From September 24 to October 1 a Lithuanian delegation of archaeologists conducted a visit in the province of Ghor of Afghanistan. The aim of their visit was to deliver knowledge about the protection of cultural heritage to the personnel of the Culture and Information Department. It was the fourth visit by Lithuanian archaeologists to Afghanistan, the activities of the former expeditions were summarised and the collected material and methodological advice was handed over to local cultural heritage protection officers, writes urm.lt.
“This time we have organised a cycle of lectures for the provincial cultural staff to inform them about our findings from the previous expeditions as well as to reveal the importance of our findings to Ghor,” told one of the participants of the expedition Aleksiejus Luchtanas. “In our meetings we submitted our methodological material to local personnel, familiarised new members of staff with the discovered and registered archaeological monuments, instructed them on the rules of documentation filling as such is going to be their responsibility from now on.”
During the expeditions a number of archaeological discoveries were made – remains of ancient settlements and separate buildings, an ancient town Koshke Bohar, a Buddhist monastery Vozguna Sange Bar, remains of Buddhist castles and fortresses, Chalcolithic and Iron Age rock paintings of ancient inhabitants near the Qal’a-i-Malek Antaṟ Castle, a mythological and sacred place – the tomb of the legendary ruler Zahok, described by the ancient Persian poem “Chach Nama” – have been discovered. All of the findings cover a large chronological timeline – from the Chalcolithic (the 5th -3th millennium BC) to the era of Islam (the 13th c.).
“In global maps this location of Afghanistan was a “white spot”,” Lithuanian specialists commented on their initial experience. As a result of the first two expeditions the Lithuanian archaeologists discovered and recorded 20 archaeological monuments so announcing for the first time about their existence to the world. Lithuanian’s activities triggered information systematisation in the entire country. “No archaeological monument register has existed in this country prior to the Lithuanian archaeologists’ activities”, the Lithuanian archaeology specialists told.
The archaeologists said that during the first expedition in 2007 a number of uncertainties occurred. It was a question if Lithuanian specialists would be able to recognise and date archaeological objects discovered in the province of Ghor because of significant differences between Lithuanian and Central Asian heritage. Work in different climatic and security conditions was also a concern as alpine areas and threats lurking were dictating the pace and swing of work. However, the fundamental question of the time was: “Do local population consider this activity useful and acceptable?”
An affirmative answer to the latter question was the critical one to the Lithuanian archaeologists. Local religious leaders – mullahs – and local population appreciated the activity of Lithuanian archaeologists from the very start. For that reason members of the expedition became well aware of the local way of life – invitations for tea, dinner, escorts to the archaeological objects – all of it was real and unfaked.
According to the archaeologists, the situation has altered beyond recognition so far. Personnel of the Culture and Information Department of Chaghcharan collect information about new objects and send their findings to the Cultural Monument Protection Department in Kabul independently. “We didn’t need to use a spade in our work. Identification of cultural objects required only recognising them in the scenery, verifying them according to local toponyms and hydronyms, noticing fragments of pots brought to the surface of soil by erosion of illegal digging. Today local specialists are applying this knowledge successfully”, told supervisor of the expeditions Daiva Luchtanienė.
All of the archaeological expeditions stayed at the PRT compound together with the Lithuanian peacekeepers. Archaeological explorations were conducted only in daylight hours due to the security situation in the province.
Currently, PRT-15 formed by the Lithuanian Grand Duchess Birutė Motorised Infantry Battalion of the Lithuanian Land Force ensures security in Ghor. Lithuanian civilian and military personnel in Ghor executes the peacekeeping mission along with the colleagues from Georgia, Japan, USA, Poland, Finland, the Check Republic, Ukraine, Croatia and Bulgaria. In November they will hand over the mission to the PRT-16 which has nearly completed the pre-deployment training, and in May 2013 Lithuania’s mission in Ghor will be finalised by the PRT-17 which has already begun their training routines.
PRT Civilian Element includes representatives of Lithuanian, Japanese and U.S. offices that represent the governments of their respective states and conduct development cooperation programs and projects.