Bactrian treasure emerges

After remaining locked for 14 years in a Kabul bank vault, which the Taleban Islamist militia tried hard to crack but failed, a gold hoard excavated in northern Afghanistan and associated with the Greco-Bactrian successors of Alexander the Great saw the light of day yesterday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was present at the opening of the vault containing some 20,000 artifacts excavated in Tillya Tepe (which means «the golden hill») by Greek-Russian archaeologist Victor Sarianidi in 1978. «Fortunately, the gold exists,» Karzai said. «We opened one box and saw it. Everything is safe and in its place.» After the fall of the Taleban, widespread fears were expressed that the collection might have fallen into the hands of the Islamic militants, who looted and destroyed most of the Kabul Museum’s exhibits. Last year, the Greek Culture Ministry had announced plans to send experts to Kabul «to look into the condition of the treasure.» The kingdom of Bactria, in northern Afghanistan, was conquered by Alexander in 327 BC. His Greco-Bactrian successors ruled the area for 200 years.