Bactrian Gold

Bactrian Gold

The Bactrian Treasure (also known as the Bactrian Gold or Bactrian Hoard) is a treasure cache that lay dormant under the "Hill of Gold" (or "Golden Hill"), or Tillia tepe, for 2,000 years until Soviet archeologists exposed it shortly before the 1979 invasion. The hoard then went missing during subsequent wars in Afghanistan, when it was "rediscovered" and first brought to public attention again in 2003.

The hoard is a collection of about 20,600 gold ornaments that was found in six burial mounds near Sheberghan, in the northern Afghanistan province of Jowzjan, and was excavated in 1978 by a team led by the Greek-Russian archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi, a year before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The ornaments include coins, necklaces set with gems, belts, medallions and crowns. A new museum in Kabul is being planned where the Bactrian gold will eventually be kept.

Some of the 20,000 pieces were displayed in the Guimet Museum in France in December 2006. Until then, the collection had never been displayed outside Afghanistan.

It was thought to have been lost at some point in the 1990s, but in 2003 it was found in secret vaults under the central bank building in Kabul. It is believedFact|date=July 2008 that, in mid 1990s, seeing its historical value and importance to Afghanistan's cultural heritage, the last president of Afghanistan, Mohammad Najibullah had moved the hoard from Kabul Museum, located near the frontline, to an underground vault at the Central Bank of Afghanistan in Kabul. The doors of the vault were locked with seven keys which were distributed to trusted individuals who were based abroad. The vault, which could only be opened if all the keys were available, provided security to the Bactrian Hoard, protecting it on numerous occasions from attempts by the Taliban to steal it. During the invasion of Afghanistan by American forces, the Taliban, who were unaware that all seven keys were needed in order to open the vault, made one last attempt to get their hands on the treasure by planting bombs on the vault door. Before they could detonate the bombs, American troops arrived at the central bank and the militants were forced to fleeFact|date=July 2008. Had the Taliban managed to bomb the vault, the underground chamber in which the hoard was stored would have almost certainly collapsed, destroying the hoard forever.Fact|date=July 2008

In 2003, after the Taliban was successfully defeated, the new government wanted to open the vault, but the keyholders (called "tawadars") could not be summoned because their names were purposefully unknown. Hamid Karzai had to issue a decree authorizing the attorney general to go ahead with safecracking. But in time, the seven key-holders were successfully assembled and the vault opened. Since then, the National Geographic Society has catalogued the collection, which appears to be complete -- 22,000 objects. Also witnessing the re-opening were National Geographic Explorer and Archaeology Fellow Fredrik Hiebert and the archaeologist who originally found the hoard, Viktor Sarianidi.

The collection is particularly valuable to the Afghan people, as much of their heritage was looted from museums during the civil wars after the fall of the Soviet-backed regime.


L" Or De La Bactriane Fouilles De La Necropole De Tillia-Tepte" En Afghanistan Septentrional,Leningrad, Editions d "art Aurora, 1985

External links

* Website dedicated to "Afghanistan's Treasures" by Musée Guimet (Paris, France): [ Afghanistan, les trésors retrouvés]
* [ "Afghanistan: Nation Protects Storied Bactrian Treasure"] , from Radio Free Europe, June 9, 2006 – provides an overview.
* [ "Afghan golden treasure on display"] , from BBC News South Asia, December 6, 2006
* [ "Lost Treasures of Afghanistan Revealed "] , from National Geographic, November 17, 2004

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