Teaming up to save Afghanistan’s Buddhist treasures

Afghanistan’s teachers and the University of Chicago’s historians are teaming up on a quest to protect ancient Buddhist…

Afghanistan’s teachers and the University of Chicago’s historians are teaming up on a quest to protect ancient Buddhist relics.

Gil Stein, an archaeologist at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, spoke to Al Jazeera’s John Hendren about the rich cultural heritage of Afghanistan. He said that the country “is one of the richest areas in the world for the history of the development of civilization.”

It is a sad truth that this cultural heritage has long been overshadowed by a history of conflict. Taliban rule had cataclysmal effects on the cultural heritage of Afghanistan:

And this very rich heritage has been threatened over the last thirty or forty years by constant warfare that has devastated not only the country and its people, but also the cultural heritage—the history—that defines what that country is.

Gil Stein

The warfare resulting from Taliban rule meant that many artifacts were ruined or looted.

Now, however, the remaining artifacts are in good hands. They have both Afghan teachers and American historians in their corner, fighting for their preservation.

The historians at the University of Chicago are developing 3D models of the Buddhist artifacts. These models are being turned into replicas, sent to Afghanistan, and put to use in the classroom.

A student named Afsana Hotak spoke about the new opportunities to study the models and interact with her country’s history in a way she had not been able to before. She said, “We feel like we’re inside the National Museum and watching all the history. Our country has 5000 years of history. We knew about it, but we did not see them close up.”

Another student, Baseera Quraeshi, told Al Jazeera that she “saw all these specimens only in books.” “Today,” she said, “we saw them right here.”

Both male and female students are now learning about pre-Islamic art that the Taliban tried to eradicate: what was once inconceivable under Taliban rule is the new normal in 2020.

Many of the artifacts can be seen—and enjoyed—in the video.

Article source: Al Jazeera

Featured image source: Screen capture from video

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