Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
& CULTURAL NEWS OF THE IRANIAN WORLD
Antiquities Returned to Kabul
25 November 2006
(CAIS) -- The
Kābul Museum in Exile, in Switzerland, is closing, and its collection will be
sent back to Kabul as Unesco has determined that the situation in the Afghan
capital is now safe enough. Items donated for safekeeping are therefore being
packed, for their return.
The museum in exile is in the village of Bubendorf, 20
kilometres outside Basel. It was established by Swiss scholar Paul
Bucherer-Dietschi in 1999, to house artefacts from war-torn Afghanistan.
But politics quickly intervened, and initial plans to
temporarily evacuate the Kabul Museum’s collection were never implemented,
because of problems in Afghanistan and a lack of support from UNESCO.
In March 2001, in an act of extreme cultural vandalism,
the British-US backed Taliban blew up the two giant Bamiyan Buddhas and
ransacked the Kabul Museum, destroying or severely damaging most of the
Although the museum in exile in Switzerland never received
the contents of the Kabul Museum, it was given objects by well-wishers from
outside Afghanistan. The Bubendorf collection eventually numbered 1,300 items,
85% of which are ethnographic. There are 200 archaeological objects, including
two Bagrām ivories. There are also finds from post-Achaemenid Āi Khānūm. All
this material is to be handed over shortly to Omara Khan Massoudi, director of
the Kabul Museum. Its building was severely damaged during the recent civil
wars, but was reconstructed two years ago.
the artefacts were gold and silver vessels from Mir Zaka II hoard, a gold censer
in the shape of a high beaker on a round base from which thin trails imitating
wisps of incense twist upwards. Another piece among them was a squat silver bowl
with an out-turned rim, with the impressed image of a seahorse or Hippocampus,
its curled tail terminating in a crescent-shaped curve, on the inside of the
the sculptures many depict Zoroastrian priests, figurines,
gold plaques, rings, and intaglios from the post-Achaemenid period. The
jewelery in the hoard, in particular pendants, earrings, and bracelets, amounted
to several kilograms in weight! The
most sensational numismatic in the collection is a coin of Nasten, a hitherto unknown Iranian
ruler in India. On the obverse, within a bead-and-reel border, the coin carries
a bust of the diademed king to right wearing a helmet with a long, flowing crest
and a mantle. The reverse shows the king on a prancing horse riding to the
right, and wears a helmet with a long, flowing crest.
The very concept of the museum in exile, or safe haven, is
a controversial one. There are those who believe that the idea should be adopted
when there is a strong threat to a museum in a war-torn country. Others see the
dangers of this approach, and believe collections should be safe-guarded in
is the Light on the Path to Future"
British Institute of Persian Studies