Afghanistan: A Treasure Trove for Archaeologists

Photograph for TIME by Adam Ferguson

A newly discovered site at Tepe Zargaran, an ancient jewelers' hub near the city of Balkh

Roland Besenval is a magician. With a few words and expansive hand gestures, the French archaeologist conjures a magnificent city from the millenniums-old ruins that crown a windswept plateau in Afghanistan's far north. Stabbing a finger in the direction of misshapen hillocks made of eroded mud brick, he describes massive battlements built to repel barbarian raiders from the north. Balkh, as the city was known, would have needed them. More than 1,000 years before Marco Polo visited its ruins, Balkh was renowned throughout the ancient world for its fabulous wealth and advanced culture. It was the birthplace of one...

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