Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Destruction of Archeological Sites in Afghanistan (1920-2014)


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“Looters and pillagers have systematically destroyed the sites in addition to illegal, clandestine excavations…..statues that were too large to remove were smashed, and the small statues were taken to Pakistani bazaars to be sold.”

“The French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA) was created in France in 1922, at the request of the Afghan government to ensure archaeological research in Afghanistan. After an interruption of research during World War II it resumed in 1946-47 until its closure by the pro-Soviet Afghan government December 15, 1982…..

Surkh Kotal (Persian: سرخ‌کوتل‎), also called Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma, is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, about 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of Baghlan Province of Afghanistan. It is the location of monumental constructions made during the rule of the Kushans. Huge temples, statues of Kushan rulers and the Surkh Kotal inscription, which revealed part of the chronology (another fragment of that chronology was found on the Rabatak inscription found nearby) of early Kushan emperors (also called Great Kushans) were all found there…..The site of Surkh Kotal, excavated between 1952 and 1966 by Prof. Schlumberger of the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan, is the main site excavated of the Kushan Empire. Some of the site's sculptures were transferred to the National Museum of Afghanistan (also known as the 'Kabul Museum'), the rest of the site was completely looted during the Afghan Civil War. The most famous artifacts of this site are the Surkh Kotal inscriptions, the statue of King Kanishka and the fire altar. The statue of the king was destroyed during the Taliban wave of iconoclasm in February–March 2001, but has been restored by French conservationists. The three artifacts are currently on display in the Afghan National Museum.

“In 2002, in agreement with the Afghan authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to reopen and restart activities DAFA in Afghanistan. The mission of the DAFA is firstly to develop knowledge of the history of Afghanistan in the context of Franco-Afghan archaeological operations. These operations consist of the continuation of the inventory of archaeological remains (surveys, surveys, etc.. And conduct archaeological excavations in the context of well-defined requirements or rescues mainly related to intensive looting sites scientific programs….”

"Cheshm-e-Shafa. The City of Infidels....In the spring of 2008 French and Afghan archaeologists announced that they had uncovered the ruins of a vast, hither-to unknown, ancient city at Cheshm-e-Shafa, the City of Infidels, some 20 miles (30 kilometres) from the ruins of Balkh fortress. They found centuries-old shards of pottery mingle with spent ammunition rounds from the recent civil war on Cheshm-e-Shafa's wind-swept mountainside. ....For years, villagers have dug the baked earth on the heights of Cheshm-e-Shafa for pottery and coins to sell to antique smugglers. Tracts of the site look like a battleground, scarred by craters. ....The name, City of Infidels, suggests the locals knew that this was once an important Zoroastrian city. The dig team have uncovered a 6-foot-tall (2-meter-tall) anvil-like stone believed to have been an altar at a fire temple dating back to around the 6th century BCE. An Afghan working at the excavation was anxious that media coverage could bring the unwanted attention of extremists to the site."

French Archaeological work since 1922….

1922- ? : Alfred Foucher 1934-1941 : Joseph Hackin 1946-1964 : Daniel Schlumberger

1923-1925: ….. work at Bactria
1924 ….. excavations Païtava
1925 ….. excavations at Bagram (Mission Barthoux)
1926 ….. surveys in Bactria and early work in Hadda
1927-1928: ….. Excavations of Hadda
1929 ….. work in Bamiyan
1933 ….. excavations at Tepe Marandjan
1934 ….. excavations Khair Khane
1936 ….. work in Seistan
1936-1937: ….. excavations at Bagram
1937 ….. excavations Fondukistan
1937 ….. excavations Shotarak
1947: ….. work Bactria (Schlumberger)
1949-1951: ….. Excavations of Lashkari Bazar
1951-1959: ….. Excavations of protohistoric site Mundigak
1952-1961: ….. Excavations Surkh Kotal
1957 ….. discovery of the site of the Minaret of Jam
1957 ….. work in the valley Foladi
1963 ….. Excavations Kohna Masjid 1963-1965 ….. excavations of the monastery of Gul Dara 1963 ….. excavations of Tepe Shakh 1964 ….. surveys to Ai Khanum 1965-1978 ….. excavations of the site of Ai Khanum 1974-1976 ….. Surveys of the plain of Ai Khanum 1976-1978, ….. surveys of Upper Tukharistan 1976-1978: ….. excavations Shortughaï 2004-2007: ….. Excavations in Bactria 2005 ….. excavations at Al-Ghata 2005-2007: ….. Franco-German works in Herat 2010-2011: ….. Mes Aynak

