A plea to save Afghan antiquities

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Three decades of war have devastated Afghanistan's cultural heritage. Warlords bombed and pilfered the national museum in the early 1990s. Looters plowed archaeological sites into moonscapes. And the Taliban committed the most monstrous act by demolishing two colossal ancient Buddhas carved into the cliffs in the Bamiyan valley.

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, still busy fighting Islamic extremists more than four years after the Taliban were expelled, has devoted scant resources to protecting and restoring endangered heritage sites, American and Afghan scholars lamented at a recent conference at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

"With most of the country's attention on Iraq, I thought Afghanistan was in danger of being forgotten altogether," said C. Brian Rose, the Penn archaeology professor who organized the symposium late last month that featured the only public appearance in America by six visiting Afghan scholars.

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