John Mock & Kimberley O'Neil



2005 Kimberley O'Neil approaching Irshad Uween (4979m), the pass linking Wakhan's Little Pamir from Bai Qara Valley to Pakistan's Chapursan Valley 2005 Kashch Goz, Little Pamir, Wakhan, Afghanistan

Publications on
Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor & the Afghan Pamir

John Mock and Kimberley O'Neil made six field trips to Wakhan between 2004 and 2008, and John returned again to Wakhan in 2016. Their writings on Wakhan include history, culture, language, rock art, Old Tibetan inscriptions, shrine traditions and tourism.

Read our 2004 expedition report, The Source of the Oxus River: A Journey to the Wakhan Pamir & Across Dilisang Pass to Misgar July-August 2004, which recounts our first visit to Afghanistan and Wakhan.


John Mock's Latest Wakhan Article Published in Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines

"Tibetans in Wakhan: New Information on Inscriptions and Rock Art" appears in the Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, Number 36, October 2016: pp. 121–141. Download a printer friendly version.

The article is translated into Tibetan by Tibet University, Lhasa, faculty member Shawo Khacham, which makes this information about Tibetan history and culture available to the greater Tibetan community.

Wakhan, the remote north-eastern district of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province, is intimately connected with the historical Silk Road. Wakhan’s historical archeology is known largely from the British archaeologist Aurel Stein’s visit in 1906. Stein’s focus was the 747 CE battle between forces of the Tibetan and Tang Chinese empires. On five trips to Wakhan, Kimberley O’Neil and John Mock were able to re-visit all sites described by Stein and locate several previously unknown sites. This article expands upon Stein’s descriptions and presents an initial analysis of the new finds, including Tibetan-style watchtowers and numerous Old Tibetan rock inscriptions and associated chorten images, several with inscribed dates. These materials suggest answers to questions raised by Stein and offer new information on the Tibetan Empire in Wakhan, Balur and Central Asia.

Readers' Comments

"I just found your website and some of your writings about Tibetan empire and Afghanistan. It is incredible! I look forward to reading more." Yeshi Dorje, February 2017

"Greetings from Lhasa professor Mock la. Tonight I have got your paper called "Tibetans in Wakhan: New Information on Inscriptions and Rock Art." Thank you so much to share [with] us such marvellous new discovory in Wakhan region. " Shawo Khacham, Tibet, December 2016

"This is a terrific article with first class scholarship. I look forward to anything more that will be forthcoming in the future." R. Nichols, USA, October 2016

"Thank you for this highly interesting article about "Tibetans in Wakhan." I really admire your important field researches in Wakhan, and I hope you can continue your work there." H. Hauptmann, Germany, October 2016

"Let me congratulate you on such a valuable piece of academic work. I feel proud to have been connected with such great scholars such as yourself, who are making history by rediscovering histories, reproducing knowledge as well as redefining identities that are now bound to nation-states that obviously doesn't suffice the thirst for identity in the modern world anymore." R. Amin, Afghanistan, October 2016

"I am Tibetan and I have great interest in history of Tibet especially in the Tibetan empire period. Thank you for bringing up this great research and sharing it." Tenzin Tsedup, October 2016


Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, Number 36, October 2016

John Mock's Writings in Edited Volumes

Wildlife Conservation

"Snow Leopards in Art and Legend of the Pamir," appears in Snow Leopards, Biodiversity of the World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes, Thomas McCarthy, David Mallon, volume eds., Philip Nyhus, series ed., Academic Press, 644 pages (1st ed. 2016, ISBN 978-0128022139, Buy this book).

The new series, Biodiversity of the World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes includes titles focused on specific species or taxa across disciplinary boundaries and spatial scales. This book presents the latest information on the elusive snow leopard, including its biology, behavior, and conservation status of the snow leopard, a species that has long been one of the least studied, and hence poorly understood, of the large cats.

It brings together the most current scientific knowledge, documents the most pressing conservation issues, and shares success stories in alleviating the broad threats that now jeopardize the long-term survival of this species. It also brings current knowledge of the species, not only to researchers and conservationists, but also to decision makers, academics, and students.


