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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Archaeologists cover up Afghan heritage

By Joris Fioriti (AFP) 

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — "It's there," says an archaeologist pointing to the ground, where fragments of a Buddha statue from the ancient Gandhara civilisation have been covered up to stop them being stolen or vandalised.

Just months before the US-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban regime shocked the world by destroying two giant, 1,500-year-old Buddhas in the rocky Bamiyan valley, branding them un-Islamic.

More than 10 years on Western experts say Afghanistan's ancient Buddhist and early Islamic heritage is little safer.

At the foot of the cliff where the two Buddhas used to stand 130 kilometres (80 miles) west of Kabul, an archaeological site has been found and parts of a third Buddha, lying down, were discovered in 2008.

The area of the lying Buddha is around half the size of a football pitch. A dozen statues or more lie under tonnes of stone and earth.

"We covered everything up because the ground is private and to prevent looting," says Zemaryalai Tarzi, the 75-year-old French archaeologist born in Afghanistan who is leading the project.

Tarzi says he dug first in the potato fields to find artefacts, which he buried again afterwards. All around him, under a large area of farmland, he says, lie exceptional treasures....Continue Reading........

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