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 Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (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)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Le trésor perdu des rois d’Afghanistan by Philippe Flandrin

Le trésor perdu des rois d’Afghanistan (ISBN 2-268-03977-3) translates into The Lost Treasure of the Kings of Afghanistan and is written by Philippe Flandrin, journalist and war correspondent.

This book may well be the most complete work about the history of Afghanistan. In a most pleasant and comprehensive way, the auteur manages to mix Afghanistan’s recent history with that from antiquity. After an introduction to the times of Cyrus the Great and Alexander the Great, he seeks and finds the transition to the days of the Graeco-Buddhist art.

The catalyst agent in opening up the country of Afghanistan in recent time was, in fact, its last king, Mohammed Zahir Shah who ruled for forty years. Unhappy about the British interferences in the 19th and early 20th century, he turned to France for archaeological expertise. He himself had studied in France and this created obviously a natural bond. The king was deposed in a coup in 1973 and soon afterwards the Soviets invaded the now Republic of Afghanistan. Political changes always prevail on the way of life in any country and in Afghanistan where tribal powers were still very strong the archaeological teams had soon to withdraw. Well, we all remember how the Taliban “liberated” the country from the Soviets and in the end imposed their own religious ideas.

Philippe Flandrin takes us by the hand and leads us through the mazes of Afghanistan’s stirring history as it has been forged over the centuries. People like Cyrus, Alexander, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane have left their marks, followed by Buddhist and Chinese travellers on the Silk Road.

He starts his book with the first discoveries of sites like Ai-Khanoum, Tillya Tepe and Hadda, including the hardships the archaeologists encountered and the opposition from the local people – generally strong Islamic believers who smashed and destroyed many of the human statues as soon as they were unearthed. Tribal elderly had their say as even the king could not overrule or control them. Many wondrous finds have thus disappeared before reaching Kabul. Half of the artifacts that made it were entered into the newly built Museum of Kabul and the other half was shipped off to France finding a home at the Musée Guimet in Paris. And luckily so for soon after the Soviet occupation the Museum of Kabul was plundered. The gorgeous statues from the Gandhara era were destroyed and the smaller pieces slowly but surely found their way to the illegal markets, mostly through Peshawar in Pakistan. This is being detailed in the second part of this book. A very sad episode indeed.

The third and last part of this interesting book discusses the world of legal and illegal art trading worldwide. The conclusion is that most of the precious finds from Ai-Khanoum, Begram, Tillya Tepe, Hadda and other key excavation sites of Afghanistan have simply vanished.  The sites themselves have been trampled or bulldozed and all that remains of the Museum of Kabul is a skeleton building; nobody really knows what became of its rich collection. The gold, jewels and coins from the excavations had been locked up safely in the vaults of the Central Bank in Kabul and it was a miracle to find these pieces intact when a team of local and international experts and archaeologists laid eyes on them in 2004. This treasure was luckily saved and is now part of an exhibition that is travelling around the world as it would not be safe in its homeland (see: Bactrian Gold, The Hidden Treasures from the Museum of Kabul).

It is a sad story that clearly illustrates how the Afghans have been nearly entirely stripped of their history – a story much less known than that of the destructive path the IS has left behind in neighbouring Iraq and Syria but the drama in Afghanistan is at least as devastating and radical.

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