CHEKNAWAR (Caves at)

(لالپوره ولسوالۍ - AF)
Grottocenter / carte


NOT SEEN Cheknawar? sources: BURNES (1842, 1: 23): Travels to Bokhara.- ELPHINSTONE, Mountstuart (1815, 1839): Account of the kingdom of Cabul.- GAZETTEER OF CENTRAL ASIA (1885, ed. MacGREGOR, C.M.): –>title.- (Simla). HODGESON, Pat (1977): The war illustrators.- (London) HONIGBERGER, Martin (circa 1830 ±30): Unknown titles.- ("Vienna" = Wien). MIZUNO, Seiichi (1966): Basawuru….- MacGREGOR, Charles Metcalfe (a.i., before 1885 = 1879?, page 401 on Jallalabad): "Travels" = Narrative of a journey… (London, 2 vols.)? MOHUN LAL (1885 ?: 343 on Jallalabad): unknown title = "Travels." MONSERRATE, Antonio (1581: Mongolicae legationis Commentarius.- edited by HOSTEN, H (a.i.: Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Calcutta), vol. 3); translated by HOYLAND, J S and annotated by BANERJEE, S N (1922). SIMPSON, William (1903 edited by EYRE TODD, George): The autobiography of William Simpson.- (London). VIEWS OF KABUL AND… (1881 compiled by Lt. Col. THACKERAY): Views of Kabul and environs from pictures taken by the photograph school of the corps of Bengal Sappers and Miners….- (London). WOOD (1841, 1872): Journey to the source of the Oxus.- More than 100 entrances (note 1) to dilapidated rock chambers (note 2) have been recorded by »gentlemen endowed with antiquarian tastes« (note 3) and keen cave friends (note 4). SITUATION: The cave entrances are found at varying heights along the base of a hill in the Besud range, sometimes called »Koh-be-Doulut« (note 4), which rises above the left (northern) bank (note 5) of the Kabul River (in Pashtu: Kabul Rod / Rud) at Cheknawur (note 6) in the Basawul area (note 7). CAVE DESCRIPTION: »… not a living thing was found in any of them, and their extent was limited to about 20 or 30 feet [5 or 10 m] of penetration into the rock; they were all very similar, each having a circular roof, from which they might be described as not unlike a series of small railway arches, their width being perhaps 10 or 12 feet [3 m]. In one case two of the caves were connected by a passage behind, but the passage was not longer than the caves themselves« (SIMPSON 1882: 320). CAVE LEGEND: One of the "caves" was said to contain a fabulous tunnel connecting to Kashmir: »… the natives previous to our going over had given us a wonderful account of these caves; describing them as extending far into the mountain, a hundred miles and more, we were told, and that through one of them there was a road to Kashmir. They also stated that many of them were inhabited, and that people kept large flocks in them… It was rather remarkable to receive such extravagant accounts with the caves themselves right in sight. A visit across the river dispelled the illusion …« (SIMPSON 1882: 320). Herbert Daniel Gebauer - 02/02/2016

