søndag 22. august 2021

Afghan Museums Fear for Ancient Buddhist Artifacts amid Taliban Takeover

As city after city fell under Taliban control in the wake of the unconditional withdrawal of occupying US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, museums and archaeologists across the country, who document and safeguard the nation’s cultural heritage, were caught off-guard. Many raced to secure artifacts and ancient sites as well as they could as Taliban forces advanced into Kabul—not least among them, the 80,000 items collected at the National Museum of Afghanistan and deemed to be particularly vulnerable.

“We didn’t expect this to happen so quickly,” said Noor Agha Noori, who heads Afghanistan’s Institute of Archaeology in Kabul, adding that officials had planned to move artifacts from cities such as Herat and Kandahar for safekeeping, but the rapid sweep of Taliban troops amid evaporating government resistance had prevented them taking action. (National Geographic)

Afghanistan served as a major crossroads for the trade routes of the Silk Road for centuries, nurturing a rich heritage of influences that included Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, prior to the ingress of Islam in the seventh century. In 2001, the Taliban famously destroyed two sixth-century Buddha statues at Bamiyan, as well as numerous other statues and artifacts at the National Museum in Kabul. Over the course of the last 20 years of war and turmoil, countless cultural properties have been destroyed or removed from the country, and many cultural leaders fear that even more irreplaceable monuments to the region’s distant past could be lost.