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Afghanistan reels over extent of pillage
International Herald tribune ^ | 4-02 | Celestine Bohlen

Posted on 04/20/2002 8:25:43 AM PDT by vannrox

NEW YORK Shortly before the Taliban in Afghanistan issued orders to blow up the giant, 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamian, which they destroyed in March 2001, a squad of Islamic fundamentalists systematically ransacked a storeroom of artwork from the National Museum in Kabul. They went through boxes of ancient Buddhist and Gandharan statuary, smashing anything with a human or animal image that they deemed idolatrous. .


The rubble - all that is left of an unknown number of priceless antiquities - remained hidden until January, when Paul Bucherer, director of a small museum in Switzerland dedicated to Afghan culture, was ushered into the room at the Ministry of Information and Culture, where the crates had been sent for "safekeeping" in the late 1990s. ..


The custodians were still in shock over the destruction they had witnessed. "They said it was like watching members of their own families being murdered," said Bucherer, who went to Kabul on a mission for Unesco, the UN organization charged with protecting cultural monuments. ..


Archaeologists and other specialists, evaluating the damage to see what can be salvaged from a centuries-old culture, say the destruction by the Taliban and, in particular, their allies in Al Qaeda, was even more methodical than previously thought. The pillaging, Bucherer said, was expertly carried out by a non-Afghan squad from Al Qaeda after local Taliban leaders refused to participate - are regarded as crimes against Afghanistan's cultural patrimony that are all the more chilling for their deliberate and efficient execution. ..


"The problem in the case of Bamian was that this was a decision taken with a cool head, not in the fire of war," said Mounir Bouchenaki, assistant director general of Unesco. Since December, when an interim government took office in Afghanistan, the work to restore and preserve what is left after the destruction wrought not only by the Taliban but by decades of war, has begun, slowly and tentatively. ..


Nancy Hatch Dupree, an authority on Afghan culture, said that when she was last at the ministry storeroom, in March, the museum's employees had already sorted through the shattered remains of stucco and schist. "All the fragments have been replaced in the boxes, lovingly arranged on beds of cotton wool," said Dupree. "The care the staff is taking of these broken bits makes you want to cry." ..


At the National Museum, museum workers have painstakingly reassembled pieces from other famous statues that had also been destroyed, including the Tepe Maranjan bodhisattva and a figure of Kanishka, a king of the Kushan people. ..


"They have a vague hope that perhaps some sort of a reconstruction can be done," said Dupree, in an e-mail message from Peshawar, Pakistan, where she lives. Dupree, vice chairwoman of the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage, said that a new museum should be built in Kabul, where it would be more accessible, and given the necessary security if it is to reassemble its once-considerable collection, which spanned more than 50,000 years, from the artifacts of cave-dwelling tribes through the intricate works left by a succession of civilizations: Greek, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic. ..


That collection remained mostly intact during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But during the civil wars that followed, the museum, in a district that was heavily fought over, came under repeated attack. The looting began at the same time, and by some estimates, as much as 70 percent of the museum's collection was plundered, making its way onto the international art market. ..


In 1996 the Afghan government, with Dupree's help, arranged to move about 500 crates containing 3,311 objects out of the National Museum, first to the Kabul Hotel and then to the Ministry of Information and Culture, where they escaped notice until January 2001, Bucherer said. "The boxes were carried from one place to another to get them away from the attention of Al Qaeda," he said. ..


Last year, Unesco designated Bucherer's institution in Switzerland, the Afghanistan Museum, as a repository in exile that could keep (but not buy) artifacts in trust, waiting for the day when they could return to Afghanistan. Other collectors - in Japan, for instance, where Buddhist art from Afghanistan found a ready market - may also eventually return some artifacts. ..


"It is too early to ask for the return of objects," Dupree said, "but certainly not too early to talk about it." ..


