"[H]ow do you put a price on a 5000 year old buried city containing multiple monasteries and settlements possibly going back to the Bronze Age, a site at least as significant as the tragically lost Buddhas of Bamiyan?"
That is the question being asked by an important new effort to save, from certain destruction, the most important Buddhist archaeological site in the world: Mes Aynak, in Afganistan.
The effort is mounted by the Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ARCH), and I strongly urge everyone to visit their Mes Aynak website, establish links, and widely promulgate notice of their activities.
There is an aspect to this story -- not widely known -- that deserves to be told. Basically, the Chinese paid the Afghan government three billion dollars for rights to mine copper from Mes Aynak. The copper they seek to mine is underneath a 5,000 year old Buddhist monastic complex the size of a city. Evidence suggests that this site may well have some bearing on the story of Padmasambhava's oft-mentioned Copper Colored Mountain.
Meanwhile, as part of its "security program" for Afghanistan, the United States has deployed American soldiers to guard this site on behalf of Chinese interests. The weapons that are killing those American soldiers are being provided to the Taliban by Chinese military intelligence sources.
As a Buddhist, given the overall importance of this site, Mes Aynak may well be my proverbial "hill to die for." I sincerely doubt it holds the same sanctity for those American soldiers who have died there, in an ugly game of international greed.
Time somebody on the Hill -- in this election year -- starts sweating out the future of Mes Aynak, and saves something that, once lost, can never be replaced.
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