The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project 
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Other Archaeological Studies

Other Archaeological Studies (Prepared by Dr Arezou Azad)

Ball, Warwick, Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan, vol. 2 (Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1982).

Barthoux, Jules, Les Fouilles de Haḍḍa, MDAFA series (Paris, 1930-33).

Bernard, Paul. Fouilles d' Aï Khānom, MDAFA series (Paris, 1973).
___. Fouilles d' Aï Khānom, MDAFA series (Paris, 1985).

Bernard, Paul, Roland Besenval and Jean-François Jarrige, ‛Carnet de route en images d'un voyage sur les sites archéologiques de la Bactriane afghane,' in Comptes rendus des séances / Académie des inscriptions & belles-lettres (France), Fasc. 4, Nov-Dec 2002: pp. 1385-1428.

Bernard, Paul, Roland Besenval and Philippe Marquis, ‛Du « mirage bactrien » aux réalités archéologiques: nouvelles fouilles de la délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan (DAFA) à Bactres (2004-2005), Comptes rendus des séances / Académie des inscriptions & belles-lettres (France), 2007.

Besenval, Roland, ‛Rapport d'activités,' Kabul, La Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan, 2007.

Le Berre, Marc and Daniel Schlumberger, ‛Observations sur les remparts de Bactres,' in Bruno Dagens, Marc LeBerre and Daniel Schlumberger (eds), Monuments Préislamiques d'Afghanistan, MDAFA series, vol. 19 (Paris, 1964).

Curiel, Raoul, et al., Le trésor monétaire de Qunduz, MDAFA series (Paris, 1965).

Foucher, Alfred, La vieille route de l'Inde de Bactres à Taxila, MDAFA series (Paris, 1942-47).

Gardin, Jean-Claude, Céramiques de Bactres, MDAFA series, vol. 15 (Paris, 1957).

Golombek, Lisa, ‛The Abbasid mosque at Balkh,' Oriental Art 15 (1969): pp. 173-189.

Hackin, Jean, et al., Nouvelles recherches archéologiques à Bâmiyân, MDAFA series (Paris, 1933).
___. Recherches archéologiques à Begram, MDAFA series (Paris, 1939).

Knobloch, Edgar, The Archaeology & Architecture of Afghanistan (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing, 2002).

Leriche, Paul, Fouilles d'Aï Khānom, MDAFA series (Paris, 1986).

Litvinskij, Boris, The Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa (Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 2004).

Litvinskij, Boris Anatol'evich, and Tamara I. Zejmal,' ‛Kalai-Kafirnigan—Problems in the religion and art of early mediaeval Tokharistan,' East and West 31/1-4 (December 1981): pp. 35-66.

Rapin, Claude, Fouilles d' Aï Khānom, MDAFA series, (Paris, 1992).

Sarianidi, Viktor, The Golden Hoard of Bactria (New York & Leningrad: H.N. Abrams, 1985).

Schlumberger, Daniel, ‛La prospection archéologique de Bactres (printemps 1947),' Syria 26 (1949).
___. Surkh Kotal en Bactriane, MDAFA series, (Paris, 1983).

de Valence, Régis, ‛La restauration du mausolée de Baba Hatim en Afghanistan,' Paris, 1982.

Young, Rodney, ‛The south wall of Balkh-Bactra,' American Journal of Archaeology 59 (1955): pp. 267-276.

  • Brief Timeline
  • Project Milestones
  • The BACH Project
  • Recent Articles

دری ]

Bactra—the Greek name under which pre-Islamic Balkh was known—encapsulated Bronze Age settlements around 2,000 BC when its ancient water systems were built.

It was a province of the Achaemenid Empire (sixth century BC), the capital of the Hellenistic kingdom of Bactria and a part of the Kushan Empire that flourished in the first to the third centuries AD.

The first surviving textual mention of ancient Bactria is in the Vendidad section of the Avesta, the Zoroastrian Holy Book. Bactria (Baxtri) is mentioned in the trilingual inscription of the Emperor Darius I (r. 522-486 BC) at Bisutun and Persepolis as one of the Achaemenid satrapies (provinces). According to varying traditions, Balkh was founded by the mythical Iranian kings Gusthasp, his father Luhrasp, or the first man, Gayumarth. The Zoroastrian Prophet Zoroaster is rumoured to have died in Balkh.

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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).

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The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage project (BACH) is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and is housed at the Oriental Insititute, University of Oxford.

This project focuses on the site of Balkh in the north of Afghanistan, south of the Oxus (Amu Darya) River. It analyses a selection of archaeological artefacts and unexplored texts against which hypotheses concerning the development of early Islamic cities can be tested. Balkh was in existence (as 'Bactra') since at least the fifth century BC, becoming a major economic centre and flourishing from the third century BC before being significantly reduced (but not abandoned) in the thirteenth century through the Mongol invasions.

The BACH project is not just about research. An essential element concerns training. Each of BACH's scholarly experts acts as a mentor and trainer to an Afghan trainee to analyse the material culture from, or textual finds on, Balkh. Trainees obtain daily on-the-job training during focussed visits to Kabul by BACH team members. The training follows a pre-determined curriculum, and includes reading lists of books and articles to be discussed during training. Trainees obtain stipends, and have the opportunity to engage with an international network through their mentors.

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Journal articles

Shaked, Shaul, "Early Persian Documents from Khorasan" Journal of Persianate Studies 6 (2013): pp 153-162

Azad, Arezou, "The Faḍāʾil-i Balkh and its place in Islamic historiography" IRANJournal of the British Institute of Persian Studies 50 (2012): pp 79-102

Azad, Arezou, "Female Mystics in Mediaeval Islam: the quiet legacy", Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 56 (2013): pp 53-88

Siméon P., 2012."Hulbuk: Architecture and Material Culture of the Capital of the Banijurids in Central Asia (ninth–eleventh centuries)", Muqarnas, An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World, vol. 29, pp. 385-421.

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