The Monuments of Afghanistan: History, Archaeology and Architecture

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9781850434368: The Monuments of Afghanistan: History, Archaeology and Architecture

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.

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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.

Review:

“This work serves as a terrific introduction to Afghanistan's history and high architectural culture. . . In featuring monumental gems, archaeologist Ball provides a synoptic account of Afghan history that proves accessible and insightful. . . Ball has furnished a valuable addition to scholarship on Afghanistan. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels from undergraduates to professional specialists.”—CHOICE

 

“I recommend this book heartily. Warwick Ball knows Afghanistan better than anyone else I know; he writes well, accessibly and accurately.”--Professor Georgina Herrmann, Professor Emerita in Asiatic Archaeology, University College, London.

 

""There is no-one better equipped than Warwick Ball to chart the monuments and sites of Afghanistan. Not only does he offer his readers a trustworthy and scholarly account, but his already authoritative text is richly augmented by superb colour photographs. Ball covers the entire country and poignantly reveals many sites that have now vanished or been destroyed. The Monuments of Afghanistan is a complete survey of this remarkable land and its legacy. It will delight scholars while also making a sumptious addition to the library of the generalist.""-- Richard N. Frye, Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Iranian, Harvard University

 

""Afghanistan is not just an Asian state that has suddenly hit the news. Since remote antiquity it has been a cradle and cross-roads of many civilisations of the Old World. No one knows the region better than Warwick Ball, who has long travelled, studied and excavated there. His account of the country, its history and monuments, is as dramatic as the land itself, and makes compulsive reading. The book is also a visual feast, given the stunning photographs - largely the author's own - which augment the text (though this is not just another picture book). The land has, over millennia, focussed the attention of Great Powers (Persians, Greeks, British and Russians in the Great Game) and religions, but in the end it transcends them all. Ball brings  Afghanistan to us as brilliantly and sympathetically as it deserves.""-- Sir John Boardman, Emeritus Lincoln Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford

 

""In 1982, Warwick Ball published a gazetteer of archaeological sites and monuments in Afghanistan. In his latest book, he describes the most important sites in the gazetteer and illustrates them with his stunning photographs. I visited many of these sites 25 years ago, and read The Monuments of Afghanistan with a mixture of nostalgia and reassurance - reassurance that, despite destruction and loss, much of the monumental heritage of this remote and beautiful country has survived the upheavals of recent years.""-- David Whitehouse, Former Director, The British Institute of Afghan Studies

 

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