Alfred Foucher… (1865–1952), a French scholar, identified the Buddha image as having Greek origins….He made his first trip to northeastern India in 1895. In 1922 he was asked by the governments of France and Afghanistan to organize an archeological co-operative which became the Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan….Foucher's most famous work was L'Art Gréco-Bouddhique du Gandhara in which he described how Buddhist art prior to Pan-Hellenism was principally aniconic, representing the Buddha by depicting elements of the Buddha's life instead of depicting the Buddha himself. Foucher argued that the first sculpted images of the Buddha were heavily influenced by Greek artists. He coined the term "Greco-Buddhist art”…. archeological discoveries in Central Asia ….such as the Hellenistic city of Ai-Khanoum and the excavation of Sirkap in modern Pakistan, have been pointing to rich Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek civilizations in these areas,….his central thesis that the Buddha was of Classical origin has become established…..The Buddhist art of Gandhara", Sir John Marshall, Cambridge University Press, 1960

Daniel Schlumberger….Daniel Schlumberger (1904–1972)[1] was a French archaeologist and Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Strasbourg and later the Princeton University. In the 1940s he conducted fieldwork at Ay Khanum in Afghanistan as Director of the Délégation Archéologique Française, discovering ruins and artifacts of the Hellenistic period.[2] His written works were included posthumously in The Cambridge History of Iran (1983)….In 1945 he went to Kabul as Director of the Délégation Archéologique Française in Afghanistan, where again he carried out a great deal of fieldwork, including the discovery of a Greek city dating back to the time of Alexander the Great at Ay Khanum on the River Oxus close to the Russian border.

Destruction of ancient archeological sites……

Païtava… near Begram

Hadda… near Jalalabad …Famous for its intricate Graeco-Buddhist sculptures and reliefs, the archeological site Hadda is in Gandhara an ancient state in what is now eastern Afghanistan, 10 kilometers from the present day city of Jalalabad (adjacent the Khyber Pass). This site was excavated in the 1930s and 1970s where approximately 23,000 clay and plaster sculptures were found. These findings exemplified elements of Buddhism and Hellenism in a near perfect traditional Hellenistic style comparable to the sculptures found at the Temple of Apollo in Bassae, Greece. It is said that Hadda sustained significant damage in the Afghan Civil war and was destroyed in its entirety in 1980

Tepe Shortor is a Buddhist monastery and stupa complex located at Hadda that was excavated between 1974 and 1979 by Afghan, and later French, archeologists. It is positioned midpoint on the main road from Kabul to Kandahar. The site consisted of an entire ancient town, numerous Buddhist stupas and caves decorated with elaborate stucco figures dated to the second century C.E. Looters and pillagers have systematically destroyed the site in addition to some illegal, clandestine excavations. Those statues that were too large to remove were smashed, and the small statues were taken to Pakistani bazaars to be sold.

Bamiyan… In March 2001, supreme Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar issued an edict against un-Islamic graven images, including but not limited to, all idolatrous images of humans and animals. The well-coordinated and media sensationalized dynamiting of the giant Buddhas was the Taliban's outwardly dramatic expression of their quest to exterminate all "idolatrous" and unIslamic images from Afghanistan's pre-Islamic past

Tepe Marandjan… Sculptures of rare beauty found in the Tepe Marandjan and Kama Dakka monasteries represent the final and most delicate blossoming of Buddhist art in Afghanistan.

Khair Khāna (Persian: خير خانه) is a neighbourhood in north west Kabul, Afghanistan. It is predominantly residential, with a boom of high rise constructions and modern apartments, as the area has seen major re-developments.

Seistan…Sīstān…. (Persian: سیستان‎), or Sakastan, is a historical region in modern-day eastern Iran (Sistan and Baluchestan Province), southern Afghanistan (Nimruz, Kandahar and Zabul) and the Nok Kundi of Balochistan, western Pakistan…..Sistan was once the homeland of Sakas, a Scythian tribe of Iranian origin. The Saffarids, one of the early Iranian dynasties of the Islamic era, were originally from Sistan….In the Shahnameh, Sistan is also referred to as Zabulistan, after Zabol, a city in the region. In Ferdowsi's epic, Zabulistan is in turn described to be the homeland of the mythological hero Rostam.

