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The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project 

Project Milestones

September 2011 - Launch of the BACH project

5-6 January 2012 - First BACH workshop in Oxford. Participants on the first day were limited to team members and special advisors to discuss the parameters of the BACH project, its training agenda, and practicalities, logistics and context. Day 2 included a wider audience of key experts on Afghan art, archaeology, documentary and narrative history of Balkh and comparable cities. Participants included Philippe Marquis, Roland Besenval, Edmund Bosworth, Nicholas Sims-Wiliams, Geoffrey Khan, Deborah Klimburg-Salter, James Howard-Johnston, Étienne de la Vaissière, Frantz Grenet, and Chahriyar Adle (by video link). Presentations were made on the basic topography of Balkh, the Nuh Gunbad (Hajji Piyada) site, and Zadiyan in the northern confines of the Balkh oasis, on coins, and Chinese and Arabic sources on historical Balkh. Comparanda from cities like Samarqand and Dehistan (Turkmenistan) were also considered.

April 2012 - First visit by BACH Oxford to Kabul conducted by Michael Jackson Bonner, aimed principally at working out the key elements and modalities for BACH cooperation on the ground, together with the Ministry of Information and Culture and the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan (DAFA).

On the ancient wall of Balkh and a watchtower. Photo by Arezou Azad.On the ancient wall of Balkh and a watchtower. Photo by Arezou Azad.June 2012 - Second BACH visit to Kabul conducted by the Principal Investigator, Edmund Herzig, together with Bruce Wannell (independent scholar and advisor to the BACH project). Further modalities for project collaboration were worked out during this visit, and key consultations were held with local and international stakeholders.

September 2012 – Third BACH visit to Kabul conducted by Robert Hoyland and Stefan Heidemann. Hoyland conducted the first round of the Early Islamic History of Afghanistan and Central Asia Seminar Series on 19-22 September at the University of Kabul. There were 12 participants who were drawn from a variety of backgrounds: the National Museum, Kabul University, UNESCO and the American Studies Institute. Heidemann conducted four training sessions on numismatics for curators at the Kabul National Museum. He also began studying the coins excavated recently from Balkh by DAFA.

January-February 2013 – Fourth BACH visit, to Kabul and Balkh, by BACH ceramicist Pierre Siméon. Siméon conducted training sessions for three colleagues at the Afghan Institute of Archaeology.

August 2013 - Fifth BACH visit to Kabul, by BACH Persianist Ali Mir Ansari. Ali is carrying out research on the manuscripts of the Fada'il-i Balkh, and delivering a training for the staff of the National Archives of Kabul on identification, cataloguing and archiving of manuscripts.

August-October 2013 - Sixth BACH visit to Kabul by numismatists, Stefan Heidemann and Matthias Naue, who are continuing the research on Balkh's coins begun in September 2012. They will be training Afghan colleagues in numismatic handling.

September 2013 - Seventh BACH visit to Kabul by ceramicist Pierre Simeon. Details forthcoming.

Banner Image: Tepe Rustam of Balkh, thought to be the old Buddhist temple site of Naw Bahar. Photo by Arezou Azad