NEWS

Greece embarks on hunt for lost Bactrian treasure

Working on the hope that an ancient golden hoard found in Afghanistan by Greek-Soviet archaeologist Victor Sarianidi 24 years ago may have survived in Kabul, a team of Greek archaeologists under the «Bactrian treasure» excavator will soon visit Afghanistan to investigate, the Ministry of Culture said yesterday. During a meeting in Athens chaired by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, it was decided to send a mission «to look into the condition of the Bactrian treasure that was kept in Kabul,» a ministry statement said. The team, which will include Culture Ministry archaeologists, will leave for Afghanistan «immediately once that becomes possible.» The project will cooperate with UNESCO and the Afghan government. It is unclear what remains of the hoard excavated by Sarianidi – Sariyiannidis in Greek – from the Tillya Tepe (the Golden Mound) royal grave complex in northern Afghanistan in 1978. The 20,000 golden objects – ornaments, coins and figurines tentatively dated to 100 BC – were last heard to have been in an underground, steel-doored vault beneath the presidential palace in Kabul. That was in 1991. Since then, the Tillya Tepe finds have been wrapped in rumor, acquiring a quasi-legendary status. Recent reports agreed that the hoard was once in the vault. In one of his last interviews before being assassinated this year, Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massod confirmed this but said the Taleban – who looted and destroyed most of the Kabul Museum’s exhibits – had gained entry. If so, they may have melted down or smuggled out the Bactrian treasure. The ancient Greek kingdom of Bactria was founded by Alexander after his conquest of the area in 328 BC. It became part of the Kushan empire 200 years later.