Thursday, December 22, 2011

Afghanistan: a Producer of Jewelry from Pre-historic Times

When we received word that we were moving from the heavily traveled roads of Turkey to what to us sounded like the wilds of Afghanistan, I was up for the adventure, but imagined a culture begun by Alexander the Great and modified by the Arabic influence of the Moslem expansion from Mecca and Medina. Fortunately, we were able to travel overland through the major influence on Afghanistan, which is Iran. In our trip from Meshed in Eastern Iran across the border to Herat in Afghanistan, we could hardly tell we had crossed a border. In fact, Herat was more important and more cultured (in the modern sense of the word) than Meshed. We could not spend any time in Herat because we were trying to make it from Meshed to Kandahar where we could stay in the US AID guest house and see some familiar surroundings for a change, after a week of managing to communicate with Turkish and German! We did not have time to study Farsi before we left Ankara.

So we started across the desert in our trusty Land Rover. Practically no other traffic on the American built asphalt highway, only those dancing mirages to tease us in the lengthening distance. The only break in our boredom came from drinking warm beer -- actually hot beer -- because we had no air conditioner in our Rover. That is, until we were shocked to see a figure come out from under a culvert in a begging posture, which we had not anticipated. My husband was the driver for this trip, so he was trying desperately to steer around the figure that to our sun-dazzled eyes appeared menacing, not mendicant. It took us probably a quarter mile on down the road to decide exactly who or what we had met and avoided. Who knows what else was lurking under the culvert? We did not hang around to find out.

But now I will get back on topic -- maybe. Once we began to study the language, to prowl the bazaars and to study the prehistory of Afghanistan, we began to appreciate our posting to that country. Actually, we would have been happy to have spent the remainder of our term of service abroad in Kabul. No wonder we continued to learn and to form friendships with people such as Victor Sarianidi, a Russian archeologist who excavated so much of the Bactria Margiana civilization (ca. 2500 to 1600 B.C.) that extended from Turkmenistan through Iran and Afghanistan, on to the Western reaches of Mesopotamia.

Victor became our friend and I was able to assist in editing the English version of three of his books on the excavations: Myths of Ancient Bactria and Margiana on its Seals and Amulets, Moscow, 1998; and Necropolis of Gonur, Athens, 2007; Margiana and Protozoroastrism, Athens, 2---.

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