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First Ascent of the Khyber Pass

First Ascent of the Khyber Pass

Artist: Atkinson, James (17780-1852)

Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink

Date: 1840

Shelfmark: WD1347

Item number: 8

Length: 27.8

Width: 40.1

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Drawing

Pen-and-ink and water-colour sketch of the Khyber Pass by James Atkinson (1780-1852) dated 1840. Inscribed on the front of the drawing is: 'First Ascent of the Khyber Pass'. This is folio 8 from Atkinson's album of 17 drawings of views in Afghanistan from the Kyber Pass to Kabul. Atkinson served as Superintending Surgeon to the Army of the Indus, a combined force of British and Indian troops that marched on Kabul during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42). He was also a talented amateur artist and completed many drawings along the route portraying the arid scenery of Afghanistan.

The fabled Khyber Pass is a 33-mile long passage which cuts through the Hindu Kush Mountain Range in the North West Frontier Province (Pakistan). For centuries it has served as the only overland route through the mountains between northern Asia and the Indian plains. At its narrowest point the pass is only three metres wide. It was the scene of many skirmishes between British Forces and the Afghan soldiers and tribesmen who occupied the surrounding hills during the Anglo-Afghan Wars.

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