NOTE 1: WILFORD (1801: 496) had heard of »lines of cavern mouths« but MASSON (1842-1844, 1: 167-168; quoted by ABBOTT 1854: 345 note), in July 1824, saw a »series of caves with triangular entrances« on the other side of the river. SIMPSON (1882: 319) crossed over with a large raft floating on inflated bullock hides and recorded »a large group of caves … about one hundred … at various heights.« NOTE 2: Early explorers were not sure, if they cared at all, whether these "caves" were of natural or artificial origin. MASSON (in WILSON & MASSON 1841: 99) called them caves. Three irregularly shaped entrances (approximately 2 to 4 m apart from each other) are shown in the engraving CAVES AT CHICKNOUR (1879a, 1879b, 1993), ascribed to a sketch by "our Special Artist", Mr. William Simpson (AFGHAN WAR 1879). The height of the man-sized entrances is about two times their width (three turban wearing "natives" serve as a scale) and their cross-sections are aligned with what appears to be about the bisector of some local strata's 45° dip. The three entrances shown open at the foot of an uneven rock face which looks like a tectonically disturbed sedimentary rock –rather sandstone or limestone than conglomerate. The floor of the central entrance –the smallest– seems to consist of soil or smooth flowstone. The floors of the left and right entrances are a bit lower and covered with sub-angular rocks –as if occasionally washed with turbulent water. An anonymous article, AFGHAN EXPEDITION (1879: 279), accompanies the engraving CAVES AT CHIKNOUR (1879a) and states: »An example of these artificial caves, at Chicknour, is given in one of the present Illustrations.« Similarly, the expression »cavern temple of Chicknour« (AFGHAN WAR 1879) appears to relate rather to artificial rock chambers than to natural caves. ARCHÆOLOGY IN AFGHANISTAN (1879: 554) establishes a man-made origin by comparing the »caves of the Chicknour group« with the man-made rock-cut chambers under the –>Fil Khana tope on the northern fringes of the –>Jalalabad Plain. NOTE 3: AFGHAN WAR (1879): »Our Special Artist, Mr. William Simpson, at the headquarter of General Sir Samuel Browne's division on the Cabul river, sends us a sketch of a party embarked on a raft of inflated bullock-skins for a short voyage across that stream to visit the cavern temple of Chicknour, which have claimed the attraction of gentlemen endowed with antiquarian tastes who have accompanied the present military expedition.« AFGHAN EXPEDITION (1879: 279): »Our Special Artist [i.e. William Simpson]is well known to be an enthusiastic Oriental archaeologist and he has found leisure during this Afghan campaign, as he did in the Abyssinian expedition, to look at the antiquities, religious shrines, fragments of building or rock-cut chapels and recesses, found on the road to Cabool. An example of these artificial caves, at Chicknour, is given in one of the present Illustrations.« NOTE 4: MOORCROFT (1842, 2: 356): »Across the [Kabul] river ran a chain of barren hills, called, from their sterility, Kohi Bedaulet. In some of them we could distinguish lines of cavern mouths; but whether these excavations were ancient or modern, we were not near enough to determine.« MASSON (1842 - 1844, 1: 167-168): »Opposite to Bassowal, which is close upon the [Kabul] river, very high steep hills confine the stream, and at their eastern extremity are a series of caves, with triangular entrances. The spot is called Chakanúr, and there are, besides, many other vestiges of antiquity there.« ABBOTT (1854: 345 note): »In the distance is a lofty hill on the opposite bank of the river; from Bussawul are seen the caves with triangular shaped entrances, noted by WILFORD …which partly induced him, probably with the vicinity of the Markoh which he supposes to be Mount Meru, to locate the ancient city of Nusa in this neighbourhood. … whether Markoh may have any more serious etymological signification, than the snake-hill, as understood by the natives is doubtful. Still Bussawul exhibits ample vestiges as does the entire neighbourhood of its ancient inhabitants. The spot is called Chakanor.« GRIESBACH (1892: 73): »The Besud range is flanked near its western extension (opposite the Doronta gorge) by wide spreading sub-recent gravels and sands, which form undulating hills, and near the Kabul river, steep scarps.« NOTE 4: The »Koh-be- Doulut, or the Worthless Mountain« of SIMPSON (1882: 319), which spelled »Koh-i Bedaulet« by MOORCROFT & TREBECK (1842, 2: 356), is —or is not— the same hill, of which MONSERRATE (in WILFORD 1801: 496) wrote in 1581 A.D. that it was nicknamed »Koh-i Bedowlat« by Emperor Humayun due to it's (the hill's) barren appearance. NOTE 5: WILFORD (1851a: 231), identifies »Mar-coh or Mer-coh« with mount Meros of the Greeks (Quintus Curtius, c. 40-47 CE; Flavius Arrianus, c.150 CE), near the town Nysa (in Latin: Nusa), now (in Wilford's time and opinion) "Nisha", confuses the barren cave hill (on the left bank of Kabul River) with the Markoh (above the right, southern bank of Kabul River) but WILFORD (1801: 496-497) describes the latter: »Its situation was ascertained by the late Mr. Foster, by my friend Mirza-Mogul Beg, and by P. Montserrat [Pater / Father Anthony Monserrate], who accompanied the emperor Acbar in his expedition to Cabul in 1581. It is called to this day Mer-coh and Mar-coh, or the mountain of Mer or Meru … It is on the road from Peishower [Peshawar] and Jalalabad; and about 24 miles from the latter, on the banks of the Landi-Sindh or Cameh river. It is now a bare rock … it extends from the west to the east. It rises abruptly from the plain in which it stands; from the bottom to the top P. Montserrat reckons 2000 feet [600 m], and is about 6 furlongs [1.2 km] in length; its distance to the nearest hill is about three miles [5 km]. The ground to the south and east is marshy, being the old bed of the river; to the west are seen several triangular entrances into caves. To the east at the distance of three miles [5 km], is a wretched village, called Bissour or Bissowly (Bussawul in Major Rennel's map) … To the west are the villages of Amharcana and Battercote …« NOTE 6: A place called »Cheknawur« is marked on AIMS sheet PI42-08 (May 2002) near N34°16': E070°49'30" (WGS84) and the Cheknawar "LCTY" (a minor area or place of unspecified or mixed character and indefinite boundaries) at N34°15'57”: E070°56'10” (WGS84 accessed 04.10.2003, 16.11.2003 and accessed 28.05.2004). Some other spellings are Chakanor (ABBOTT 1854: 345 note, WILSON & MASSON 1841: 99), Chakanúr / Chakanur (MASSON 1842-1844, 1: 167-168), Chicknoor (SIMPSON 1882: 319), Chicknour (CAVES AT CHICKNOUR 1879a, 1879b, 1993), Chikanor (WILSON 1841 map), and Tschakanur (MASSON 1843-1844, 1: 170). NOTE 7: Basawul, marked near N34°15': E070°52' (PI-42-08), is found spelled Basawul (SIMPSON 1881: 183, HADDEN 2002: 25), Basawuru (MIZUNO 1966), Batsawul (NELLES Pakistan), Bassoul (MASSON 1842 - 1844 map), Bassowal (MASSON 1842-1844, 1: 168, 1843 - 1844, 1: 170), Bissour (WILFORD 1801: 497), Bissowly (WILFORD 1801: 497), Bissowul (ABBOTT 1854 map), Bussawul (ABBOTT 1854: 345 note), and Bussowul (RENNEL map after WILFORD 1801: 497). Herbert Daniel Gebauer - 02/02/2016


