|Gandhara-style Buddha, Taxila Museum (Amir Taj/fotopedia/blogs.fco.gov.uk)|
|Priceless gilded Western images of the Buddha from the crossroads of Afghanistan (WQ)|
LISTEN NOW: Mitch Jeserich (KPFA.org, Pacifica Radio, Berkeley) with Tamim Ansary, author of Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan (download)
Long before Afghanistan was an Islamic country, Buddhist settlements dotted its mountains and deserts. While the Taliban infamously destroyed the giant Buddhist statues of Bamyan Province in 2001, many archeological riches remain. Alongside those buried treasures of the past are mineral riches the U.S. military says could be worth as much as $1 trillion.
|Smuggling artifacts out of Gandhara, India, now Pakistan/Afghanistan (CBSNews.com)|
|Amazing Afghan-Buddhist archeology (BAN)|
They have only two years to recover artifacts from four main sites around the mountain before a Chinese copper mine moves in.
|Border dispute with Pakistan (voanews.com)|
Within next two years, Chinese to mine
|Theravada-Thailand: Protect Afghanistan! (dmc.tv)|
The China Metallurgical Group established a camp here in 2009. By 2014, miners will begin tearing down the mountain.
Archaeologist Abdul Qadir Temori say two years is not enough time.
“Yes, it is a limited amount of time. Only an archeologist would understand what a limited time it is,” he said.
|US soldiers and future peace activists|
But the archeologists say it is not worth it.
Hundreds of ancient treasures, forever lost
- Ancient Greece: Greco-Bactrian King Menander (Milinda) converted to Buddhism ca 150 BCE. During his reign Buddhism spread from India through Afghanistan up through Central Asia and into Europe (Kalmykia):
|Buddhist monks with Greek king (WHP)|
So the race continues to save the riches of Afghanistan’s past from the riches of its future. Before long, the mountain these men are working on will be gone.
|Tamim Ansary (Games Without Rules)|
That war is real, but it sits atop an older struggle between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan: a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam.
Now, [Afghan-born US citizen and historian] Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history [in English] from the inside out, and to illuminate the long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood.
It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons while, every 40 to 60 years, a great power crashes in and disrupts whatever progress has been made.
(Kirkus) “A breezy, accessible overview of centuries of messy Afghan history, including the present military quagmire…. As a native of Kabul, Ansary lends precious insight into the makeup of the typical Afghan village, with its tidy, self-sufficient, patriarchal hierarchy and need to keep the nomads at bay… Lively instruction on how Afghanistan has coped, and continues to cope, with being a strategic flash point.” More
|Amazing ancient Buddhist sites from Siddhartha the Buddha's homeland (BAN)|
|Base of a life-sized Buddha, one of more than 200 found at Afghanistan's Mes Aynak site, sits alongside hundreds of other statues depicting figures (Jay Price/MCT/BAN).|