As the wars recede and the reconstruction of Afghanistan begins, offers of help for that country's cultural legacy have begun to trickle in. Unesco officials say pledges have already been received from Greece, Italy and the United Nations, as well as from private groups. Some projects, like the reconstruction of Babur's Garden in Kabul, designed by a 16th-century Mogul emperor, are expected to begin soon, with support pledged by international agencies and the interim Afghan government. ..


Three teams have been dispatched to Afghanistan by Unesco to assess damage to monuments in Kabul, Bamian and Herat, and at more remote sites, like the 12th-century minaret at Jam and the ancient city at Balkh. Unesco has organized a conference next month in Kabul at which specialists are to draw up a plan and, more critically, a budget for additional work that is likely to come under the Unesco aegis with help from private groups. ..


Of all the cultural projects under discussion in Afghanistan, the most spectacular, ambitious and controversial is the one to rebuild the Buddhas of Bamian. Just last week, Hamid Karzai, the interim president of Afghanistan, visited the remote Bamian Valley and repeated his government's support of the plan. Speaking at the foot of one of the two ruined Buddhas, he said the project should begin "as soon as possible." The plan was the brainchild of Bernard Weber, the Swiss-born director of the New Seven Wonders Foundation, which has used its Web site, www.new7wonders.org, to solicit nominations for a list of the seven wonders of the modern world. The Buddhas emerged as a popular favorite, and since their destruction Weber has been marshaling support for their reconstruction. ..


Other projects to rebuild the Buddhas have sprung up, mainly in countries where the Buddha is sacred. Weber's plan calls for recreating a three-dimensional image of the statues in cyberspace, based on meticulous photographs taken in the 1970s, and later for the construction of models about five meters tall (15 feet). The final phase calls for the reconstruction of one or both of the statues, at a cost of $30 million to $50 million. ..


But many experts oppose reconstruction, noting that Afghanistan faces far more pressing needs. "The reconstruction of the Buddhas is technically very complicated, and if you reconstruct, you are making something that is a copy, and you lose the integrity and the authenticity," said Bouchenaki of Unesco. Instead, he has proposed creating an archaeological park near where the Buddhas stood. .




TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 911; afghanistan; archaeology; buddha; culture; destruction; fundamentalist; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; islam; religion; southasialist; statue; taliban; talibanlist; war; wtc
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1 posted on 04/20/2002 8:25:43 AM PDT by vannrox
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To: *SouthAsia_list;*Taliban_list;*Religion;blam
Check the Bump List folders for articles related to and descriptions of the above topic(s) or for other topics of interest.
2 posted on 04/20/2002 9:59:12 AM PDT by Free the USA
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To: vannrox
Unless the free world rallies behind this war on terror, all museums will face the same fate. It will be the Stone Age with modern weapons.
3 posted on 04/20/2002 10:44:54 AM PDT by Mind-numbed Robot
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: Free the USA
Sick bastards!
5 posted on 04/20/2002 11:33:43 AM PDT by blam
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To: vannrox
Seeing the destruction of the treasures of the museum was a tragedy, but the most heartrending thing I was was an old man returning to his farm and collecting the deadwood of his vineyard that had been destroyed by the Taliban. Those vines had been on his families land for generations. I would rather see that 30 to 50 million dollars go into replacing the vineyards and orchards that fed that nation.

Yes, you have to feed the soul too, but the body must be fed first.

6 posted on 04/20/2002 11:47:44 AM PDT by McGavin999
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To: vannrox
Oh no - NOT shattered art and broken antiquities!

Now at last the world has a reason to condemn & hate the bastards.

7 posted on 04/20/2002 12:34:46 PM PDT by Bill Rice
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To: vannrox
Let's not forget... it's only stuff. Let's be 10000X more shocked at what they did to people.
8 posted on 04/20/2002 12:55:22 PM PDT by AmericaUnited
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To: vannrox
Collectors buying stolen antiquities face stiff penalties.
9 posted on 04/20/2002 5:39:23 PM PDT by Bonaparte
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To: Bonaparte
Collectors buying stolen antiquities face stiff penalties.

