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Deciphering millennia-old graffiti


some travellers of old felt the need to leave their mark on places they visited. Exemplifying this is the graffiti at Shatial. This is a crossing point of the Indus River on what is now called the Karakorum Highway, which has long linked China with Pakistan. Routes from here also take travellers further into Central Asia and north to the ancient trading kingdom of Sogdiana.

Scratched onto the large black boulders lining the route are hundreds of names, many of them Sogdian. Most are single names, but some list several family members: ‘Chuzzakk the son of Wanenak, and his brother Shans and father’. The longest reads: ‘Nanai-vandak the son of Narisaf came on the day/year ten and asked a boon from the spirit of the sacred place Kart that I may arrive in Kharvandan very quickly and see my brother in good health with joy.’

Why did they choose this place to leave their mark? It is possible that this was the farthest south that Sogdian merchants were allowed to travel. They came to sell their goods to merchants who had travelled north from India; there is also graffiti in Indian languages and scripts, as well as many Buddhist carvings. Presumably the Sogdians also bought goods from the Indian merchants to resell. The Sogdian inscriptions are concentrated in the western part of the site. Perhaps this was where they made camp, carving their names before they left for the long, hard journey back through the mountains.

Dr Susan Whitfield curates the Silk Road manuscripts at the British Library and directs an international collaboration to digitise manuscripts and artefacts from the Silk Road. idp.bl.uk



路途上星羅棋佈的巨大黑色圓石,刻著數以百計的名字,當中許多均屬於粟特人。雖然絕大部分均為單一名字,然而也有部分列出家庭成員,例如:「Wanenak的兒子Chuzzakk、以及他的兄弟Shans和父親」。至於最長的一段更寫著:「Narisaf的兒子Nanai- vandak於十歲誕辰當天駐足於此,祈求神聖之地 Kart的神靈賜福,讓我盡快抵達Kharvandan,喜見兄弟身體健康。」



Make your mark Inscriptions on boulders in Shatial are millennia old 刻字留念 Shatial的巨石刻文擁有千年歷史

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