A thousand workers are rushing to recover as many Buddhist artifacts as they can from the sites of ancient monasteries in Mes Aynak, Afghanistan before the site is destroyed by a copper mining company.
The site, a former training camp of Osama bin Laden, has been leased to a Chinese mining company for copper production. Only what can be excavated and removed to safety will be saved.
Despite the impending archaeological loss, Mes Aynak has received scant attention internationally. Moreover, Afghanistan’s heritage has suffered much in recent years from civil war, looting and the vandalism of the Taliban.
Mes Aynak (Little Copper Well) lies 25 miles south-east of Kabul, in a barren region. The Buddhist monasteries date from the third to the seventh centuries, and are located near the remains of ancient copper mines. It is unclear whether the monastery was originally established to serve the miners or if the monks set up there to work the mines themselves.
Story: Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper| Photo: The Art Newspaper