1.18.2007

Afghanistan: Hellenistic Architecture

Very little of the Hellenistic cities of Afghanistan survives today, but these magnificent architectural elements are included in the exhibition on Afghanistan currently at the Guimet in Paris.

Corinthian Capital
Afghanistan, Balkh, Tepe Zargaran
3rd century BC
Limestone
83 x 61 x 58 cm
Musée National d’Afghanistan



Corinthian capital
Afghanistan, Aï Khanoum
3rd century BC
Limestone
81.5 x 81 x 74 cm
Musée National d’Afghanistan


Antefix with palmette
Afghanistan, Aï Khanoum,
From the administrative quarter of the city
3rd century BC
Terracotta
35 x 15 x 17 cm
Musée National d’Afghanistan - MK 05.42.84/12-19





All photographs © Thierry Ollivier / musée Guimet

Information about Balkh and region from the Guimet's web site:
Balkh (Bactra)
A mythical town, the place where the marriage of Alexander and Roxane took place in 327 BCE, Bactra or Balkh was feted by the classical authors, the Chinese, the Arabs and the Persians as, « Balkh the Beautiful, Balkh the Mother of all towns », before it was pillaged by Gengis Khan in 1220. Alfred Foucher, founder of the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA) attempted to carry out digs on the citadel, but was disappointed not to find any Greek remains under the deposits from the Islamic periods. After some chance discoveries of Hellenistic architectural features, near Balkh, at Tepe Zargaran, DAFA, after excavation was resumed on this collection of sites in 2003, was able to uncover in 2004, 7 metres below ground, an accumulation of architectural blocks. Many of these had originated from demolished Greek buildings, doubtless former neighbours, and had been used in the construction of a fortification. Under the ramparts from the Kushan period, appears an enclosure wall doubtless from the Greek period, while a stupa established by the king Mega Soter (Vima Takto), in the middle of the 1st century BCE, is the oldest Bactrian Buddhist monument. In the Balkh citadel, significant remains going back to the Achmenidean period, (6th – 4th centuries BCE) are currently undergoing excavation.

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