Fondukistan…FONDOQESTĀN (FONDUKISTAN), early medieval settlement and Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan, in the province of Parvān (Parwan). The site is usually dated to the 7th century CE on the evidence of artistic style and numismatic finds, the oldest of which is from 689 C.E. However, the shape and the decorations of the stupa suggest that the complex can be even earlier… The site is situated in the Ḡūrband valley, five kilometers south of Sīāhgerd and 117 kilometers north-east of Kabul, at 34° 58′ N 68° 53′ E…. the first archaeological exploration there was not conducted until 1936, by Joseph Hackin of the Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan.”

Shotarak… Shotarak is in Sistan & Baluchestan, Iran.

Lashkari Bazar …Lashkar-i Bazār]….Site on the Helmand River in southern Afghanistan near the modern town of Lashkargah……Daniel Schlumberger and Janine Sourdel-Thomine: Lashkari Bazar: une résidence royale ghaznévide et ghoride.

Mundigak was a mound of 9 mt high at the time of excavation. Mundigak, with 21 hectares spread, was second largest centre of Helmand Culture, the first being Shahr-i-Sokhta which was as large as 150 acres by 2400 BCE.[4] Around 2200 BCE, both Shahr-i-Sokhta and Mundigak started declining, with considerable shrinkage in area and with brief occupation at later date.…protohistoric site Mundigak…, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, is an archaeological site in Kandahar province in Afghanistan. It's situated c. 55 km northwest of Kandahar near Shāh Maqsūd, on the upper drainage of the Kushk-i Nakhud River….Mundigak is recognised as a large prehistoric town belonging to transitional phase of Harappan development, having flourishing culture of Helmand Basin (Seistan), also called as Helmand Culture…

Surkh Kotal….Surkh Kotal (Persian: سرخ‌کوتل‎), also called Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma, is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, about 18 km north of the city of Puli … It is the location of monumental constructions made during the rule of the Kushans. Huge temples, statues of Kushan rulers and the Surkh Kotal inscription, Khumri… The most famous artifacts of this site are the Surkh Kotal inscriptions, the statue of King Kanishka and the fire altar. The statue of the king was destroyed during the Taliban wave of iconoclasm in February–March 2001….

Minaret of Jam…..The Turquoise Mountain (Persian: Fîrûzkûh فیروزکوه), or Firozkoh, is the lost capital of the Ghorid dynasty, in the Ghor Province of central Afghansitan. It was reputedly one of the greatest cities of its age, but was destroyed by Ögedei Khan, son of Genghis Khan, in the early 1220s and lost to history. It has been proposed that the magnificent Minaret of Jam, in Shahrak District, Ghor Province, is the only standing remains of the city.

Foladi Valley in Bamiyan….Foladi Caves were constructed along the Foladi river which runs along the west side of the Bamiyan valley. There are 50 caves in all which were partially destroyed in the recent wars. However, you can still see the beautiful ceiling drawings such as the “Laternendecke”, even today… in Central Asia, the Laternendecke has been reused also where it made no structural sense, e.g., in the caves of Bamiyan, and in other rock- and cave-structures. Since Bamiyan was a central focus in the commercial routes, since the time of the Kuśānas, the Buddhist symbolic language, together with the Laternendecke, could reach the Taklamakan area and last also China…The central lotus ceiling hints at an axis mundi, around which the cosmos, in the form of concentric squares, rotates.”

Kohna Masjid…is located in vicinity to Sorkh Kotal, which was the centre of Buddhism and Koshani - one kilometre far from Sorkh Kotal.

Monastery of Gul Dara….The Guldara stupa is not far from the village of Guldara (Guldarra or Gol Darreh) in the Kabul Province of Afghanistan set on the summit of a high hill at the end of the Valley of Guldara ('Valley of Flowers'). It appears to have been established in the late 2nd century CE, as it contained six gold coins of the Kushan king Vima Kadphises ruled c. 113-127 CE, the father of Kanishka I, and two from Huvishka, Kanishka's son, who is thought to have ruled c. 150-190 CE. None of the coins appear very worn, and the two Huvishka coins look to be in almost mint condition.”

