Archaeologies

ALTIT FORT

Skardu Valley

Altit Fort is an ancient fort at Altit town in the Hunza valley in Gilgit Baltistan. It was originally home to the hereditary rulers of the Hunza.

Name:    Altit Fort

Period /Age:   Over 900 years old

Location:   Altit, Hunza

Ownership:   AKF (Aga Khan Foundation)

Legal Status:   Not Protected

Cultural Heritage Type:  Fort-Palace

Documentation Date:  2005

Resource Person/Reference:  -

Significance:   This fort is part of the legacy of British colonisation in this region.


Site Description:     

The Altit Fort sits atop a large rock of differing heights, such that its eastern side is higher than the western side. The construction of the edifice of the fort-palace was accomplished in six different stages, and takes advantage of the various natural levels of the rock: the first level is built on the western side and consists of a two-floor building, and the second level, built on the eastern side of the rock, consists of a single-floor building. Both were built over nine hundred years ago. The third stage of construction is marked by a three-floor watchtower and a storage space. A mosque was built during the fourth stage, while a grain storage was added to the building complex at the fifth stage. The last stage involved the addition of guest rooms after removing the eastern grain storage. Narrow corridors are used to access various units of the building at the lower levels. The main entrance to the fort faces the Ultar valley, and opens into a narrow, dark corridor on the ground floor that leads to a space with two small storage areas.  The corridor leads further westward to a rubble-stone staircase connecting to the first floor containing the royal kitchen. On the eastern side of the royal kitchen is a skylit lobby with the main door to a corridor laid out in north-south orientation. At the northern end of this corridor is the king’s room, and at the southern end the queen’s room, as well as a ha (traditional house) containing spaces for sleeping, sitting, cooking, storage and toilets. This room has a fire place in its northern wall and a traditional roof structure using a rotated square. An east-west corridor runs to stairs leading to the watchtower, built with a timber frame cribbage and cator technique with a mud brick infill, and windows facing all directions. The royal throne is placed in front of the mosque on the eastern side of the tower, with a panoramic view of the Altit settlement below.


Salient Features: 

The fort’s construction on an uneven cliffside rock enriches the diversity of construction features of the fort-palace. Initially built as a palace, it was transformed into a fort after the addition of the watchtower. After the British takeover of Hunza, the fort served as a guest house. After shifting the capital from Altit to Karimabad, the royal family used the former as summer palace.


State of Conservation: 

Altit Fort was donated to the Aga Khan Foundation by Prince Amin Khan for conservation in 2001. Emergency repair work was carried out in the same year. Initial documentation was carried out in 2002, and updated in 2005. Restoration work was completed in 2009, and the fort is now open to the public as a museum. 

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