian cross or Thomonian Cross of India in a chapel on St Thomas mount, Chennai, India. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Ancient Cross Adds to Understanding of Medieval Pakistan

Some experts are looking at the Buddhist art references found on the ancient cross. It is possible that the cross was made by Buddhists who had converted to Christianity roughly a millennium ago when Buddhism was in decline.

The Pamir Times reports that the ‘researchers claim that it might be the discovery of the missing link between the decline of Buddhism and Emergence of Islam in this historic region’.

The basic form of a crossed Buddhist vajra has the same equal-sided proportions as a Thomonian cross. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

This ancient cross could show that Christianity was more widespread than was previously accepted in the medieval history of Pakistan. ‘It shows that Christianity existed in this area and there must be a church and houses of Christians’ according to Mansha Noor, who works for Caritas Pakistan, as reported in the Herald Malaysia Online . This suggests that there could be many more significant artifacts of this religion in this mountainous region.

Is this Ancient Pakistani Cross a Christian or Buddhist symbol?

Further research is required to determine if the newly discovered ancient cross is a Christian artifact or a Buddhist symbol.

Notably, in the past the Skardu mountain region was a center of Tibetan Buddhism . Dr Elena Ene D-Vasilescu, from Oxford University, is quoted by The Telegraph as stating that ‘As we know, the cross with four equal arms (like the swastika) is a symbol of life and order.” There are many examples of Buddhist crosses in the Indus region that date back many centuries.

The results of future research will help to resolve the mystery of the cross-shaped artifact found in the desolate mountains of Pakistan and determine if it is a Buddhist or a Christian symbol. This is particularly important as it could provide important new insights into the history of religion in the subcontinent.

Top image: A group of locals posing with the ancient cross in Pakistan.    Source: Pamir Times

By Ed Whelan

Comments

for Daniel.
It is a pity that I cannot post the pictures that go with this article.

The Celtic cross and the Yew.

Some time ago in a Swellendam SIS meet up, a photo was shown by John and he asked if anybody knew what it was. One upstart piped up, as is usual, and said it is an ancient symbol sacred to the Pagan or pre-Christian era people.
A few turned around and gave stares of which were curious, some puzzled and one was a tad antagonistic.
As far as most are concerned it is the Cross, symbolic of Christ and that is that.
It is neither Celtic nor Christian, as it predates both!

Historically, it is fully accepted that many of the older Christian churches in Europe were built next to or on the grounds of existing, burial sites. This practice, it seems, was a concerted effort to align the new religion with the older beliefs, making the new palatable to the old but ultimately to inveigle the older beliefs out of existence.
It was just one* of many steps that early Christianity employed to establish itself as the dominant religion of the time. It was truly successful.
Prior to the advent of Christianity, the people did not see their burial places as a site for a church, they saw the Inn as a site for church and the Inn was often adjacent and on the other side of the road to the burial ground. One can still see this in England, quite often, with older pubs. Death to a modern westerner has a certain finality which was not the belief of our ancestors. They believed that our journey does not end at physical death but that death is simply a milestone in the cyclical journey of life and death.
What a lovely thought, as none of us truly want to die…………………….. forever.

Yew not me!

If one goes into one of the older church yards (pagan burial grounds) in England one more often than not sees a large and seemingly old Yew tree. You see, the Yew tree does not die, it potentially lives forever. It is a symbol of the cycles of a continuous life.
It simply and intelligently lowers its lower branches into the humus, shed from the tree which has perhaps collected in a fork in the tree’s many intertwined trunks and sprouts new roots. Older Yew trees do not have one main trunk which is expected of a common-or-garden tree. One could say that it is similar to taking a cutting from a tree and propagating it but in this case the tree does this for itself. It is in this manner that the tree does not die but re-incarnates itself, as it were, which is precisely why the symbolic tree is found at Pagan burial sites.
The Yew tree was especially important to our ancestors as were other species of tree such as the Oak, which is still associated with the pre-Christian Druids. Trees were not worshipped (a Christian word) by Pagans, they were simply revered as a symbol of the ‘Force of Nature’. (Wakan T’anka)
With the then largely Christian society it was an offence, which became written into law in England, to commit suicide. Not so with our ancestors. If one desired death for whatever reason, we met it at our own defined and appointed time.