Perhaps, though ironically many antiquities from those museums now exist only because they had been stolen.

10 posted on 04/20/2002 6:16:47 PM PDT by supercat
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To: AmericaUnited
Well, what they did to people was indeed, worse, but this is an aspect of the Islamacists that needs to be pointed out more forcefully, especially to all those clueless university students demonstrating in Washington today.

I fully expect that they have plans to attack the most famous sites in Europe. Perhaps the French might feel a twinge if Chartres or Notre Dame are destroyed; I know I would feel the loss.

Imagine all the museums of the west destroyed. Imagine the Sistine Chapel gone forever, Rembrandt's works set to flame, the Mona Lisa in ashes. Yes, these are things and not people, but they are part of our heritage and the glory of the West.

The barbarians must be defeated.

11 posted on 04/20/2002 6:28:38 PM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: supercat
"...only because they had been stolen."

Yes. The French stole the Rosetta from the Egyptians and the English stole it from the French. It's still in the British Museum today and I've heard no reports of Egypt objecting. But I don't think that will be the case, if one of these Japanese collectors is stupid enough to show off one of his trophies from Afghanistan. There is also the possibility of blackmail by the thief who fenced it to him.

12 posted on 04/20/2002 7:11:50 PM PDT by Bonaparte
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To: vannrox; blam; FairOpinion; Ernest_at_the_Beach; SunkenCiv; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; ...
Thanks vannrox. Another oldie but goodie. Now it's bedtime for 'Civ.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest
-- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

13 posted on 03/03/2005 10:17:56 PM PST by SunkenCiv (last updated my FreeRepublic profile on Sunday, February 20, 2005.)
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To: Bonaparte

The Rosetta Stone is just a mundane legal document... in three languages.


14 posted on 03/03/2005 10:55:31 PM PST by A.J.Armitage (http://calvinist-libertarians.blogspot.com/)
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To: Bonaparte
It's still in the British Museum today and I've heard no reports of Egypt objecting.

Egypt Demands Return of Rosetta Stone

15 posted on 03/04/2005 4:46:45 AM PST by Physicist
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To: vannrox

Ya know, being a Talibunny or Al Qaeda member should be grounds for immediate, merciless, execution. They should empty out Guantanamo into shallow graves. These people have no place in a civilized world.


16 posted on 03/04/2005 6:17:35 AM PST by Little Ray (I'm a reactionary, hirsute, gun-owning, knuckle dragging, Christian Neanderthal and proud of it!)
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To: vannrox

Someone used the term "Rebarb" a while ago, for those new barbarians who would re-barbianize the world. They should be hunted down like rats, as they would hunt us down.


17 posted on 03/04/2005 6:21:31 AM PST by johnb838 ("You Have Ruled, Now Let Us See You Enforce" Need some wood?)
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To: Physicist

Thanks for the link, Physicist. Very interesting article. Just guessing here, but I think the British will cede the Rosetta about the same time that the Egyptians pay massive reparations to the Jews for the captivity.


18 posted on 03/05/2005 10:04:26 AM PST by Bonaparte (Of course, it must look like an accident...)
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To: A.J.Armitage
"The Rosetta Stone is just a mundane legal document..."

Looking at the English translation, it seems to be a resolution by the Egyptian priesthood in honor of the pharoah, citing all the commendable things he had done and those things the priesthood would be doing to accord him his proper recognition. Some might describe it as lavish and extravagant, rather than mundane.

19 posted on 03/05/2005 10:43:07 AM PST by Bonaparte (Of course, it must look like an accident...)
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To: A.J.Armitage
"The Rosetta Stone is just a mundane legal document..."

Looking at the English translation, it seems to be a resolution by the Egyptian priesthood in honor of the pharoah, citing all the commendable things he had done and those things the priesthood would be doing to accord him his proper recognition. Some might describe it as lavish and extravagant, rather than mundane.

20 posted on 03/05/2005 10:43:30 AM PST by Bonaparte (Of course, it must look like an accident...)
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