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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ancient city uncovered in Afghanistan





Afghan workers are seen digging the baked earth on the heights of Cheshm-e-Shafa in the Balkh province. Centuries-old shards of pottery mingle with spent ammunition rounds on a wind-swept mountainside in northern Afghanistan where French archaeologists believe they have found a vast ancient city lost to historical record.

CHESHM-E-SHAFA, Afghanistan - Centuries-old shards of pottery mingle with spent ammunition rounds on a wind-swept mountainside in northern Afghanistan where French archaeologists believe they have found a vast ancient city.

For years, villagers have dug the baked earth on the heights of Cheshm-e-Shafa for pottery and coins to sell to antique smugglers. Tracts of the site that locals call the "City of Infidels" look like a battleground, scarred by craters.

But now tribesmen dig angular trenches and preserve fragile walls, working as laborers on an excavation atop a promontory. To the north and east lies an undulating landscape of barren red-tinted rock that was once the ancient kingdom of Bactria; to the south a still-verdant valley that leads to the famed Buddhist ruins at Bamiyan.

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