Tepe Shakh…..Tepa-I-Shakh … the ruins of an ancient city in the Tadzhik SSR; situated on the left bank of the Kafirnigan River, near its confluence with the Amu Darya, at one of the fords on the trade route from India to Middle Asia…….Tepa-i-Shakh consisted of a rectangular citadel with mud-brick walls and round towers, an unfortified settlement, and a necropolis. B. A. Litvinskii’s excavations of the citadel in 1972 unearthed the palace building, with a columned hall containing painted and gilded clay and alabaster sculptures. Traces of handicraft production, including ceramics and bronze casting, were found in the settlement, and single-chambered and four-chambered structures with burials performed according to the Zoroastrian rite were found in the necropolis. Other finds included ceramic ware, terra-cotta, and ornaments, some of them from Mediterranean countries…….Tepa-i-Shakh arose in the second century B.C. and flourished in the first to third centuries A.D. It ceased to exist in the fourth century AD

Ai Khanum… “thought to be the historical Alexandria on the Oxus, founded in the fourth century B.C. as a result of the conquests of Alexander the Great. The Graeco-Bactrian site stood on the left bank of the Oxus river at its meeting point with the Kokcha tributary, rendering it a strategically placed military outpost to control the eastern territories of Alexander the Great’s ancient Bactria. The topographic prowess of city complex provided a natural acropolis spanning 60 meters higher than the surrounding areas while two rivers form the west and south provided protection. And for the past 20 years, the world-renowned site in northern Afghanistan has been the target of systematic illicit digs…. The slow devastation of Ai Khanoum began with treasure profiteers who had metal detectors brought into the country, originally designed to seek out landmines, but were used instead to hunt the ancient soils…. the architectural infrastructure of the lower city is destroyed in its entirety.”

Upper Tukharistan…Bactria (from Βακτριανή, the Hellenized version of Old Persian Bāxtriš; Bactrian: Baktra; Persian/Pashto: باختر Bākhtar; Tajik: Бохтар; Chinese: 大夏 Dàxià; Sanskrit बाह्लीक Bahilka) is the ancient name of a historical region located south of the Amu Darya and west of Gandhara.

Shortughaï …. Archaeological site of the Bronze Age near Taluqan (Afghanistan) near the border with Tajikistan. The site occupies an area of ​​a little over two acres on an old alluvial terrace of the Amu Darya. It was occupied during the second half of the third millennium and the beginning of the second. Archaeologists have identified two main phases of development there.


Herat …Herāt (/hɛˈrɑːt/;[2] Pashto: هرات‎ & Persian: هرات‎) is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 436,300 as of 2012. It serves as the capital of Herat province and is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. The city is linked with Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif ….Herat dates back to ancient times, but its exact age remains unknown. During the period of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550-330 BC), the surrounding district was known as Haraiva (in Old Persian), and in classical sources the region was correspondingly known as Aria (Areia). In the Zoroastrian Avesta, the district is mentioned as Haroiva….The district Aria of the Persian Achaemenid Empire is mentioned in the provincial lists that are included in various royal inscriptions, for instance, in the Behistun inscription of Darius I (ca. 520 BC). Representatives from the district are depicted in reliefs, e.g., at the royal Achaemenid tombs of Naqsh-e Rustam and Persepolis. They are wearing Scythian-style dress (with a tunic and trousers tucked into high boots) and a twisted Bashlyk that covers their head, chin and neck…..

Mes Aynak … Mes Aynak (Pashto: مس عینک‎, meaning "little source of copper" from 'ayn = source) is a site 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, located in a barren region of Logar Province. The site contains the world’s second largest copper deposit, as well as the remains of an ancient settlement with over 400 Buddha statues, stupas and a 100-acre (40 ha) monastery complex. It is also considered a major transit route for insurgents coming from Pakistan. Archaeologists are only beginning to find remnants of an older 5,000-year-old Bronze Age site beneath the Buddhist level including an ancient copper smelter…..The Buddhist ruins were scheduled to be destroyed at the end of July 2012, but for several reasons, including political instability, this has been delayed, possibly until the end of 2014.

Ṭelā Tapa … Poseidon in Bactria presents the unusual pairing of an Hellenic sea-god with landlocked Central Asia. From the time of Alexander the Great’s invasion, the worship of various Greek deities spread through the region…Pliny Historia Naturalis …Isolated archaeological finds provide tangible evidence of this phenomenon at such places as Tillya-Tepe (Ṭelā Tapa).

