Piece by piece, Afghanistan reclaims its history

Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:57am EDT
 
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By Sanjeev Miglani

KABUL (Reuters) - While everyone else is worrying about Afghanistan's future, a dedicated band of men and women is gathering up its past, hoping that a growing museum collection will show the world Afghan culture is more sophisticated than the tide of news reports suggest.

Kabul's rebuilt National Museum, near the haunting remains the bombed-out royal palace, is running out of secure rooms to house centuries-old Buddhas, gold and silver coins from antiquity and other rare artifacts.

Many of the museum's original pieces were broken, destroyed or stolen during the Taliban era or the civil war that preceded it in the 1990s, but some have been pieced back together and a series of archeological digs have also unearthed new treasures.

Among the fresh discoveries are a wooden Buddha dating back to the fifth century and Buddha heads made of clay and plaster.

They are helping a whole nation slowly rediscover a classical past as a confluence of cultures from India to China and from Iran and central Asia to the East.

"Each week there is a new find. Most museums in the world are static, but this one is growing," said Anne Feenstra, a Dutch architect involved in restoring the museum which itself was heavily damaged in the civil war.

A statue of the Buddha sitting cross-legged is placed in a glass box up a flight of stairs in the museum building, while the headless figure of Kushan king Kanishka, restored after it was destroyed by the Taliban, adorns another corner.

Some walls have pictures of treasures lost during the civil war or to the Taliban, who famously showed their contempt for Afghanistan's pre-Islamic heritage by blowing up two giant, centuries-old Buddha statues carved into a hillside in Bamiyan.   Continued...

 
<p>A school boy looks at artefacts at Kabul National Museum September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail</p>