Pakistan’s Turmoil Endangers Its Archaeological Treasures

Christopher Allbritton reports for Time:

In the mountains and valleys of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, palace ruins and crumbling Buddhist monasteries dot the hills above war-torn locations such as Mingora, Peshawar and the Swat Valley. These magnificent ruins are all that’s left of the Gandhara kingdom, which flourished from the 6th century B.C. to the 11th century A.D. It vanished under the pressure of war and conquest, re-emerging only in 1848 when relics and ruins were re-discovered by the British archaeologist, Sir Alexander Cunningham.

Now, Gandhara is in danger of vanishing a second time from the same old threats. Just as the Afghan Taliban destroyed the 1,500-year-old statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 2001, militants in Pakistan have attacked the Buddhist heritage in Pakistan, driving away foreign research teams and tourists, forcing the closure of museums and threatening the integrity of valuable digs. “Militants are the enemies of culture,” says Abdul Nasir Khan, curator of the museum at Taxila, one of the country’s premier archaeological sites and a former capital of the Gandhara civilization. “It is very clear that if the situation carries on like this, it will destroy our cultural heritage.”

The Gandhara kingdom and its art are important because it shows the impact of Hellenistic influence brought by Alexander the Great and his Macedonians…

[continues at Time]

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