Monuments of Afghanistan: History, Archaeology and Architecture

Monuments of Afghanistan: History, Archaeology and Architecture

by Warwick Ball


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Monuments of Afghanistan: History, Archaeology and Architecture by Warwick Ball

Afghanistan, a country which for generations has inspired writers, travellers and explorers, does not lend itself to easy categorization. Straddling Central Asia, and situated at the edges of the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, Afghanistan distills elements and characteristics from all three of these regions. For Afghanistan is part of them all—and at the same time a part of none. And, as Warwick Ball shows in this richly illustrated and timely book, herein lies an explanation for Afghanistan’s allure, its cultural wealth, and ultimately perhaps its tragedy. For it is a country whose complex essence is hard to define, a land which has always taken on aspects from outside, but which remains as stubbornly individualistic as its own mountainous landscape. That challenge posed by its distinct component parts looking in different directions has resulted in multi-layered and sometimes problematic questions of identity.

Monuments of Afghanistan is a completely unique and meticulously researched guide to the history and background of this fascinating country. It provides broad summaries of the history, architecture and archaeology of the region, together with a gazetteer of the main monuments and archaeological sites. As Warwick Ball shows, no history of China, Persia, India or Russia can be understood without continual reference to the landlocked area at whose center lies the majestic deserts and sweeping mountain ranges. Afghanistan has always seemed to be the enigmatic key to the histories and destinies of others. Even today large tracts of this remarkable country remain unexplored and unknown. There is therefore a need for a book which describes and reveals its hidden treasures for the general reader and students. The Monuments of Afghanistan—which contains 150 color plates of such extraordinary artifacts as the 38 meter Bamiyan Buddha (notoriously destroyed by the Taliban), the Minaret of Mas’ud at Ghazni, the Iron Age citadel at Kandahar, the mausoleum at Kuhsan and the Minaret of Jam—meets that requirement.

Yet there is a further reason why the appearance of this book is so significant. Twenty years of fighting and instability have taken their toll on the immense Afghan cultural legacy. Destruction of the Bamiyan statues was merely the most public casualty among many others. This book chronicles and illustrates all of the major (and many lesser known) monuments and buildings that have been lost or damaged. Based on this extraordinary collection of photographs taken before the destruction in Afghanistan, the book captures the memory of a heritage under threat. There is a pressing need for this record of all the buildings—whether now lost, or still surviving—in their entirety, and which testifies in photographic form to their dignity and beauty. The Monuments of Afghanistan represents, above all, an enduring and poignant memorial to a culture built in one of the most extraordinary and transporting landscapes on earth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781850434368
Publisher: I. B.Tauris & Company, Limited
Publication date: 07/22/2008
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 10.70(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Warwick Ball, F.S.A., M.I.F.A., is a distinguished writer and archaeologist who has conducted excavations in Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and Ethiopia. From 1972-1981 he worked in Afghanistan under successive regimes from kingdom to Soviet occupation. Between 1981-82 he was Acting Director of the British Institute of Afghan Studies. From 1983-85 he was Architectural Conservator in the Department of Antiquities in Jordan, and then between 1985-88 he served as Director of Excavations and Assistant Director of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq. He is now Director of Eastern Approaches, a company organizing tours to central Asia and beyond. He has published numerous books, which include Syria: A Historical and Architectural Guide (1994), Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire (2000) and (with Leonard Harrow) Cairo to Kabul: Afghan and Islamic Studies Presented to Ralph Pinder-Wilson (2002). Rome in the East won the James Henry Breasted Prize for History in 2000, and was Choice’s Outstanding Academic Book in the same year.

Table of Contents

• List of Plates
• List of Drawings
• Note on Transliteration
• Abbreviations
• Introduction
• General Background
• The Land
• The People
• The Historical Background
• Disruption: From Hunter-gatherer to Settler
• Consolidation: Towards Civilisation
• Transcendence: First Civilisations of the Bronze Age
• Disruption: The Arrival of the Indo-Iranians
• Consolidation: The Iron Age Kingdoms
• Transcendence: The Persian Empire
• Disruption: Alexander of Macedon
• Consolidation: Greeks and Indians
• Transcendence: The Greaco-Bactrian Kingdom
• Disruption: Nomadic Invaders
• Consolidation: The Early Kushans
• Transcendence: The Kushan Empire and Gandharan Art
• Disruption: Huns and Turks
• Consolidation: The Turk Kaganate
• Transcendence: Last Flowering of Gandharan Art
• Disruption: The Arrival of Islam
• Consolidation: The First Muslim Dynasties
• Transcendence: The Ghaznavid and Ghurid Empires
• Disruption: Mongol Invasions
• Consolidation: The 'Pax Mongolica'
• Transcendence: The Timurid Renaissance
• The Architectural Background
• Groundwork: Bronze Age Beginnings
• Culminating Traditions: Iron Age Development
• Convergent Traditions: Hellenism from the West, Buddhism from the East
• Greek, Roman, Buddhist: The Art of Gandhara
• Formation of the New and Transformation of the Old: The Architecture of Islam
• Late Islamic Architecture
• The Discovery of Afghanistan
• Greeks Bearing Gifts
• Pilgrims of the Middle Way
• Exotic Imagery and the First Muslims
• The European Re-awakening
• Arcadia Found: The First Mogul
• Soldiers, Charlatans and Scholars
• Players in the Great Game
• Advance of the Archaeologists
• Road to Katmandu and Road to Ruin
• Gazetteer of Main Sites and Monuments
• Atlas
• Glossary
• Bibliography

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