Bactrian gold may go on tour

KABUL (Reuters) – The world could soon catch a glimpse of the fabled Bactrian gold found in northern Afghanistan and linked with the Greco-Bactrian successors of Alexander the Great, as preparations get under way to exhibit some of the 20,000 or so pieces. Dates and locations have yet to be finalized but the United States, France, Germany, Japan and Greece are among countries interested in hosting the 2,000-year-old hoard that has miraculously remained intact despite years of war and upheaval. While other important archaeological sites have been plundered or destroyed by war, the Bactrian gold discovered at the burial mound of Tillya Tepe (which means «the golden hill») by Greek-Russian archaeologist Victor Sarianidi in 1978, just before the Red Army invasion of 1979, has had a number of narrow escapes, adding to its allure and mystery. «When the process of inventory is done, we will decide,» Culture and Information Minister Sayed Makhdoom Raheen said. «We will sit down with the Americans, the Germans, French and Japanese and make a joint decision on arranging a tour.» An Afghan official who viewed the gold objects recently in an underground vault in the heavily guarded presidential palace in Kabul described the pieces as «priceless.» Hardly anyone sees the collection, and those who do are searched by armed US mercenaries. After the fall of the Taleban in November 2001, many assumed the gold was lost. But it was discovered intact after the vault was finally opened in August for the first time in 14 years, prompting a Greek offer to send experts «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.