The most common and most palatable method in Europe was to eat the sweet and delicious scarlet berries from the Yew tree (Taxus Baccata) and by further masticating the internal seeds, death is instantaneous and painless,as the seeds are so toxic the symptoms of discomfort did not have time to manifest.
I have been told that in old Germany this was called Frei-tod meaning ‘free death’.
Coupled with the strong Pagan belief in re-incarnation it was not a big deal to end this life and move to the next, should one so desire but today suicide carries a sack full of negative (inculcated) social stigma.
I am intentionally making a suggestion here that, as many people do desire an exit at some point in their lives, they should research Yew seeds as an alternative to an expensive ‘assisted suicide’ clinic in Switzerland, or any other money spinning, alternative method.
I have seeds if you wish.
Trees are a manifestation and expression of the God as is all of nature, according to our ancestors. In many instances and as with the Yew, trees mirror aspects of birth, life and death.

Back to the Cross.
Ancient Egyptians could conceivably be considered Pagan and they felt the same way about burying along with the body, instruments and symbols of navigation through to the next phase of life and further saw to it that the dead, on their journey had certain tools and useful accompaniments, like a pot, a knife or food and even fragrant flowers, perhaps some other symbol, as with the European Pagan.
In 1761, a disgusting amount of money was offered by the British Government to anyone who could come up with an accurate time piece which would afford the calculation of longitude and consequently sea navigation. The money was awarded to John Harrison, an Englishman, of course, cough, cough as they invented everything, they didn’t they?

A Chronometer was born named after Chronos, the Greek name for the planet Saturn, the keeper of time and ultimately “The Grim Reaper’. Out of sight of the land, it was and is considered impossible to navigate the seas and expand the British Empire.
It isn’t and wasn’t.
The Celtic cross is a symbol for a mechanical and working instrument that determines ones position longitude and therefore enabling navigation on a journey, whether over the sea or not.
It is a computer and a piece of pure genius by our ancestors which pre-dates the Chronometer by perhaps many thousands of years.
The genius becomes evident as unlike the Chronometer the Cross did not need any external power to make it work. The Chronometer needs winding or, as with modern time pieces, a battery. If you didn’t wind or replace the battery and it ran down, then you are lost in a sea of wilderness.
We must give our ancestors a lot more credit for ingenuity and intelligence. It is time to review that which we have long been told (inculcated) and now believe that they were primitive, as they were certainly not.

This clever invention was so profound that it evolved into a symbol of navigation through the next journey after physical death and was placed over the deceased’s grave to facilitate their passage. The instrument was subsequently re-created in stone and placed over the grave.
The original working instrument was hand held, by the long lower half of the cross. The cross arm was pointed to a fixed star. The center round piece mimicked the rotation of the earth against the fixed position of the stars, the wheel rotated on a central pin. At one of the points where each of the arms cross the wheel, there was a hole in the circle allowing a spy hole through to view the etched degree markings on the rear showing the degrees of longitude. A plumb line was attached to the centre pin of the instrument to align the held arm parallel with the ground of the instrument reader.
If I go on any further and explain this mind boggling device, I shall be accused of being a sleep inducing drug. So if you are interested go to http://www.viewzone.com/crichton.html
Guillaumé le Polémiste Païen

* Another was the tip of a very sharp blade

Daniel O'Toole's picture

Guillaume, please tell us more!

The symbol predates both Buddhism and Christianity, perhaps even by many thousands of years. Too little space and time to explain my reasoning.
If you wish to know more: guillaume at icon.co.za

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