Mir Zakah Treasure……A rare find in Mir Zakah, located in Pakhtia province on the Pakistan border is loosely related to the numismatic education of the Greco-Bactrian era, Ai Khanoum provided significant insight to. Between 1992 and 1995 one of the largest deposit of coins know in the history of currencies was discovered at the bottom of a well. The circumstances surrounding the treasures discovery remain unknown to this day. The coin deposit is calculated to contain more than four tons of minted metal, near 550,000 coins of mostly silver and bronze and 350 kilograms of gold. The numismatic travesty of this profound discovery is, according to reliable sources, two and a half tons of the coins had been taken to Switzerland for sale

“Kama Dakka ….Sculptures of rare beauty found in the Tepe Marandjan and Kama Dakka monasteries represent the final and most delicate blossoming of Buddhist art in Afghanistan. ….magnificent Buddha head, excavated by French archaeologists at the site of the Kama Dakka dig in 1948, demonstrates a transitional phase between Gandhara art and Fondukistan sculpture. The style illustrates an aesthetic trend in part of Central Asia (modern-day Afghanistan to Chinese Xinjiang) dating from the 7th and 8th centuries.

Buddhist temple sites including Tapa-Kalan, Tapa-i-Kafariha, Bagh-gai, Chakhil-i-Gundi, deh-Ghundi and Gar-Nao.

“Poseidon in Bactria presents the unusual pairing of an Hellenic sea-god with landlocked Central Asia. From the time of Alexander the Great’s invasion, the worship of various Greek deities spread through the region (Plutarch, De Alexandri Fortuna aut Virtute 328D; Curtius 8.2.6 and 32; Arrian 4.8.1-2; Pliny Historia Naturalis 6.18). Isolated archaeological finds provide tangible evidence of this phenomenon at such places as Ai Khanoum (see ĀY ḴĀNOM), Takht-i Sangin (Taḵt-e Sangīn: see BACTRIA), Dilberdjin (see DELBARJĪN), and Tillya-Tepe (Ṭelā Tapa)….. many of the Bactrian coins bear the images of Greek gods and heroes. Beyond the personal cults of the Bactrian kings themselves, the coinages attest an official reverence for Zeus, Apollo, Dionysos, Herakles (see HERACLES), the Dioskouroi, Athena, Artemis, Nike, Helios, Selene, Hermes, and Poseidon (Bopearachchi, 1991, pp. 377-80). Only the latter deity seems incongruous given his normal association with the sea, yet an unmistakable image of Poseidon with trident and palm branch appears on the coins of the Bactrian king Antimachus I Theos (ca. 175 BC).”… http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/poseidon-in-bactria

Before the region fell to Alexander the Great in 330 BC, it was part of the Achaemenid Empire and prior to that it was occupied by the Medes. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area until 305 BCE when they gave south of the Hindu Kush to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty….”Alexander took these away from the Aryans and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants.”….—Strabo, 64 BC – 24 AD

The land that became known as Khorasan in geography of Eratosthenes was recognized as Ariana at that time, which made up Greater Iran or the land where Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion. The southeastern region of Ariana fell to the Kushan Empire in the 1st century AD. The Kushan rulers built a capital in modern-day Afghanistan at Bagram and are believed to have built the famous Buddhas of Bamiyan. Numerous Buddhist temples and buried cities have been found in Afghanistan. However, the region of Ariana (or Khorasan) remained predominantly Zoroastrian but there were also Manichaeists, sun worshippers, Christians, Pagans, Shamanists, Buddhists, Jews and others. One of the three great fire-temples of the Sassanids "Azar-burzin Mehr" is situated near sabzevar in Iran. The boundary of the region began changing until the Kushans and Sassanids merged to form the Kushano-Sassanian civilization.

“During the Sassanid era, Persia was divided into four quarters, Khvarvaran in the west, Bakhtar in the north, Arachosia in the south and Khorasan in the east, next to Sind or Hind. Khorasan in the east saw some conflict with the Hephthalites who became the new rulers in the area but the borders remained stable. Being the eastern parts of the Sassanids and further away from Arabia, Khorasan quarter was conquered after the remaining Persia. The last Sassanid king of Persia, Yazdgerd III, moved the throne to Khorasan following the Arab invasion in the western parts of the empire. After the assassination of the king, Khorasan was conquered by Arab Muslim troops in 647 AD. Like other provinces of Persia it became one of the provinces of Umayyad dynasty.


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