ROOTS OF PERISTAN – An International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Pre-Islamic Cultures of the Hindukush-Karakorum

October 5-7, 2022 - Palazzo Baleani, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 244

ROOTS OF PERISTAN – An International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Pre-Islamic Cultures of the Hindukush-Karakorum




An International Interdisciplinary Conference
on the Pre-Islamic Cultures of the Hindukush-Karakorum


Peristan is the conventional name we use to refer to the pre-Islamic past of the vast mountain region ranging of the Hindukush/Karakorum, which was once the home to a congeries of culturally and linguistically diverse, non-literate societies, that were styled “Kafir” by their Muslim neighbours. While all the pre-Islamic cultures of this region are now vanished, with the only exception of the Kalasha, a fuller diachronic investigation of their past conditions, variations and developments has by now been made possible by the recent progresses in scientific knowledge of the subject. The “Roots of Peristan” Conference will convene in Rome for this purpose scholars from a variety of disciplines: anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, linguists, and cultural historians. The Conference is organized by ISMEO and its Scientific Committee is chaired by Prof. Adriano Rossi, President of ISMEO and former Dean of Istituto Orientale of Naples, with the Honorary Presidency of Prof. Em. Georg Budruss, University of Mainz.



Roots of Peristan

The pre-Islamic cultures of the Hindukush-Karakorum


International Interdisciplinary Conference
Rome, October 5-7, 2022

Palazzo Baleani, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 244



Wednesday, October 5

8:30 –Registration

9:00 – Opening address – Adriano Rossi, President ISMEO


Session 1 – Ethnography – 9:15 – 13:15
Chairman: Stefano Pellò


Alberto Cacopardo – The Nuristani of Gobor (Chitral) and the Ethnohistory of the Kati in Bashgal.

Max Klimburg – Conflict and coexistence in Kafiristan. The past tripartite polytheistic cultures in the Hindukush (in present Nuristan).

Taj Khan Kalash – Living and Leaving Tradition: A New Perspective on Kalasha Religious Conversion and Resistance.

Karl Wutt – Symbols in Pashai culture – ‘Kafiristan’ versus ‘Gandhara’.

Homayun Sidky – Problems in Conceptualizing the Pre-Islamic Oracular Tradition in Hunza.

Augusto Cacopardo – The Kalasha of Chitral and the Brokpa of Da-Hanu. A Cultural Comparison.


Session 2 – History (1000–1900 CE) – 14:15 – 18:45
Chairman: Anna Filigenzi


Michele Bernardini – Timur and the Siyâhpušân (1398-1399).

Wolfgang Holzwarth – A World Apart? Periods of isolation and reintegration in Eastern Hindukush and Karakorum history (1000-1800).

Hidayat ur-Rahman – Shah Khairullah: Relations and Policy towards the Kafirs of the Hindu Kush.

Stefano Pellò – Mapping the Persian Poetic Territories of Kafiristan.

Nile Green* & Nushin Arbabzadah* – Between Afghan ‘Idolography’ and Kafir ‘Autoethnography’: A Report on Pre-Conquest Kafiristan from an Afghan Newspaper.

Paul Bucherer – A recently discovered manuscript of a day-to-day journal of Syed Shah’s 3rd visit to Bashgal in 1888-89.

Irmtraud Stellrecht** – Remembering Pre-colonial Feasts of Meritin Hunza


Thursday, October 6


Session 3 – Comparative analysis – 9:00 – 13:15
Chairman: Elena Bashir


Claus Peter Zoller – The geographical extent of ‘Peristan’ and its correlation with the theory of outer and inner languages.

Marcello De Martino – The Kāfirs of Georges Dumézil. À la recherche de la trifonctionnalité perdue.

Bernard Sergent, Paris – Tuer un dragon au solstice d’hiver.

Jadwiga Pstrusińska* – Multidisciplinary Remarks on some Hindukush-Karakorum Ethnonyms in Eurasiatic Perspective and a Comparative Analysis of One Case Study.

Sergey Yatsenko* & Sviatoslav Kaverin* – Traditional costume of the Eastern Hindukush area: Some problems of its origin and modification against the background of ancient and modern cultures.

David Nelson* – The Kalasha Caumos dough figurines and the dough figurines in the Vedic śrautic rite Varunapraghāsa: a common origin or a borrowing?


Session 4 – Linguistics – 14:15 – 18:45
Chairman: Claus Peter Zoller


Elena Bashir – Copular use in Khowar and Kalasha.

Almuth Degener & Irén Hegedüs – Spatial Morphemes in Nuristani: Comparative Considerations

Henrik Liljegren – “Peristan” through the lens of areal typology.

Jakob Halfmann-Pre-Vedic morphological features in Nuristani.

Jan Heegård Petersen – Boundaries in grammar, landscape, and culture: Kalasha.

Richard Strand* – Kamboǰas and Sakas in the Holly-Oak Mountains: On the Origins of the Nûristânîs.

Anton Kogan** – The linguistic evidence on the ethnic composition of pre-Tibetan Ladakh and Baltistan: A.H. Francke’s ‘Dardic’ hypothesis revisited.


Friday, October 7


Session 5 – Antiquity – 9:00 – 13.15
Chairman: Alberto Cacopardo


Ruth Young & Abdul Samad – Pre-Islamic Archaeology and Heritage in Chitral.

Jason Neelis – From Khaśarājya to Dardistan: Steps towards a regional macrohistory in the 1st millennium CE.

John Mock – Tibetans in Gilgit and Wakhan – new data, new implications.

Jürgen Wasim Frembgen – Pre-Islamic Symbolism in the Material Culture of Nager and Hunza.

Anna Filigenzi & Cristiano Moscatelli – Non-Buddhist Customs of Buddhist People II: A shifting perspective on Wine, Goat Deities and connected “Dardic” themes in Gandharan art.

Luca Olivieri & Matteo Sesana – Medieval and premodern Barikot: An archaeological “tale of two cities”.


Session 6 – Interdisciplinary – 14:15 – 18:45
Chairman: Augusto Cacopardo


Jakob Halfmann – Nuristani Theonyms in the Light of Historical Phonology

John Mock – On the Title Tham of Hunza Rulers.

Birgitte Glavind Sperber – The Sacred Goats of the Kalasha of the Hindukush.

Wynne Maggi°– A Meaningful Life: Washlim Gula Aya’s Story. A short video presentation.

Tom Crowley – The Nymphs of the Hindu Kush: essentialist European heritages and imagined histories for the Kalasha.

Sviatoslav Kaverin* & Robert Tegethoff* – Documenting Grangali: The chances of remote fieldwork.

Ilaria Scerrato – Some observations about zoomorphic signs in the graveyards of Swat Kohistan and Indus Kohistan.

John Mock – Onomastics of Shri Badat, the Cannibal King of Gilgit.


The video of the conference can be found on the Youtube channel of ISMEO
(individual speeches will be available soon)


*This author will not be physically present at the conference, and will deliver the paper online.
**This paper will probably not be presented in any form at the conference, but will be included in the proceedings.
°This author will not be present, but the video will be screened within this session.
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