alex in afghanistan

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Taphoi
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Many thanks JohnT!

Fellow Pothosians: you need to enter 32.2753,62.1815 into the Google Maps search facility and choose the satellite option and zoom in as far as you can go (JohnT is giving us latitude and longitude in degrees and minutes, so I have decimalised the values). I think that the airstrip-like feature that JohnT had mentioned earlier is a little north of northwest from this pinnacle and clearly runs through a gap in a low ridge SE towards the pinnacle.

First reactions: the walls on the cliff edges in JohnT's first two photos are extremely interesting. They look like superb masonry with large square blocks, although the resolution is currently a bit limited. They could well be Hellenistic in date. (JohnT: please can you give us a zoomed in photo image of these walls?) Some of the arches appear to be pointed (rather than semicircular). That would make them later in date, but this is not necessarily a problem for an early origin, since you would expect later phases. It is not quite clear whether some of the arches are semicircular: more resolution please JohnT on any arches that could be semicircular. This is clearly a major and ancient fortress located so as to have commanding views of the routes between Areia, Drangiana (Seistan), the Helmand region and Kandahar. It would be rather surprising, if something so major had not already been recorded somewhere. There is certainly a chance at this point that this fort is associated with Prophthasia. When it was built, it may have been on the edge of the fertile region, rather than out in the desert.

Please can we have more photos on the airstrip-like road, which leads to the fortress? Especially the walls along it, please? There might have been a settlement beneath the fortress, which could have been buried by spoil washed off the mountain in storms.

Best regards,

Andrew

P.S. JohnT: what we should be asking, of course, is whether the local people or any of your detailed maps of the area give a name to this fortress pinnacle? Please could you investigate? Thanks!
Last edited by Taphoi on Sun Nov 08, 2009 4:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

Ok andrew this is what ive done so far.. Ive given instructions to 2 of the head terp's that i know, and there going to ask around for a story..interestingly enough allot of the local population doesn't know to much about it...so far that is..ive also talked to the local..misc object seller we have around here, and will be taking some pictures of some stuff that he has found in the local area..some of it looks very old..but these guys are crafty. So what im going to do is take pictures of things he has and post em..if anything looks interesting ill try and buy it, and send it to whomever has the equipment or access to someone who does to date it. It would help if anyone has any pics of stuff from this erra, smaller things. IE rings, coins, i seen a weird lil pestal type thing..cup about the size of my thumb in cercumfrence and half the length high..with a masher that went in it..What did they use for metal in those times ? Andrew i looked for the darn airstip today and im not sure if it was where the sun was or what but couldn't find it..my pilot took some more pics and i instructed him to do a couple of shots at a farther distance to give you an idea of what was around this structure. I'll work on the resalution, but my good camera is back in the states, they dont last long out here..ill do my best for you guys. Also i want to really find out what this is !! So if you know more folks clue em in :P ok gotta run !! cya guys
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Hi JohnT,

Okay, sounds like a good plan. As far as coins are concerned, I have some knowledge myself. You can see some of my personal collection of coins pertaining to Alexander online on my website here:

http://www.alexanderstomb.com/main/imag ... /index.htm

Unfortunately, Greek era coins from Afghanistan are desirable and much forged. I myself wrote an article which was published in The Celator magazine a couple of years ago about one such forgery (a supposed new coin portrait of Alexander):

Image

Bad forgeries I will be able to recognise from good photos, but good forgeries might need to be handled to be detected. Watch out for cast forgeries - little bubbles in the metal and mould lines around the rims (or tool marks where they've been filed off!) Real Greek coins were hammered and are often bowed/dimpled slightly. Coins are nevertheless the most straightforward and accurate dating evidence.

Other antiquities could be so wide-ranging that we would have to address them on a case-by-case basis as you showed us photos.

Best regards,

Andrew
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Semiramis »

Hi John and Andrew,

If you guys do find something of historical significance (rings, coins, tiles etc.), is it permissible to just purchase it from a local who doesn't know its real value and take it out of the country? I am completely ignorant on the topic but there must be local or international laws protecting nations' historical heritage? I recall a massive bruhaha erupting lately when some relics from the Old Summer Palace in China were put on auction in France.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8313793.stm
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

I'm not sure about laws and regs in my current locale, So not sure how to answer that one :) I talked to one of the main terps today. He stated that the castle was locally named castle of the infidel, he also stated that it was called that because the king who lived there .. (?) was not a muslim. He is going to town sometime this week to check into it further so i might be able to give you some more details soon.
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Semiramis wrote:I am completely ignorant on the topic but there must be local or international laws protecting nations' historical heritage?
Hi Semiramis,

I (and I hope other Pothosians) are on your side as far as protecting ancient sites is concerned. But, whatever the laws, the reality in Afghanistan is that it is almost open season on archaeological sites - I could remind you that the previous Afghan regime (who JohnT may confirm are still active in the margins :!: ) actually blew up ancient colossal statues in the name of religious dogma. Obviously, we could look away and wring our hands and say it is the responsibility of the Authorities. Alternatively, we could try to build a dossier of evidence on any unrecognised Alexander-related sites that we would like to see actively protected from the mayhem. It is only such concrete evidence of their importance that is likely to persuade anyone in authority to make any significant efforts at protecting sites in Afghanistan. If this involves talking and dealing with local antiquities dealers, then it is justified by the objective imho.

