Since the 1920s, French archaeologists have been strongly rooted in this region. Until recently they have concentrated on the Buddhist period, whose heritage was severely damaged in the war: large standing and seated Buddhas, Buddha of the Kakrak Valley, and painted caves of the Fuladi Valley. Yet, the destruction of the giant Buddha statues by the Talibans in 2001 has, alas, helped to attract international attention to the Bamiyan Valley.
The French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan, which will soon celebrate its one-hundredth anniversary, is now a genuine pillar of our two countries’ cooperation. At the Afghan Government’s request, it is helping to draw up the archaeological map of the country that will be essential in protecting national heritage. It also trains numerous local archaeologists and leads research on the region’s past.
Today, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development supports the French-Afghan Archaeological Mission in Bamiyan (MAFAB), led by Thomas Lorain. This innovative mission is interested in this region’s Islamic period, which has long been in the shadow of the period preceding it. The remains of this period have also been severely damaged. Some examples include the shelling and fire on the site of the Chehel Dokhtaran Minaret, the occupation and mining of the Shahr-e Gholgholah Citadel, not to mention the systematic looting of archaeological equipment, no matter what period and still a major threat to this region today. Ceramic items, coins and statues remain targets of illicit trafficking.
In Bamiyan, the local populations and authorities view international assistance and the archaeological mission very positively. In 2003, the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List. This ensured financing and specific aid, for example, for demining, which is today completed.
Updated: december 2016
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