The Kabul museum

John Huntington huntington.2 at OSU.EDU
Wed May 12 14:36:16 UTC 2004

Dear List Members,

Please note this message will be sent to both Indology and
H-Buddhism. I apologize for any cross listings.

I received an E-mail from a friend who is very knowledgeable in the
arts. He has visited the Kabul Museum and sent the following report.
(he wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons)
It is worse than we had ever imagined......

Begin message:
On Saturday we went to the museum.   The museum
sits on the outskirts of Kabul.  Unfortunately it sits on the road that
all attackers had to come through to take Kabul.  Under the Soviets, it
was reasonably safe.  The Soviets did not take any objects back to the
Soviet Union and the museum just floundered.   In 1992 when the Soviets
imploded, the Civil War began.  This was devastating to the museum.
Every warlord who aspired to take Kabul bombed, raped, looted and burned
the museum.  It became a ghost building.  With the Taliban victory in
1996 things were stabilized.  Everyone grew a beard or retreated into
their burkhas.  The museum staff returned to the museum to put things in
order so the Taliban could do their job more efficiently.  In early
2001 the Taliban spent three months in the museum.  They systematically
destroyed every object.  Don't imagine defacing a Buddha or taking a few
hammer whacks at a stone stele.  Imagine reducing every piece to rubble,
some to pebbles the size of  golf balls.  The museum is being
refurbished.  The building has a new roof and will be in first class
shape in a matter of months.  Newly plastered walls, new everything.  It
will be fine.

We toured the storage rooms.  Imagine a room filled with
tables, each table having a tray filled with hundreds of small rocks.
On the tray is a photo of what the object as it was before it was
reduced to rubble.  In another room we saw their wooden objects from
Nuristan.  All were chopped into firewood.   We went into the
conservation center.  There they had tin trunks.  Each with a label.
"Kanishka Torso" we would open the trunk and once again a pile of small
rocks, some with a facet that contained a small piece of the jigsaw
puzzle they are hoping to put back together.  There are a handful of
third rate pieces left and that is it.  Nothing more from the Museum.
They have a hoard of 20,000 pieces of Bactrian gold that is kept in a
vault at the Ministry.  Next week National Geographic is going in to
begin an inventory project.   As far as we can tell, that is the story
of what is left of their national heritage in Kabul.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list