Andrew Lawler, Journalist and Author, Reports on the Taliban Threat to Afghanistan’s Ancient Treasures

09/23/2021, New York // PRODIGY: Feature Story //

Andrew Lawler, author of The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, reported two decades ago on the toll taken by the Taliban on the ancient treasures of this Central Asian land. Two of the world’s largest statues were destroyed and innumerable sculptures and images were smashed. With the Taliban again in charge following the pullout of American and European troops, Lawler spoke with archeologists and museum curators worried about history repeating itself.

Andrew interviewed Noor Agha Noori from Afghanistan’s Institute of Archeology in Kabul on how the institute is coping with the fast-moving situation. “We didn’t expect this to happen so quickly,” said Noori, as his plans to transport artifacts to the capital from cities like Kandahar and Herat for safekeeping came to a halt due to the Afghan government’s collapse. “We have great concerns for the safety of our staff and collections,” adds the director of the National Museum of Afghanistan, Mohammad Fahim Rahimi. The nation has a rich religious past that includes Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism. The Kabul museum alone is bursting with more than 80,000 artifacts from a host of cultures which thrived here during the past three thousand years. Taliban guards now are responsible for museum security.

Andrew LawlerTaliban forces ransacked the National Museum of Afghanistan in early 2001, smashing images such as this Buddha head held by a curator

In 2001, the Taliban destroyed countless objects which belonged to the pre-Islamic past. The present situation has left some cultural heritage officials fearful there will be a reprise of destruction. Others are more hopeful. In February, Taliban leaders instructed their followers to protect, monitor and preserve the relics; halt any illegal digs; and safeguard all historic sites. The sale of artifacts was also forbidden.

Yet in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover, the fate of collections and ancient sites remains uncertain. The insurgents, for example, control Mes Aynak, a site just outside the capital that boasts of one of the world’s largest ancient Buddhist monasteries. What will happen to its 10,000 excavated artifacts and more than 2,500 gold coins is unknown.

Lawler has written extensively about history, archaeology, and threats to cultural heritage. He is author of what The Wall Street Journal calls the most authoritative book on the Lost Colony of Roanoke, as well as the upcoming volume, Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World’s Most Contested City

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About Andrew Lawler

Andrew Lawler is author of Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World’s Most Contested City, The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization. He has also contributed to a host of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, National Geographic. He is a contributing writer for both Science and Archaeology.


Andrew Lawler

Phone: (212) 352-2055


Source: 38 Digital Market News

Release ID: 37480

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