Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Recovered Treasures of Afghanistan

More than 22,000 treasures from the Kabul Museum in Afghanistan, long thought to have been lost in the war against the Soviet Union and the subsequent cultural purge by the Taliban, have been located in bank vaults and other safe places where they were hidden by museum officials.

The priceless Bactrian gold collection, precious ivories, bronze statues and other artifacts of 5,000 years of history on the Orient's Silk Road — virtually all of the museum's most precious items — were preserved despite the devastation engulfing the country, archaeologists said last week.

The discovery of the Bactrian gold was announced this summer, but a just-completed inventory revealed that virtually all of the museum's most precious items are intact, said Oxford University archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert.

In the midst of the resistance against the Soviets, a team of curators in the early 1980s boxed up the most valuable pieces in the museum's collection, stashing them in various vaults around Kabul, the Afghan capital. The curators — most of whose names are unknown — used small safes, tin boxes, steel containers and anything else they could find at hand.

They then went "dead quiet," said British archaeologist Carla Grissman, keeping their knowledge to themselves even as rumors floated widely about the destruction and looting of the museum's contents.

They kept their secrets for a quarter of a century.

"These are the real heroes of this story," said Hiebert, leader of the team that has been inventorying the newly rediscovered artifacts.
(Via WizBang)

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