Afghan Treasure Safeguarded for Decades by Secret “Keyholders”

Afghan Treasure Safeguarded for Decades by Secret “Keyholders”

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A 2,000-year-old gold treasure trove of Afghanistan’s heritage was guarded for decades by a mysterious group of Afghans who patiently kept the secret of its underground whereabouts, at great personal risk during the time of upheaval and war with Russia and the Taliban. The group were known as the “key holders,” because they held the keys to the basement vault where the historical treasures were hidden…

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“Over the last 20 to 25 years, during food shortages and money crises, this handful of people … could have sold these collections instead of going hungry, but they never once sacrificed their own cultural heritage,” said Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist with the National Geographic Society. (Great news that reads like a DaVinci Code Adventure, from AP)

Read the report from National Geographic explaining why this feat of secrecy was so important:

During Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, the National Museum outside Kabul was literally on the front line, repeatedly attacked by rocket fire and looted by warlords.

Then, during the reign of the fundamentalist Taliban regime, all non-Islamic statues and tombs were ordered destroyed. This led to the loss of two-thirds of the hundred thousand items in the Kabul museum.

Check out the photo gallery at National Geographic featuring archaeologists watching as the safe is forced open in April 2004. More than 20,000 Bactrian gold objects, secured in six safes, were found intact.

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