The Bactrian treasure holds 20,000 golden artifacts.
With the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the country’s archaeological remains face a grim future even if the extremist Islamic group decides not to loot or intentionally destroy them. Some news reports suggest the Taliban are already hunting for one of the country’s most famous caches; the so-called “Bactrian Treasure” is a collection of more than 20,000 artifacts, many made of gold, that were found in 2,000-year-old graves at a site called Tillya Tepe in 1978. The treasure was kept in the National Museum of Afghanistan and was on display at the presidential palace, but reports indicate that its present location is unknown. Other archaeological remains that could be threatened by the Taliban include Mes Aynak, a Buddhist city that flourished around 1,600 years ago. The city was located along the iconic Silk Road and was used for both trade and worship; numerous ancient Buddhist monasteries and other ancient Buddhist artifacts are buried there. When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, they destroyed many of these Buddhist artifacts, including two massive sixth-century statues known as the “Buddhas of Bamiyan “that were carved into a cliff there. The extremist group used rockets, tank-fired projectiles and dynamite to take down the towering statues, according to news reports.