Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Putting Archaeological sites on the Map of Afghanistan

Archaeology in Afghanistan has known its ups and downs more than any other country in the region. Over the years, French and Russian archaeologists have been working in the area, entrusting their treasures to the National Museum in Kabul. That is till 1979 when the troops of the USSR invaded Afghanistan. Archaeological diggings by Frenchman Paul Bernard at Ai Khanoum, for instance, had to be interrupted abruptly and when he returned to the site recently, it was thoroughly plundered and destroyed. Most damages were, however, occurred after the Soviet troops were replaced by the Taliban followed by the IS who considered it their duty to obliterate every single image of people wherever they found it: on frescos, mosaics, paintings, reliefs or statues. We all have witnessed what happened. A precious heritage that survived for centuries has been totally destroyed for posterity.

In recent years, the work of archaeologists in Afghanistan, ancient Bactria, has been taken over by looters in the confusion of the ravaging wars. The country’s cultural heritage is in dire straits but luckily an international team has started putting its numerous sites and monuments on the map using satellite imaging. These results have been brought together in a huge database. Initially, authorities were afraid that this kind of mapping would encourage local looting, but since most of the sites have already been looted the project is going ahead since overall these looters are better informed than the professional archaeologists.

By now, DAFA (The French Archaeological Delegation to Afghanistan) have pinned down the country’s heritage sites on their map making a clear distinction between the sites that have already been excavated, those that have been simply identified or only recently discovered. When DAFA had to leave the country in 1982 under pressure from Soviet invasion they had identified as many as 1,286 heritage sites but today that number has tripled.

Yet it remains extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact location of many of these archaeological sites since they have been destroyed by looters and illicit antique dealers or simply by people tending their fields. In urban areas, recent houses have been built right over existing ancient remains.

A new threat comes from the mining companies aiming to exploit the rich gold and copper mines, as well as the precious stones of which the lapis-lazuli is the most favorite since it is entirely unique to Afghanistan. The government is presently distributing concessions and this year alone they numbered 25 contracts already. Whether these mines are endangering archaeological sites or not remains rather vague; the mine operations or oil drilling are often more profitable than digging for the country’s past history.

The situation becomes quite tricky when a Chinese mining company hits a huge historical site with thousands of Buddha’s while drilling for copper.

DAFA hopes that when the map is complete and made available to everyone, they can participate in the protection of Afghanistan’s precious archaeological sites. Let's wish them luck!

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