Showing posts with label Buddhism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buddhism. Show all posts

November 22, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014 - ,, No comments

Brent Huffman's documentary "Saving Mes Aynak" will screen six times at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam Nov. 22-30

Image from Mes Aynak (Brent Huffman)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Brent Huffman's documentary Saving Mes Aynak will premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam this week. Here's a list of the show times. A synopsis of the film:
“Like a mother watching her child dying right in front of her.” This is how archeologist Qadir Temori describes his feelings about the excavations that are threatened with destruction, all because a Chinese company will mine for copper directly on the archeological site Mes Aynak in Afghanistan. Temori is here with an international team of experts and volunteers, braving the threat of terrorism to dig up stunning ancient treasures. According to him, they are comparable in scale to a discovery such as Pompeii. It’s a race against the clock, because the mining company has given the archeologists a limited timeframe to excavate the 2,000-year-old Buddhist structures and relics. As in the case of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, destroyed by the Taliban around the turn of the millennium, valuable archeological objects are in jeopardy once again, although for different reasons this time. “Our history and heritage will vanish along with the money,” Temori sighs, indicating that the country will see little of the huge sums paid by the Chinese company to Afghan government officials for the mining rights. But there is hope: a protest has been registered with UNESCO and the Chinese company has put its copper mining activities on hold, at least for the time being. Saving Mes Aynak shows the dedication of the archeologists and the vulnerability of their discoveries, captured here in all their delicate splendor. - See more at:
And here's the link to the segment on the November 19 PBS Newshour by Frank Carlson, "In 'Saving Mes Aynak,' a real-life Indiana Jones fights to protect Afghanistan's Buddhist heritage".

Here are previous posts on the ARCA blog regarding Mes Aynak:

In this profile of Dr. Laura Rush, it is noted that the U.S. Military Army Corp of Engineers allocated one million dollars to support artifact preservation in Mes Aynak.

"Mes Aynak's archaeological wealth from the Bronze Age to ancient Buddhists threatened by excavation of world's second largest copper deposit" September 11, 2012

"Documentarian Brent Huffman Warns of Dangerous Precedent Being Set in Afghanistan if Mes Aynak is destroyed in order to mine copper" September 13, 2012

"Mes Aynak Archaeologists Given More Time to Remove Relics and Artifacts" January 7, 2013

"The Buddhas of Mes Aynak: Kickstart Funds Used to Purchase Computers and Cameras for Afghan Archaeology Office in Kabul" April 14, 2013

"American Institute for Roman Culture to Host Third Annual UNLISTED Conference on Archaeological Cultural Heritage" April 15, 2013

"Brent E. Huffman Presenting Special Advanced Screening of "Saving Mes Aynak" at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York on Dec. 18" December 15, 2013

"Fair Observer's Will Calhoun publishes two-part interview with documentarian Brent H. Huffman on "The Race to Save Mes Aynak" (February 3, 2014)

February 4, 2014

Tuesday, February 04, 2014 - ,, No comments

Fair Observer's Will Calhoun publishes two-part interview with documentarian Brent E. Huffman on "The Race to Save Mes Aynak"

