"In the Shadow of the Taliban: Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Afghanistan"


Mon, 01/23/2017 - 16:00

Afghanistan is the quintessential “crossroads of cultures” where the civilizations of the Near East, Central Asia, South Asia and China interacted over the millennia in a constantly shifting mixture of trade, emulation, migration, imperial formations, and periodic conflict. This complex history of contacts gave rise to some of the most important archaeological, artistic, architectural, and textual treasures in world cultural heritage – encompassing cultures as diverse as the Bronze Age cities of Bactria, the Persian Empire, the easternmost colonies founded by Alexander the Great and his Hellenistic successors, the Kushan empire astride the Silk Road, and the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan. Sadly, the last 35 years of continuous war in Afghanistan  - from the Soviet Invasion of 1979 to the present – have devastated the cultural heritage of Afghanistan at every level.

This talk gives an overview of Afghan cultural treasures, and describes three initiatives where the Oriental Institute has been working in partnership with Afghan heritage specialists to assess and repair the damage:  1)  development of a bilingual Dari-English computer database to conduct the first-ever full inventory of the National Museum of Afghanistan’s holdings, 2) the use of advanced satellite imagery to map all the archaeological sites in Afghanistan and measure the degree to which they have been looted; and 3) training programs for Afghan museum conservators, curators, and archaeologists  most involved in  protecting sites, museums, monuments, and ancient art objects. 



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