This morning, The Washington Post had a story that suggests, to me at least, another sign of progress in Afghanistan:
They were priceless artifacts, and the Kabul Museum curators wrapped them carefully, some of them in pink toilet paper, others in newspaper, and put them in metal boxes. Then government people, eight to 10 of them, signed pieces of paper that were glued to the locks. No box would be opened unless all the signers were there.
That was a quarter-century ago, during the Soviet occupation. But the pact held through the warlordism of the late 1980s and 1990s, through the xenophobic rule of the Taliban and the American invasion.
Many feared the treasures were lost forever, but yesterday archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert announced that a just-completed inventory showed that all but a handful had been recovered from hidden caches in Kabul's presidential palace complex and other "safe places."
The printed Post has some photos of some of the artifacts, and they're indeed impressive: coins, a brooch that, as the caption suggests, shows Greek, Bactrian and Indian influence, a very Roman looking relief...
More interesting than the individual objects, more heartening to me, I think, is what their emergence means. After the Soviet invasion, after the years of civil war and anarchy followed by the despotism of the Taliban, Afghans have regained a measure of stability, a measure of normalcy, which allows them to open boxes filled with the treasures of their past and admire them and display them proudly to the world with the expectation that their treasures will be safe from crooks and looters or the heinous Taliban who proved themselves to be the worst sort of destroyers of culture. I liked this bit, about the unnamed defenders of culture, to whom we should all be grateful:
"Twenty-five years ago, there was a museum director and a minister of culture" who "realized that the museum was imperiled," Hiebert said. "They're long gone -- disappeared or passed away." When the boxes were recovered, "nobody knew exactly what was in them."
Or where they had been for two decades, or when they had arrived at their final storage places, sometimes after enduring abuses that Hiebert could only guess at.
"Every time an object came out [of a box] there was a stab of fear, followed by a leap of joy," Hiebert said in a telephone news conference to announce the discoveries. "It was amazing these artifacts were in such stable condition. The boxes were dented . . . and there was evidence that animals had nested on them."
A near run thing, no doubt, and (in my view) not nearly as important as girls returning to schools or women voting in elections, but a grand thing still, and yet another victory for the Afghan people--and for all of us.Posted by Ideofact at November 18, 2004 11:32 AM