Monday, 19 November 2007

Destroying History in Tillya Tepe


Along the Silk Route Tillya Tepe
hid a Bactrian treasure burial
Treasure with the bones they found there

Archaeologists and workers
patient brushing every feature
logging every smallest placement

Ancient bodies spoke of riches
Golden crowns and golden hair-pins
dressed them for a golden future

One young woman wore a fire crown
A nomad's crown of golden life trees
made to flatten to her saddle

Another woman wore a necklace
hollow gold and ivory beadwork
fine and varied for her honour
Every grave site told a story
Styles of Scythia and Greece
mingled India as Kushan

A mound above the fire temple
resting through an ancient village
carried bodies fine and noble

A warrior with his sword and dagger
dressed in silk and golden baubles
Nomad horse to guard his resting
They plotted out and cleaned the goldwork
photographed and worked the levels
sent it on to Kabul City

Then the war swept in and over
turquoise studded bears and buckles
golden Scythian warrior horsemen

Looting soldiers took the treasures
opened graves in Tillya Tepe
sold their golden-magic future

Here they offered work for money
history from two millennia
spread as nothing more than gold-weight
After they were driven outwards
archaeologists and workers
told remembered tales forever
Women buried in the fire-halls
in a thousand years of temple
through the village crumbled after

One was thirty - maybe forty
One was sixteen at her dying
One was young in plainest costume

But Oh her finest collar necklace
- drops of garnet mixed with turquoise
set in finest gold - was with her

Another - and the first we found there -
dressed in tiny plates of gold-ware
pointed where the others rested

One - a princess so we thought her -
with her pendent Aphrodite
winged in high design of Bactria

with an Indian mark of marriage
on its forehead for her pleasure -
dressed in spangled golden platelets

And her crown was tall in splendour
hung in drops of leaves and circles
set with turquoise-centred flowers

Shapes of hearts and moons and tree-like
made to lie in silent saddle
as the nomad trail moved onward

Only one men found a place there
He a warrior with his waist band -
nine gold Goddesses on lions -

gone to meet his long remaining
meet his Afterlife in splendour
where the Gods would claim his kinship

After all the finds were gathered -
as the war raged through the Afghans -
rain and falls disclosed the others
Two more grave sites - bones and goldware
Who was buried in these coffins
no one searches to discover

But the gold was sold forever
into penury-collections
hoarded nameless out of culture

Archaeologists and workers
hear the vaguest news of battles
hear the news of auctioned goldware

Still their dreams pick round the grave-sites
lost forever in the carnage
high along the Afghan frontier

copyright 1998 Charlotte Peters Rock

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