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BrianW
09-29-2013, 07:02 AM
Another interesting, and unfortunately mostly unknown story in Afghanistan...

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/may/31/mes-aynak-afghanistan-buddhist-treasure


Mes Aynak: Afghanistan's Buddhist buried treasure faces destruction Mes Aynak, a magnificent Buddhist city, is the most important archaeological discovery in a generation. But it is sitting on a vast copper deposit and is about to be destroyed



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http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Books/Pix/pictures/2013/5/30/1369931774612/The-archaeological-dig-at-010.jpg The archaeological dig at Mes Aynak, an ancient Buddhist city on the route of the Silk Road in Afghanistan. Photograph: Dusan Vranic/Associated Press

In the spring of 1963, a French geologist set out from Kabul to carry out a survey in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan (http://www.theguardian.com/world/afghanistan). His destination was the large outcrop of copper-bearing strata in the mountains above the village of Mes Aynak. But in the course of boring for samples, the geologist stumbled on something much more exciting: an entire buried Buddhist city dating from the early centuries AD. The site was clearly very large he estimated that it covered six sq km and, although long forgotten, he correctly guessed that it must once have been a huge and wealthy terminus on the Silk Road.



Archaeologists in Kabul did a preliminary survey of the site, mapping it and digging test trenches, but before they could gather the enormous resources needed for a full-scale excavation, first the 1978 Marxist coup then the 1979 Saur Communist revolution and the Soviet invasion intervened. In the chaos of conflict that followed, the Soviets visited Mes Aynak to dig test tunnels into the hillside and investigate the feasibility of extracting its copper. Later, during the Taliban era, one of the abandoned Soviet tunnels became an al-Qaida hideout, while the remote valley became a training camp: the 9/11 hijackers stopped off here en route to New York. During the American onslaught of December 2001, US special forces attacked the tunnel: an unexploded rocket lodged in the roof and burn marks at the cave mouth still bear witness to the attack.


By the time French archaeologists returned in 2004, they found that the secret of the buried city was out. As had happened in many other sites in the country, a large and highly organised team of professional art looters, probably from Pakistan, had systematically plundered the mounds at Mes Aynak and, judging by the detritus they left, had found large quantities of hugely valuable Gandharan Buddha images: the remains of many painted stucco figures deemed too fragile or too damaged to sell were left lying around the looting trenches which now crisscrossed the site. Beside them, the archaeologists found empty tubes of glue and bags of fine plaster evidence of attempts at restoration and conservation.


http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Books/Pix/pictures/2013/5/30/1369933476688/An-Afghan-archaeologist-e-010.jpg
An archaeologist examines the remains of statues of Buddha at Mes Aynak. Photograph: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

Things did not begin well. The first set of guards placed on the site in 2004 ended up shooting each other in a gun-battle...

Follow the link for more if you're interested. The site is not too far away, but unfortunately not in our AOR. Still, I'm marking it in my GPS, just in case we get close. ;)

seanz
09-29-2013, 07:19 AM
Interesting post. I'll read the article tomorrow, tired and off to bed now.
Saw the Treasures of Afghanistan exhibition in Melbourne (Oz) earlier this year. There's a heap of history I never appreciated about Afghanistan........Greek cities in the North? Who knew?


Anyway, are you watching episodes of Time Team on your laptop like SWIMPAL is here?
:)

BrianW
09-29-2013, 07:23 AM
Video downloads are pointless at these connection speeds. The internet providers* are some of the biggest thieves in this country. I hope they all go broke when we pull out. ;)

*(the providers are all from the US or Europe)

LeeG
09-29-2013, 07:41 AM
Good story, it'll be interesting to see how china, the Taliban and various orgs work it out. I wonder where they process the ore and the source of power?

seanz
09-29-2013, 03:56 PM
Things did not begin well. The first set of guards placed on the site in 2004 ended up shooting each other in a gun-battle; indicating, presumably, that profitable looting was continuing long after the site had passed into Afghan government control. But it was now beyond dispute that Mes Aynak was a discovery of major significance. In the months that followed, the excavators uncovered 19 separate archaeological sites in the valley. These ranged from four fortified monasteries, a Zoroastrian fire temple and several Buddhist stupas (commemorative monuments), through ancient copper working, smelting workshops, miners habitations and a mint, as well as two small forts and a citadel. They also found a hoard of Kushan, Sassanian and Indo-Parthian coins, more than 1,000 statues, and several perfectly preserved frescoes showing donor portraits and scenes from the life of the Buddha.

That is an excellent article. With billions of dollars floating around from the copper mine we might hope that some of that money could go towards preserving the finds even if not in situ.


And, "the looters came from Pakistan" but *cough cough* the site is only 25 km from Kabul?
;)

BrianW
09-29-2013, 07:34 PM
That is an excellent article. With billions of dollars floating around from the copper mine we might hope that some of that money could go towards preserving the finds even if not in situ.


And, "the looters came from Pakistan" but *cough cough* the site is only 25 km from Kabul?
;)

Yeah, probably the looters at the the Minaret of Jam were from Pakistan too. ;)

Another interesting news bit, was that a request for bids to develop a 1.5 billion barrel oil field passed with no takers.

http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/1-5-billion-barrels-of-oil-and-no-takers.html/?a=viewall