WAH CANTT - Dozens of gold ornaments dating back to BC era were stolen from Sirkap, the second city of Taxila, during the restoration work at the museum on Sunday. It was later found that the labourers stole these antiquities worth million of rupees due to negligence and unprofessional attitude of officials of department of archaeology and museum.

According to sources, the department of archaeology and museum have allocated contract of restoration of the ancient archaeological site of Sirkap to a local contractor. On Sunday, during preservation work, some labourers, while removing wild grass from the remains of residential complex located at the eastern side of the site on the back of the apsidal temple found gold ornaments including ear ring, bangles, nickels and other pieces of the gold . Due to negligence of archaeology department officials , including the site attendant, site supervisor and site engineer, the labourers managed to steal the valuable antiquities worth millions of rupees. Soon after the theft , the laborers went underground and began deals of selling the ornaments with the local antiquities dealers. As the news broke out, the officials of department of archaeology and museum contacted the police for the arrest of the laborers.

“We have traced a few local laborers from nearby villages and recovered gold ornaments from them including two ear rings, one bangle and some cherished pieces of gold .” said Irshad Hussain, deputy director department of archaeology while talking to newsmen here on Tuesday. He said that six laborers identified as Saeed, Sheraz, Amjad, Yasir Anjum and Faizan are under custody of local police for interrogation while two other labourers, believed to be the main culprits and having other stolen gold jewellery are still at large. He said that according to the laborers under detention the other stolen ornaments include a necklace with gems with different colors, bangles and other small jewellery items worth millions.

According to the excavation manual of department of archaeology –  an archaeologist should be present at the site during the preservation or restoration work. The absence of any archaeologist was sheer violation of the manual instructions- adding that a site engineer visited the site at intervals and was present at another site at the time of the theft . However, other inside sources said that the said engineer was also not present as there was an official holiday. Section 50 of the manual states, “If a work of conservation is being executed by the Public works department or other agency department, the conservation assistant will act as the representative of the archaeological Superintendent, and it will be his duty to watch the work during execution”. The negligence and bureaucratic apathy of the concerned officials could be judged by the fact that no conservation assistant or archaeologist was deputed during the conservation work which led to the incident.

The first excavation of the old city was carried out under the supervision of Sir John Marshall from 1912-1930 here and during excavations; gold ornaments which are now on display at Taxila Museum were recovered.