Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Bactrian treasure saved by security guard

"The fate of the Golden Hoard of Bactria, an ancient collection of 20,000 artefacts, has been the subject of fantastic rumours: that it was stolen by Soviet troops or looted by the Taliban to be sold through antique dealers in Pakistan to fund a terrorist network.
But the treasure remained safe largely due to the efforts of one man: Askerzai, who has been guardian of the vaults for 30 years. Mr Askerzai, 50, an employee of the central bank, is one of the few people in history to have seen the 20,000 gold objects. 'It's the best heritage of our country,' he said."

"The coins, medallions, plates, and necklaces set with precious stones were excavated in 1978 in modern Balkh province, northern Afghanistan, which was known as Bactria when Alexander the Great conquered the country."