Bibliography 02/02/2016
  • Abbott, James 1854; Archæology [Archaeology] in Afghanistan 1879; Afghan Expedition 1879; Afghan War 1879; Caves at Chicknour 1879a, 1879b, 1993; Griesbach, C L 1892; Masson, Carl 1843-1844; Masson, Charles in –>Wilson, Horace Hayman & Masson, Charles 1841; Masson, Charles 1842-1844 edited 1974, 1997, 2001; Mizuno, Seiichi 1966; Monserrate, Antonio 1581 (edited by Hoyland, J S 1922); Moorcroft, William & Trebeck, George 1842; Simpson, William 1880; 1881, 1882a, 1882b; Wilford, Francis 1801; Wilson, Horace Hayman & Masson, Charles 1841.


EXPLORATION HISTORY: 1581: Father Antonio MONSERRATE (1581 edited 1922), accompanying Emperor Akbar in his expedition to Kabul, passed by the hill Markoh (WILFORD 1801: 496). Circa 1800: Mr. Foster and Mirza-Mogul Beg told Captain Francis WILFORD (1801: 496) of 'several triangular entrances into caves'. 1824 July 1st or 2nd: Captain Francis Moorcroft, George Trebeck and Mir Izzet Ullah passed by and noticed 'lines of cavern mouths' (MOORCROFT & TREBECK 1842, 2: 356). 1842: MASSON (1842-1844, 1: 167-168) reported a 'series of caves with triangular entrances.' 1878-79: General MacPherson arraigned for a raft floating on inflated bullock hides and a party, including the General and William Simpson guarded by »Ghoorkas« crossed the Kabul River carrying »lanterns so as to be able to explore labyrinthine recesses, and revolvers were not forgotten in case of attack« (SIMPSON 1882: 320). The Cheknawur caves received a short-lived popular interest during the 2nd Afghan War when »gentlemen endowed with antiquarian tastes« (read: mercenaries doubling up as public relation managers) joined the invasion to post news and pictures to the newspaper consuming world. The conqueror's spatial progress is closely related to the chronology of publications in the Illustrated London News of 1879: The first picture showing a cave in Afghanistan was published on 11th January and showed –>Lundi Khana on Khyber Pass. On 22nd March followed the lone engraving and the stray reference to Caves at Chiknour –about halfway between Khyber and Jalalabad. From April onward, now having discovered and gained secure access to the extensive Buddhist remains at Jalalabad, concentrated exploration on this area (19th April, 3rd May, 14th June). By then interest in the Chicknour caves lost and they fell into oblivion. 1879 March 22: The engraving CAVES AT CHICKNOUR RIVER (1879a) by »our Special Artist« (after a sketch by William Simpson) appeared in the Illustrated London News (1879 March 22, no. 281, page 281). 1879 June 7: The engraving CAVES AT CHICKNOUR RIVER (1879b) appeared in Harper’s Weekly Magazine (New York), issue 1171, vol. 23, pages 29-30. 1965: Seiichi Mizuno of Kyoto University surveyed rock chambers in the vicinity of Basawul and Jalalabad (BASAWARU… 1966). 1993 July - September: The 1879a engraving, now titled CAVES AT CHICKHOUR [sic!] RIVER was reprinted on the front page of the Journal of Spelean History (1993, vol. 27, no. 3). Herbert Daniel Gebauer - 02/02/2016

Cavités proche

Distance (km)NomLongueur (m)Profondeur (m)
10.8ATRI, Markoh (Cave of)
12.7DAGA (Caves at)
13.9PIRE KAMEL BABA (Caves at)
21.0BARIK AB (MacGregor 1880) (Caves at)
28.0SANG-e SURAKH, Chahardeh
28.3GERDI KAC karez / kariz
29.5MIRZAKHEYL (Caves at)