Once upon a time in Afghanistan

28 November 2012
Once upon a time in Afghanistan

JihadOnBuddhists.org 28 November 2012

Islam has a tendency to speed up the impermanence of both things and people… Afghanistan, 2nd – 9th century, from a report published in 2011:

"Published at the occassion of the exhibition "Mes Aynak – Recent Discoveries Along the Silk Road" at National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul, 2011

The Buddhist monasteries and settlement at the Mes Aynak copper mine, Logar Province by Nicolas Engel, DAFA

The Mes Aynak site was first explored in 1963. G. Fussman and M. Le Berre referred to it in 1976 as a potentially important site. In 1977 T. Berthoux, R. Besenval, F. Cesbron and J. Liszak-Hours visited the site, looking for Afghanistan’s ancient mineral mines in. They published a useful evaluation of the extent of the copper mine which they dated to the Kushan period. In the late 1970’s, a soviet geological mission reported on some ruins at Mes Aynak. Trenches and galleries were dug at that time on the eastern slope of the main mountain. They came across ancient ones, vertically drilled to a depth of 120 metres along the copper vein. In 1980 J.C. Gardin and Bertille Lyonnet, on behalf of DAFA, collected potshards here during a survey. Mes Aynak is briefly mentioned in 1982 in the Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan published by W. Ball.

In 2004, following more recent significant looting of Mes Aynak and also the return of some illegally excavated artefacts, including Buddhist clay statues, to the National Museum, the National Institute of Archaeology had the opportunity to go on the site. When discussions between Afghan authorities and the Chinese Mining Company (MCC) started a few years later concerning the resumption of copper extraction, the National Institute of Archaeology was asked to make an archaeological survey of the area. The remains were then identified from the late Kushan period up to the late Shahi period (2nd – 9th century CE), and rescue excavations started in 2009, which are ongoing.

A thousand hectare site
The site is about 1.5 Km long and 1.5 Km wide, stretching over more than a thousand hectares around the Baba Wali Mountain where copper ore is located. Only a small area has been uncovered to date, and no area has been completely excavated. Monastic occupation of the site is cleared as two monasteries are currently under excavation: Gol Hamid and Kafiriat Tepe. Both are richly ornamented with unbaked clay sculptures and wall paintings. On the top of Shah Tepe there could be another stupa and near the main riverbed, it is likely that two other Buddhist complexes exist. …

The exhibition "Mes Aynak – Recent Discoveries Along the Silk Road" in
the National Museum of Afghanistan and this publication have been made
possible by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the people of the United
States of America.”

Read the whole report here.

Photos from the Mes Aynak excavation site in Afghanistan:

 

"Seated Buddha
Wood; Height: 20 cm
5th-7th century CE
This seated figure of a Buddha is the only
complete example in wood to have survived.
The Buddha is seated in meditation posture
on a lotus seat.”

 

 

 

"Reclining Buddha, 3 m long, in the southern chapel of the Kafiriat Tepe monastery.”

 

"Wall painting with Buddha and donors. Central room of Kafiriat Tepe monastery”

 

"Baked clay.; Height: 13 cm

5th-7th century CE
The hair is black coloured; the lips are made
in such a way that they give the impression
of a gentle smile. Red pigment is visible on
the face.”

 

"Schist stone; Height: 39 cm

3rd-5th century CE
This standing figure shows the latest depiction
of Bodhisattva Sakyamuni. This statue is carved elegantly, the jewelled turban and cloths
are visible.”

 

"Head of Buddha

Plaster gilded; Height: 20 cm
4th-7th century CE
Mes Aynak Buddha statues were sometimes
gilded. This example can be compared with
heads found at Fundaqistan. The eyebrows,
which are curved, are visible at the top of his
eyes.”

 

Coins: "Kanishka I (127-153 CE)

Obverse: King sacrificing at altar
Reverse: Buddha Maitraya seated
Weight: 16.2 g”

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