04.05.2017 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

UNESCO and the Afghan Ministry of Culture complete the conservation of a sculptural group from the Mes Aynak site for future exhibition

@UNESCO/Maria Rita Acetoso – The sculptural group after the completion of the conservation works in March 2017.

UNESCO experts completed the conservation works of a prominent sculptural group coming from the Mes Aynak archaeological site. This activity was conducted in close cooperation with the Afghan Ministry of Information & Culture (MoIC), as part of the overall assistance provided to the Afghan Government for preserving the rich national heritage within large-scale development initiatives. The work started in the laboratory of the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA) and was completed at the National Museum of Afghanistan, where the sculptural group is currently stored, ready for being part of a dedicated exhibition.

In July 2016, UNESCO commenced its technical assistance to both the Ministry of Information & Culture (MoIC) and the Ministry of Mines & Petroleum (MoMP) in their joint efforts to survey and document the archaeological site of Mes Aynak, a vast complex of over 90 ruin locations located 40 km southeast of Kabul, in the Logar Province.

This assistance includes a number of activities, among which the establishment of suitable conservation methodologies for the incredibly rich architectural relics still on site (stupas; sculptures and wall paintings), is a key component. The sculptural group was therefore selected as a case-study to complete an entire conservation process, from the detailed documentation of the state of conservation, until the actual cleaning, consolidation and reintegration for future exhibitions.

The sculptural group, representing a Buddha in meditation flanked by two standing monks, was discovered during the excavations directly implemented by MoIC and MoMP in 2012. It was originally located in the complex of the Mes Aynak archaeological area. The richness of its iconography, along with the fairly poor state of conservation, guided its selection as a good model to test a possible conservation methodology to be then applied also to other clay sculptures in Mes Aynak.

In October 2016 the sculptural group, already detached from the hosting structure in 2014, was transferred to DAFA laboratory in Kabul, where UNESCO experts worked with colleagues from the Afghan Institute of Archaeology (MoIC) and the MoMP technical staff to commence the required consolidation of the bottom and back sides of the structure.

The work continued during January-March 2017, when the group of experts completed the required consolidation, cleaning and reintegration phases. The implemented actions included also the repositioning of the head of the Buddha and of the two side monks in their original location, thereby offering the opportunity of experiment a wide range of necessary technical tasks. The last phases of work were directly conducted in the laboratory of the National Museum of Afghanistan, where the sculptural group was transferred under the supervision of MoIC in March 2017. UNESCO has also closely worked with the National Museum of Afghanistan and Afghan Institute of Archaeology to prepare the design for the future exhibition of the sculptural group.

This activity, continuously conducted in cooperation with the relevant Afghan authorities, has significantly contributed to the establishment of a suitable methodology for preserving the architectural relics in Mes Aynak, while also ensuring the actual and immediate conservation of this prominent artifact as tangible manifestation of the rich history of the country.

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