Afghan heritage on display for the Afghan people

Encourage a culture of peace

Published on 4 April 2011

Author(s): cultureconflictcooperation/Patrizia

Type:  Blog

Archaeology could play an important role for this war-torn society and become a mean to promote a new secular Afghan identity

The Kabul National Museum opened a brand new exhibition to display a range of artifacts recently excavated in the Logar province. The amazing site of Mes Aynak located approximately 30 km south-south-east of Kabul, is the home to an extremely rich archaeological site. The remains of pits, wells and smelting furnaces as well as the name of the site that can be translated as 'little copper well', clearly indicate that area has been the focus of copper working since ancient times. However, the site was a lot more than a mere focus of mining activities.

During past few years, Afghan archaeologists and members of DAFA (Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan) worked together, to rescue a complex of monasteries dating back to the early Buddhist era. It is true that beneath the ruins lies the rich and unexploited copper mine which, rediscovered in the occasion of some testing carried out by the Chinese Metallurgical Group Corporation (MGC), is now threatening the preservation of the archaeological site. Many stupas, chapels, monastic quarters and other settlement and religious structures are in danger, the extension of the site makes it impossible to rescue it in its entirety and the mining work might require the demolition of large portions of it.

Undoubtedly, the resuming of the mining activity in the area, granted by the inflow of foreign investments, will be an important source of revenue for Afghanistan. However, Afghans should not be left with the dilemma of choosing between economic growth and cultural heritage, as Nushin Arbabzadah suggests. Archaeology could play an important role for this war-torn society and become a mean to promote a new secular Afghan identity that, even if still centrally based on Islam, could learn to accept, respect and appreciate also its pre-islamic heritage.

To say it with the words of Brendan Cassar : to encourage a culture of peace it is necessary to ground it in the concepts of cultural diversity but also of a new shared national identity. To do so archaeology must be very careful, excavations and successive exhibitions of finds should not be affected by new post-colonial attitudes, and the Afghans should become fully involved in the discovery and preservation of their past. For this reason, it is important that the amazing archaeological finds are now not touring the world but on display in Afghanistan and for the Afghans.

However, it is difficult to be able to judge the situation from here, and it is possible that given the current situation very few afghans will have the opportunity to access the museum and enjoy its exhibitions. Change in will not happen overnight!

Often responsibilities for a climate of insecurity and violence should be shared. Only by being firm in condemning hostile acts of intolerance towards Islam we, as Westerners, can positively contribute to the long and difficult process of pacification.


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