The leg­end con­tin­ues

The dis­cov­ery of Mehrgarh’s an­cient civ­i­liza­tion by the French­man Jean-François Jar­rige and his wife Cather­ine Jar­rige has been de­scribed as an epoch-mak­ing event.

Southasia - - REGION MALDIVES -

French ar­chae­ol­o­gist cou­ple Jean-François Jar­rige and Cather­ine Jar­rige are glob­ally ac­claimed for dis­cov­er­ing the 9000-year-old Mehrgarh civ­i­liza­tion of Balochis­tan (it is 500-years-older than Egyp­tian and Me­sopotamian civ­i­liza­tions). Talk­ing to this writer in Paris, Jar­rige said he was born in a mid­dle-class mi­lieu.

“My fam­ily had a tra­di­tion of hav­ing books at home where ed­u­ca­tion was con­sid­ered more im­por­tant than money. Any act con­nected with art and cul­ture was deeply ap­pre­ci­ated.”

Jar­rige chose the theme of the Ganges for his dis­ser­ta­tion. In lieu of manda­tory mil­i­tary ser­vice, he had of­fered to teach French in Lakhnow for two years: “Stu­dents were gifted but strikes kept classes sus­pended. Telling pupils to let me know about open­ing of the Univer­sity, I used to go for ex­ca­va­tions at In­dian sites.”

He said he went to Pak­istan in 1963 as a 22-year-old stu­dent. “The per­son in­charge of ex­ca­va­tions there was look­ing for an as­sis­tant. As I was study­ing, I of­fered to go only for one ses­sion.” Jar­rige had mar­ried Cather­ine, a fel­low stu­dent, in 1965. She joined him in Pak­istan two years later. The cou­ple has two daugh­ters: one is a pho­tog­ra­pher and the other a jour­nal­ist. Jar­rige said \their chil­dren were not in­ter­ested in ar­chae­ol­ogy, “a dif­fi­cult vo­ca­tion in dust, mud and sun!”

Speak­ing about his ‘first taste of Pak­istan’, Jar­rige said: “Elec­tions were be­ing held un­der the Ba­sic Democ­racy sys­tem. Ev­ery­body was in favour of Miss Fa­tima Jinnah yet Field Mar­shal Ayub Khan won!” About life in the me­trop­o­lis in the 60s, he re­mem­bered that the French Em­bassy was still lo­cated in Karachi. He re­mem­bers “A small town with lit­tle traf­fic. You could have for­got­ten a suit­case and found it two hours later.” Main­tain­ing that it was dif­fi­cult for an out­sider to gauge the causes and ef­fects,

XII

By M.M. Alam he ob­served that things had changed af­ter the Soviet in­va­sion of Afghanistan: “A lot of ‘traf­fic’ which did not ex­ist, is here”!

Twenty three years old Jar­rige was ex­cited to dis­cover a beau­ti­ful ce­ramic jar from the kulli cul­ture - Hin­dowari - dat­ing to 2300 BC. Af­ter a decade of work as an as­sis­tant to Jean-Marie Casal, he re­placed him in 1973. Jar­rige’s Mehrgarh his­tor­i­cal break­through has a tremen­dous sig­nif­i­cance as it had established that Mo­henjo-Daro’s his­tory was deeply rooted in the soil.

This negated the uni­ver­sal be­lief that mi­grants brought the civ­i­liza­tion to the In­dus Basin. He said that there were older sites all over Pak­istan that were buried un­der the sed­i­ment; civ­i­liza­tions brought to light by ar­chae­ol­o­gists that were of a later pe­riod, 3000 to 4000 BC. Speak­ing about the his­toric un­earthing, Jar­rige humbly said that the river had done the work for him, re­mov­ing silt and ex­pos­ing the 8000 BC civ­i­liza­tion.

In 2004, Jar­rige was ap­pointed di­rec­tor of Guimet Mu­seum ( a Mecca for afi­ciona­dos of Asian Art, thanks to its 45,000 ob­jects). Guimet is sit­u­ated not far from the Eif­fel Tower (where this in­ter­view was con­ducted). He had shown me around when the French pub­lic mu­se­ums (in­clud­ing the Lou­vre, which houses the Mona Lisa) were closed.

Trac­ing back its his­tory, Jar­rige said that Emile Guimet, a French in­dus­tri­al­ist who was pas­sion­ately in­ter­ested in the Ori­ent, founded the mu­seum in 1889. Ini­tially he brought back thou­sands of works of art from an 1879 sci­en­tific voy­age. Later the range kept on in­creas­ing due to French ex­pe­di­tions to Asia, as well as do­na­tions and ac­qui­si­tions. When clos­ing in 1920, the Indo-Chi­nese mu­seum at Tro­cadero handed all its riches to the Guimet Mu­seum.

While the Lou­vre has art pieces from the west­ern half of the globe (up to Iran), an­tiques from the east were dis­played at Guimet. It ex­changed its clas­si­cal and Egyp­tian pieces for ar­ti­facts from the Lou­vre’s Asian Arts de­part­ment in 1945. The di­rec­tor, while point­ing to­wards ob­jects, mag­nif­i­cently pre­sented in ap­pro­pri­ately lit spa­ces, said that ear­lier Guimet was a sleepy mu­seum with few vis­i­tors. Many parts, in­clud­ing the third floor (Lac­quer Ro­tunda), were in ru­ins and home to pi­geons. Af­ter four years of ren­o­va­tion, the mu­seum was re­opened in Jan­uary 2001, at­tract­ing a large num­ber of art lovers.

A tour of the mu­seum takes vis­i­tors to var­i­ous re­gions of Asia cov­er­ing south east, far east and cen­tral asia. The vis­i­tors are ex­plained the civ­i­liza­tions of coun­tries such as Afghanistan, Burma, Cam­bo­dia, China, In­dia,

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