I think it is quite obvious than JohnT has no nefarious intentions towards exploiting this site and raiding it for antiquities to sell on the Black Market, because, frankly, posting his pictures on Pothos is absolutely the last thing he would have done, if he did. As most of us here know, posting on Pothos is a very public activity :!:

JohnT: the information that this fortress is known as the Castle of the Infidels is very interesting. Please do pursue the matter. I will continue to offer advice, where I can.

Best regards,

Andrew
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Fiona »

This thread is so exciting! I keep popping in for the latest instalment. Those photos are fantastic. Thanks for the details and interpretation, Andrew, and thanks for this wonderful find, John. Keep safe, you and all your crew.
Cheers,
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Semiramis »

JohnT wrote:I'm not sure about laws and regs in my current locale, So not sure how to answer that one :)
Taphoi wrote:
Semiramis wrote:I am completely ignorant on the topic but there must be local or international laws protecting nations' historical heritage?
Hi Semiramis,

I (and I hope other Pothosians) are on your side as far as protecting ancient sites is concerned. But, whatever the laws, the reality in Afghanistan is that it is almost open season on archaeological sites - I could remind you that the previous Afghan regime (who JohnT may confirm are still active in the margins :!: ) actually blew up ancient colossal statues in the name of religious dogma. Obviously, we could look away and wring our hands and say it is the responsibility of the Authorities. Alternatively, we could try to build a dossier of evidence on any unrecognised Alexander-related sites that we would like to see actively protected from the mayhem. It is only such concrete evidence of their importance that is likely to persuade anyone in authority to make any significant efforts at protecting sites in Afghanistan. If this involves talking and dealing with local antiquities dealers, then it is justified by the objective imho.

I think it is quite obvious than JohnT has no nefarious intentions towards exploiting this site and raiding it for antiquities to sell on the Black Market, because, frankly, posting his pictures on Pothos is absolutely the last thing he would have done, if he did. As most of us here know, posting on Pothos is a very public activity :!:

JohnT: the information that this fortress is known as the Castle of the Infidels is very interesting. Please do pursue the matter. I will continue to offer advice, where I can.

Best regards,

Andrew
HI John and Andrew,

I am not objecting to cataloguing or studying historical sites in Afghanistan, whether they are related to Alexander or not. Afghanistan used to be a seat of culture and learning as well as center of power, so it is certainly a worthy objective. In my post, I was concerned about the transfer of historically significant relics outside of Afghanistan. Andrew, in your post you mention the Taleban regime's destruction of the Buddha statues and the predictable presence of resistance to the US-led occupation. Are you saying that these facts justify the transfer of Afghan historical treasures out of the country without any input from the Afghan people?

While I love the idea of building dossiers of evidence, whether this would ensure that the sites are "actively protected from the mayhem" is another matter. While we are being realistic, it is not just "open season" on archeological sites but also on human beings, infrastructure and elections in Afghanistan. One has to wonder exactly where in the priority list these sites should be.

I wasn't thinking about the black market when I wrote that post actually. It is something I associate more with the Iraqi invasion as by all accounts the amount of Iraqi historical treasures that passed into the black market is mind-numbing. By contrast, the article I mentioned in the last post is about the sale of Chinese treasures in a perfectly legal public auction. However, this did not appear to dampen Chinese perception that these were "stolen" or "plundered". It may just be something to ponder if we're discussing valuable Afghan coins, rings etc.
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by JohnT »

could we keep political and personal views about the war, ( even as side references ) out of this post please :) If your not here then in my opinion you dont know what your talkin about. But semi, i do see your point. My only counter point, is if i can get a coin to send to a museum or some such, at least there would be some sort of record of where it came from and so on so forth. If i couldn't that same coin would more than likely end up in someones box at home or some personal collection.
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Paralus »

JohnT wrote:could we keep political and personal views about the war, ( even as side references ) out of this post please :) .
With which I absolutely agree. "John T" is operating in a most sensitive environment and, I would imagine, that includes his access to and use of communication.

