While us girls journeyed to the Panjshir Valley, the men were picked up early to go to Mes Aynak. It’s a rescue dig being done by a conglomeration of Polish, British, French, Turkish, Greek, American and Afghan archaeologists plus 400 Afghan diggers, They have only 14 months to catalogue the site before a Chinese mining company starts to clear the area for their copper mine.
My partner was allowed to take photos because the archaeologists are heartbroken about losing such an important site. They know that there’s even more to discover but they don’t have the time or the resources to excavate much more. They were given $30 million to do the work but the Afghan Government has only passed on $300,000 to them and has pocketed the rest. No one’s been paid for 6 months and there’s talk of the site being looted extensively, with container loads of artefacts being airlifted out of the country and lots on sale in Pakistan.
Frescos, stupas, Buddhas and copper lined house walls have been found to date. We’ve were asked not to tell anyone about the site and not to pass on any photos. [The site is no longer a secret and has been the subject of a “Save Mes Aynak” campaign in 2015. The Chinese are now reluctant to start mining because of militant attacks on their workers].
Dinner in our usual garden restaurant was punctuated by a distant explosion and sirens but there was nothing about it on the news so, hopefully, no one was hurt. A bomb blast in Herat market injured 14 people today.