Filmmaker helps in effort to save history

June 15, 2012 at 6:02 PM
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EVANSTON, Ill., June 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. researcher says he's filmed efforts by an international team trying to save antiquities at an ancient Buddhist site in Afghanistan's Taliban country.

Northwestern University Professor Brent Huffman screened his footage at a Washington conference of archaeologists, geologists and mining experts, a university release reported.

Mes Aynak, a 2,500-year-old religious site along the Silk Road 25 miles southeast of Kabul, is home to more than 200 Buddha statues, devotional temples and an approximately 100-acre monastery complex.

The vast majority of relics and structures are underground and many are too large and fragile to be moved, Huffman said.

"Mes Aynak served as an al-Qaida training camp, and miraculously survived three decades of war and looting," Huffman said. "Now this incredible site is threatened by Chinese mining operations that are projected to produce over $100 billion worth of copper."

Archaeologists were given less than a year to dig up the ancient relics before mining was scheduled to begin.

"It's a problem of time," Huffman explains. "The archaeologists on the site say they have unearthed no more than 10 percent of the Buddhist site."

Huffman, a professor of journalism at Northwestern's Medill School, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, making social-issue documentaries and environmental films in Asia, Africa and the Middle East for more than a decade.

"I usually make films that act as a mirror examining some issue and reflecting some reality," he said. "But, for the first time, with Mes Aynak, I feel an obligation to try to save this ancient site and stop the senseless destruction of Afghanistan's cultural heritage."

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