Words such as "occupation" are misplaced...
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Semiramis »

JohnT wrote:could we keep political and personal views about the war, ( even as side references ) out of this post please :) If your not here then in my opinion you dont know what your talkin about. But semi, i do see your point. My only counter point, is if i can get a coin to send to a museum or some such, at least there would be some sort of record of where it came from and so on so forth. If i couldn't that same coin would more than likely end up in someones box at home or some personal collection.
Paralus wrote:With which I absolutely agree. "John T" is operating in a most sensitive environment and, I would imagine, that includes his access to and use of communication.

Words such as "occupation" are misplaced...
John and Paralus,

I wouldn't dare argue with a man on a tank. Could you guys perhaps suggest a good replacement for this inappropriate word?
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Hi Semiramis,

Just a couple of questions for you:

1) Since the vast majority of Greek coins found in Afghanistan were minted in Iraq and Syria, should we instigate an immediate re-patriation programme for them?

2) Why do you think that these coins have heritage value in Afghanistan, since the vast majority of types were minted in huge numbers and survive in thousands (sometimes millions) of examples (with many of the best already residing in museums)?

The actual value of coins (with the exception of a few extreme rarities) is twofold:

a) Dating evidence for archaeological sites (which I note is how I advocated that JohnT should try to use them.) It is their prevalence which makes them good for dating.

b) Market value to collectors (which would cease to exist if export from Afghanistan were embargoed)

Best wishes,

Andrew
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Semiramis »

Taphoi wrote:Hi Semiramis,

Just a couple of questions for you:

1) Since the vast majority of Greek coins found in Afghanistan were minted in Iraq and Syria, should we instigate an immediate re-patriation programme for them?

2) Why do you think that these coins have heritage value in Afghanistan, since the vast majority of types were minted in huge numbers and survive in thousands (sometimes millions) of examples (with many of the best already residing in museums)?

The actual value of coins (with the exception of a few extreme rarities) is twofold:

a) Dating evidence for archaeological sites (which I note is how I advocated that JohnT should try to use them.) It is their prevalence which makes them good for dating.

b) Market value to collectors (which would cease to exist if export from Afghanistan were embargoed)

Best wishes,

Andrew
Hi Andrew,

I never suggested a re-patriation program depending on where the coins were minted. Simply that if they were found in Afghanistan, that Afghan law regarding these items be respected. I found it a bit worrying that this aspect was completely missing from the discussion. So, I'm finding the first question a bit difficult to relate to our discussion, unless I've missed something.

For your second question, you have to pardon my ignorance on the topic. When you wrote
Unfortunately, Greek era coins from Afghanistan are desirable and much forged.
I assumed they were historically significant and valuable. Is your second question basically stating that there's virtually no chance that any of these coins or jewelery would have historical value in Afghanistan? If that is a well-known fact, was there any Afghan involvement at all in coming to this decision? Because as I understand it, the country hasn't had a democratic government since 1979.

John or you or I may have the most noble intentions, but I feel that we don't have the right to make these decisions. The Afghans are not children and they don't need us to play benevolent father. They have as much right as anybody else over their own property, their own history, their own laws.

You would know about these things better than me. But can a person go into any other country and simply take things of historical value out of the country without any consultation?
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Taphoi »

Hi Semiramis,

The desirability to which I was referring was the attraction of these coins to coin collectors. That has little to do with their historical value. The coins that are useful for dating evidence which we are talking about would almost certainly be standard types, mostly not even originating in Afghanistan. They would have no significant historical value in themselves and it is pointless to be concerned about where they ultimately end up. It is a matter of complete disinterest to me as an historian. Their historical value is all in the contextual information about where exactly they were found. They could be extremely useful in establishing whether the site that JohnT has identified could have any connection with Prophthasia - or in pinning down its location elsewhere in the vicinity.

It is also pointless to rely on the efforts of the Afghan government to identify, protect and investigate Alexander-related sites in Afghanistan without prompting. I fear they have many other distractions at the moment. This thread is all about whether there is a case to prompt them to intervene at Farah. I fear that you may have misunderstood that.

Best regards,

Andrew
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Re: alex in afghanistan

Post by Semiramis »

Hi Andrew,

Yes, I think we have been talking at cross purposes. I am concerned about a mood of permissibility prevailing when it comes to valuables being taken out of Afghanistan by exploiting the country's current defenseless state. I hope Afghanistan soon gets to a stage where it will be able to protect its numerous historical sites. Seeing that currently the Afghan "government" is pretty much non-existent outside of Kabul, I will not hold by breath for this lot to do much for the location in question, if it does turn out to be of significance. However, I am optimistic that things will change for the better for Afghanistan.
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