Team to excavate Afghan Buddhist ruins

Kyodo

Japanese archaeologists plan to excavate a site in central Afghanistan that may have been an important center of Buddhism.

The dig will take place next spring at Kawfir Kowt in the Kharwar district of Lowghar Province, about 120 km southwest of Kabul.

Kazuya Yamauchi, chief researcher of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties of Tokyo, will take part in excavation work at the Kawfir Kowt ruins.

Some experts believe the place may have developed as an important center for Buddhism after the famous pilgrim Xuanzang stopped there as he traveled along the Silk Road from India to China between 629 and 645.

Yamauchi believes Kawfir Kowt was the site that Xuanzang described as the city of Fupina in the state of Gurizistaana (which means “highlands” in Persian) in his chronicle “The Records of the Western Regions of the Great Tang Dynasty.”

Yamauchi suspects Fupina was situated at Kharwar, elevation 2,500 meters.

Kawfir Kowt means the “land of pagans,” indicating it was an area where non-Islamic people lived.

Kawfir Kowt bears the remains of a Buddhist temple and a Buddha statue. The wood used for the temple was from the fourth century, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Yamauchi said the ruins are impressive and could become a showcase of Afghanistan’s Buddhist culture.

A hill in Kawfir Kowt also has what appears to be the ruins of a castle and traces of seemingly unauthorized excavations, which Yamauchi believes were the work of professionals.

Protecting Afghan antiquities is a major concern.

Many relics were destroyed over the years, particularly during the 1979-1988 war with the former Soviet Union, the oppressive rule of the Taliban, which made deliberate efforts to destroy them, and the recent U.S.-led antiterror campaign.

Smuggling of antiquities is meanwhile rampant.