Will Calhoun interviewed Brent Huffman in the two-part article, "The Race to Save Mes Aynak" (Fair Observer, Feb. 1 and Feb. 2). Brent E. Huffman, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, has been working on a documentary film about the site (see previous posts on the ARCA blog). Huffman has been awarded a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to complete his documentary, hopefully by this summer. What can people do? Huffman tells Calhoun that celebrity appeal would be helpful. Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Will Calhoun: Can you give us some background on Mes Aynak? How is the site significant? 
Huffman: I’ve described it as an ancient city of vast size. It was located at a major crossroad on the Silk Road. There are many layers of material. The top layer that archaeologists have done the most work on is a 2,000-year-old Buddhist site that’s over 500,000 square meters in size, or 98 football fields — so an enormous area. There are over 400 life-size or bigger Buddhist statues, ancient manuscripts, temple structures, just a wealth of discoveries and information. The Buddhists were mining for copper using ancient techniques, so archaeologists are really excited about the ancient mining and smelting that was done. Beneath that Buddhist site is a 5,000-year-old or older Bronze Age site, an enormous area filled with this treasure trove of Bronze Age material. 
Calhoun: When was the site first discovered? 
Huffman: That’s sort of when things get complicated. I’m sure the site was known about before this, but the first written evidence that the site was traveled to was in the 1960s by French archaeologists. I don’t know if there was any significant study of the site at the time. The site was left completely unprotected. No protection or way to visit the site was ever put in place, so Mes Aynak has been heavily looted since the 1960s.
The big irony is that when MCC arrived, they were unaware of the Buddhist site, so they signed the contract without knowing of the existence of the site above the copper deposit. When they came in they destroyed a local village to set up their camp, where they are currently staying. Initially they brought in 1,500 Afghan police officers to guard the mining compound and, in addition to guarding the compound, the officers were guarding the site. The Chinese have basically brought in this force that’s now protecting Mes Aynak really for the first time. Since the site is so famous, it is likely that it would be looted again if the Chinese were to leave, so it’s all quite complicated. 
Calhoun: Who is mainly doing the looting? 
Huffman: I would say that it is people from Pakistan who are crossing over, working with local people in Logar province who are very poor, starving to death, and have little employment. Selling these relics, unfortunately, makes sense for local people who have no other prospects. Looters from Pakistan return to the country and sell the relics. 
Calhoun: How has the Afghan government been involved in efforts to preserve the site, if at all? 
Huffman: In my opinion, the Afghan government has been part of the problem. There is massive corruption in the government, especially in the Ministry of Mines. When the deal was first signed in 2007, the rumor was that the minister of mines received a $30 million bribe from MCC. He denied accepting the bribe, but he did step down from his position. I think it is quite likely that he did accept the bribe. He has since been replaced, but I fear the same sorts of allegations of corruption are true within the new Ministry. Obviously they want mining to begin, and they want it to begin as soon as possible. I think the archaeological findings are a thorn in their side, delaying the time when they can extract copper.
Calhoun: How can people get involved in efforts to preserve Mes Aynak? 
Huffman: There’s a petition on my Facebook page with almost 70,000 signatures, but I think the best thing would be if a celebrity or politician would speak up and say that the US should work to preserve Mes Aynak. I think that would really rally support. I think if we could get hundreds of thousands of signatures — that would really save the site. The dream situation for me would be to save Mes Aynak and do a proper archaeological dig, save everything, and make it a tourist destination. But I think that will only happen with massive public support for the site, and UNESCO would have to come in and assist archaeologists. Sadly, when the Taliban blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan, people were horrified and shocked and it really rallied them. However, it was too late. My fear is that the same thing will happen with Mes Aynak, that there will be silence until it is destroyed and then there will be outrage. But yes, people can come to my Facebook page and sign the petition. I’ve given money to the Afghan archaeologists to finally buy them computers and digital cameras.  They had been working for years with neither. The Afghan archaeologists are the unsung heroes in this story — they have been working in terrible and dangerous conditions, so people can also donate to the film to help the archaeologists.
Here's a link to the Brent E. Huffman's photographs which accompany the article in Fair Observer

December 15, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013 - ,, No comments

Brent E. Huffman Presenting Special Advance Screening of "Saving Mes Aynak" at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York on Dec. 18

Brent Huffman: "Seated Buddha"
The Rubin Museum of Art, in co-presentation with NYU's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, will show the documentary "Saving Mes Aynak" on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Dec. 18. The director Brent E. Huffman will be at the special advance screening on December 18 and talk afterward about Mes Aynak.
Brent E. Huffman’s documentary follows archaeologists from around the world as they fight to save a 2,600-year-old Buddhist city in Afghanistan from imminent destruction by a Chinese copper mining company. Under threat from the local Taliban as well as pressure from the mining consortium, the archaeologists confront great risk in seeking to document one of the great centers of the Silk Road before it is razed and erased from memory.
Additional screenings of the movie are scheduled for Dec. 20 and Dec. 27 (Huffman will not be in attendance). You may purchased tickets for $15 online.

The ARCAblog asked Professor Huffman for an update on Mes Aynak:
Unfortunately, the situation at Mes Aynak has taken a turn for the worse recently. Afghan archaeologists working at the site need international support more than ever. 
Most of the foreign archaeologists have left due to worsening security. The sites they were working at have been left abandoned and funding has dried up. 
The governor of Logar province (where Mes Aynak is located) was murdered last month - journalists speculate it was due to his support of the Chinese deal. 
Also, Karzai flew to Beijing to let MCC renegotiate the contract removing many of the benefits given tot he Afghan government. No more railway system, no smelter, no infrastructure, no $800 million dollar bonus and reduced royalties. I also fear that there are reduced regulations in this new contract. 
So Mes Aynak and those who are working there to protect the site need our help more than ever.
On the ARCA blog you may read additional posts on Mes Aynak's threatened by copper excavation; dangerous precedent; extension; and Kickstart funds usage.

January 8, 2013

Mes Aynak Archaeologists Given More Time to Remove Relics and Artifacts

Documentarian Brent E. Huffman has announced on his Kickstarter page, The Buddhas of Mes Aynak, that archaeologists have six to nine more months to remove relics and artifacts from the ancient monastery in Afghanistan before the site is transformed into the world's second largest copper mine.

The remains of Mes Aynak of more than 300 Buddha statues and stupas were scheduled to be destroyed at the end of 2012 (here's an ARCA interview with Mr. Huffman last September on the site's endangerment and background on archaeologists' efforts to protect the site).

Here's a link to a 12/12/12 interview on PBS with Huffman.  And here's a link to an Opinion article by freelance journalist Andrew Lawler in The New York Times "Chinese-Led Copper Mining Threatens Afghan Buddhist Monasteries" that notes Buddhism came to China from Middle Asia where it thrived from the 3rd to the 9th centuries.