Copper load of this! Company digging mine in Afghanistan unearths 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery

A Chinese company digging an unexploited copper mine in Afghanistan has unearthed ancient statues of Buddha in a sprawling 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery.

Archaeologists are rushing to salvage what they can from a major 7th century B.C. religious site along the famed Silk Road connecting Asia and the Middle East.

The ruins, including the monastery and domed shrines known as ‘stupas,’ will likely be largely destroyed once work at the mine begins.

The ruins were discovered as labourers excavated the site on behalf of the Chinese government-backed China Metallurgical Group Corp, which wants to develop the world’s second largest copper mine, lying beneath the ruins.

Hanging over the situation is the memory of the Buddhas of Bamiyan — statues towering up to 180 feet high in central Afghanistan that were dynamited to the ground in 2001 by the country’s then-rulers, the Taliban, who considered them symbols of paganism.

No one wants to be blamed for similarly razing history at Mes Aynak, in the eastern province of Logar. MCC wanted to start building the mine by the end of 2011 but under an informal understanding with the Kabul government, it has given archaeologists three years for a salvage excavation.

Archaeologists working on the site since May say that won’t be enough time for full preservation.

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