Wakhan's History & Culture

A chapter entitled "The Red Buddha Hall Road Revisited: New Materials on the History and Culture of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor 7th-9th c. CE" will be published in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan: New Discoveries and Challenges, J. Mark Kenoyer, ed., Karachi, Oxford University Press (in Press, 2014).

Wakhi Language

Two chapters will be published in Languages of Northern Pakistan and Its Surrounding Regions (Linguistic Studies dedicated to the Memory of Carla Radloff), J. Baart, T. Payne, H. Liljegren, eds., Karachi, Oxford University Press (in Press, 2016):

  • "Orality, Literacy and Scholarship: Shifts in Gender, Genre and Performance of Wakhi Oral Expression"
  • "Recent Developments in Wakhi Orthography"

John Mock's Published Articles (2011-2013) from Fieldwork in Wakhan (2004-2008)

Download a a printer friendly version of Rock Art, Old Tibetan Inscriptions and Shrine Traditions from the Afghan Pamir: four journal articles by John Mock, Ph.D.

Rock Art

"New Discoveries of Rock Art in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor and Pamir: A Preliminary Study," appears in The Silk Road, 11: Fall 2013. This article is a preliminary and general presentation of rock art in Wakhan District of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province. It reviews rock art identified by European expeditions between 1968-1974 and presents five newly identified rock art galleries in both the settled area and in the Pamir regions of Wakhan. The rock art is discussed in comparison with rock art in Tajikistan’s Pamir region, identified by Soviet and Tajik archaeologists; rock art in Ladakh, identified by French archaeologists; and rock art in Pakistan, identified by German archaeologists. Although a precise chronology is not possible at this stage of research, the article suggests that some rock art may have been composed as early as the Bronze Age and some as recently as modern medieval times. The article is concerned with the human use of the Bam-e Dunya or Roof of the World, and with the question of the peopling of Wakhan. The article proposes directions for further study of Afghanistan’s Wakhan and Pamir to better understand the ecological and cultural heritage of the Roof of the World.

The Silk Road, Volume 11, 2013

Old Tibetan Inscriptions

Two articles appear in the Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, Number 27, October 2013:

  • "A Tibetan Toponym from Afghanistan"
  • "Darkot Revisited: New Information on a Tibetan Inscription and mchod-rten"

These articles discuss Old Tibetan inscriptions in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan and Afghanistan's Wakhan. The inscriptions were made during the Tibetan Imperial era in the 8th century CE, when Tibet controlled the routes through the Pamir. The inscriptions from Wakhan are recent discoveries by John and Kimberley during their extensive fieldwork in Wakhan.

Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, Number 27, October 2013

Shrine Traditions of Wakhan Afghanistan

"Shrine Traditions of Wakhan Afghanistan" is published in a 2011 special issue on the Pamir of the Journal of Persianate Studies. This study, based on field work from 2004-2010, describes the religious, social, and historical context of shrines of Wakhan District of Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan. The study draws comparisons between documented shrine traditions in adjacent Wakhan Tajikistan and in Hunza-Gojal of Pakistan.

Journal of Persianate Studies, Volume 4, No. 2

John Mock & Kimberley O'Neil's Tourism Publications on Wakhan

John and Kimberley have been working with Lonely Planet Publications since 1994, and their writings on Wakhan has been published in these two titles:

  • "Wakhan & the Afghan Pamir" in "Mazar-e Sharif & Northeastern Afghanistan" in Afghanistan, pp167-172 (1st ed. August 2007, ISBN 978-1740596428, buy this book)

Lonely Planet Afghanistan Cover 1st edition

  • "The Roof of the World" about the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan in The Lonely Planet Guide to the Middle of Nowhere, pp 170-173 (October 2006, ISBN 1741047846, buy this book)

The Lonely Planet Guide to the Middle of Nowhere Cover

Wakhan & the Afghan Pamir: In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, a 16-page tourism brochure with descriptive text, route information and detailed two-page route map, was published by the Aga Khan Foundation-Afghanistan. Kabul, Afghanistan, June 2006, for their Wakhan tourism development program.

To download the latest version of the brochure (3.9MB), you can also visit the AKDN Publication page of the Aga Khan Development Network's website.

Read more about their activities in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor and the Afghan Pamir.


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