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April 14, 2013

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

New computer at Afghan Archaeology Office in Kabul
 (Photo via The Buddhas of Aynak on Facebook)
Documentarian Brent E. Huffman raised $35,200 on Kickstart for The Buddhas of Mes Aynak. On Friday he announced on Facebook (The Buddhas of Aynak) that new computers and cameras have been purchased from 10% of those Kickstart funds for the Afghan Archaeology Office in Kabul.

"Now the Afghan archaeologists can accurately record record their findings at the Buddhist city at Mes Aynak and other archaeology sites in Afghanistan," Huffman wrote.

Brent Huffman is an assistant professor at the Medil School of Journalism at Northwest University.

German Camera Productions has finished the documentary on the Buddhist monastery ruins sitting on top of a larger copper mine contracted to a Chinese company for extraction. (See previous ARCA blog posts here: archaeological wealth threatened; dangerous precedent; and archeologist's deadline in Mes Aynak extended.

Mary Ellen Gabriel reported for the University of Wisconsin-Madison News ("Archaeologists on front lines of protecting ancient culture in turbulent regions") that archaeologists may only have until June to work at Mes Aynak unless something can be worked out once the excavation begins.
The China Metallurgical Group said in June it will close the site to archaeologists and begin preparing the area to make way for a massive copper mine that will bring in an estimated $100 billion in revenue, of which $3 billion will be paid to the Afghan government. Archaeologists fear that everything will be destroyed, including artifacts from undiscovered levels beneath the Buddhist monuments that may date back to 3000 B.C., during the Bronze Age. 
Though the mine will go forward no matter what, there is still a chance — a small chance — that the excavation site could exist alongside it.
University of Wisconsin-Madison's professor of anthropology J. Mark Kenoyer is working to rally support to preserve the site [again quoting from Ms. Gabriel's article].

“Miracles can happen,” says Kenoyer, which is one reason he agreed to travel for the first time to the heart of Taliban country to help make a dramatic case for preserving this vital piece of global heritage. 

Around the world, archaeological sites are threatened by war, environmental degradation, mining, dam-building, and even mass tourism. Rebellions in Libya, Syria and Mali have endangered not only the lives of millions of people, but thousands of years of human history. 

Archaeologists and anthro-pologists play an increasingly vital role in communicating not only the importance of what will be lost, but the potential benefits to tourism and culture if it can be saved. In the digital age, the impact of a well-crafted story, or petition, or documentary can resonate much further than it might have 15 years ago.