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Legendary Bactrian Gold Finally Surfaces




30 August 2003

Legendary 2000-year-old Tillya Tepe Bactrian gold hoard is safe and sound after lying hidden in a bank vault for the past 14 years, President Hamid Karzai said on Friday.

The priceless collection of gold ornaments dating back about 2000 years was safely stored in a presidential palace vault throughout the civil war and Taliban regime.

"Fortunately the gold exists. We opened one box and saw the gold," Karzai told reporters minutes after the vault was opened on Friday morning for the first time in more than a decade. "Everything is safe and in its place... " Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, central bank governor Anwar Ul-haq Ahady, Justice Minister Abdul Rahim Karimi and other experts were inspecting the hoard before resealing and locking the treasury, he said.

Since Afghanistan separation from mainland Iran by British, much of Ancient Eastern-Iranian rich cultural heritage was destroyed or looted during the 1992-96 civil war and under the Taliban, who notoriously destroyed the ancient Buddha statues in Bamiyan valley.

"We need to take stock because there are some very valuable manuscripts and particularly our major collection of gold coins from Tillya Tepe, or the 'Golden Hill'," Ghani told reporters earlier this month when he revealed that the priceless antiquities were safe. Ghani said the vault had not been opened in more than 14 years despite efforts by the Taliban to force staff to reveal the code.

"Last time we had difficulties opening the inner vault because during the Taliban they tried to open this and the staff of the bank very courageously had blocked the code. They were beaten almost senseless... but resisted and did not reveal the code," he said.

The collection was unearthed in northern Afghanistan in 1978 during the excavation of ancient burial mounds by Greek-Russian archaeologist Victor Sariyannidis, just prior to the Soviet invasion.

The tombs near Sheberghan held around 20,000 objects, including gold coins and jewellery. Present-day northern Afghanistan was the former Iranian kingdom of Bactria, which is the birth place of prophet Zoroaster. Bactria was conquered by Alexander in 327 BCE.



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