MES AYNAK, Afghanistan — It had the potential to be another Afghanistan Buddha disaster, recalling the Taliban’s destruction of two ancient statues that had stood for centuries in this country’s west: A buried Buddhist city lost to time was about to be obliterated by what promised to be one of the largest copper mines in the world.
Now, however, thanks to delays in construction of the massive mine and a hefty influx of cash from the World Bank, the 1.5-square-mile Mes Aynak complex is an archaeological triumph – though bittersweet.
An international team of archaeologists and more than 550 local laborers are now frantically excavating what turns out to be a unique window into Afghanistan’s role on the ancient Silk Road connecting China and India with the Mediterranean. Read more.
A trove of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan is providing the first physical evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago.
On Thursday Israel’s National Library unveiled the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records.
Researchers say the “Afghan Genizah” marks the greatest such archive found since the “Cairo Genizah” was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found. Read more.
Medieval Afghanistan, Iran and the one-time Soviet Central Asian states were frontiers in flux as the Islamic Caliphate spread beyond the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh through 10th centuries.
As such, different groups, such as the new Arab ruling class, the native landed gentry and local farmers, jockeyed for power, position and economic advantage over an approximately 300-year period as the Sasanian Empire collapsed and the Caliphate took its place.
University of Cincinnati historian Robert Haug, assistant professor, will present his research on how social, cultural and political changes were manifested in these border areas that serve almost as a “perpetual frontier.” Read more.
(CNN) — Please bear with me as I ask you to briefly use your imagination. Close your eyes. Imagine Machu Picchu at dawn cloaked in fog. Now imagine the fog slowly lifting to reveal an enormous ancient city perched on the edge of a mountain.
Picture a sense of mystery being immersed in thousands of years of history as you walk between antiquated hewn stone structures. There is tranquility in the wind-blown stillness of the primeval site. You feel a renewed sense of kinship with the past and with your ancestors and feel a deep reverence for their lives and accomplishments.
Now imagine the menacing sound of bulldozers closing in and men at work. Their heavy machinery rattles the ground. You hear workers rigging dynamite to these massive stone structures. There is a brief lull and then the deafening blow of multiple explosions as Machu Picchu is razed to the ground.
Be at ease, Machu Piccu is a UNESCO protected site. But a very similar 2,600-year-old Buddhist site in Logar province, Afghanistan isn’t so lucky. Read more.
The destruction of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 led to global condemnation of the Taliban regime. But the decision by Unesco not to rebuild them has not put an end to the debate about their future.
When the Taliban were at the height of their power in Afghanistan, leader Mullah Omar waged a war against idolatry.
His biggest victims, in size as well as symbolism, were two standing stone Buddhist statues. Once the largest in the world - one measured 55 metres in height - they were carved into the sandstone cliff face of the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan during the 6th Century.
When the Taliban were overthrown in 2003, Unesco declared the valley a world heritage site and archaeologists flocked to it. What they found were two enormous empty caverns and a pile of debris littered with unexploded mines. Read more.
“IT’S there,” says an archaeologist pointing to the ground, where fragments of a Buddha statue from the ancient Gandhara civilisation have been covered up to stop them being stolen or vandalized.
Just months before the US-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban regime shocked the world by destroying two giant, 1500-year-old Buddhas in the rocky Bamiyan valley, branding them un-Islamic.
More than 10 years on Western experts say Afghanistan’s ancient Buddhist and early Islamic heritage is little safer.
At the foot of the cliff where the two Buddhas used to stand 130 kilometres west of Kabul, an archaeological site has been found and parts of a third Buddha, lying down, were discovered in 2008.
The area of the lying Buddha is around half the size of a football pitch. A dozen statues or more lie under tonnes of stone and earth. Read more.
An excavation on Salisbury plain has proved an unusually emotional experience for the volunteer archaeologists, as soldiers recovering from injuries received in Afghanistan have made a surprise discovery: the remains of warriors who died more than 1,400 years ago.
The haul astonished professionals from Wessex Archaeology, who led Operation Nightingale, an award-winning project to give soldiers new skills and interests as part of their rehabilitation. The excavation was expected to produce modest results, after earlier digs had turned up empty army ration packs and spent ammunition. Instead, they revealed their ancient counterparts, including an Anglo Saxon soldier buried with his spear and what must have been a treasured possession, a small wooden drinking cup decorated with bronze bands. Read more.
Hundreds of archaeological treasures looted from Afghanistan were returned to the war-torn country’s National Museum on Sunday after being recovered with the help of the British Museum.
Many of the 843 artefacts were seized as they were being smuggled into Britain after some 70 per cent of the museum’s contents were stolen during Afghanistan’s civil war in the early 1990s.
Others were identified on the black market and acquired on behalf of the museum by private donors.
The returned treasures include “exquisite examples” of the Begram Ivories, a series of decorative inlays dating back to the first century AD, the British Museum said ahead of Sunday’s handover ceremony.
Among others items are a statue of Buddha from the second or third century, Bactrian Bronze Age items, Greco-Bactrian and medieval Islamic coins. Read more.