Taliban thugs in Afghanistan are hunting for a priceless collection of gold artefacts dating back over 2,000 years.
The treasure known as the Bactrian Treasure is one of the largest collections of gold in the world and represents the history and culture of the Ancient Silk Road.
But during the Taliban’s takeover of the country following US and UK troop withdrawals at the end of August, it disappeared.
Now in a chilling message Ahmadullah Wasiq deputy head of the Taliban’s Cultural Commission said efforts had begun ‘to track and locate’ the 20,000 priceless pieces.
Wasiq told Tolo News: ‘The issue is under investigation, and we will collect information to know what the reality is.
‘The government of Afghanistan will take serious actions if this and other ancient items are moved out of the country.’
Excavated more than four decades ago from the graves of six wealthy nomads in the Tela Tapa area of the Sherberghan district in northern Afghanistan, the Bactrian Treasury is recognised as one of the biggest collections of gold in the world.
Composed of 21,145 pieces, it includes gold cupids, dolphins, gods and dragons encrusted with semiprecious stones such as turquoise, carnelian, and lapis lazuli.
The treasure known as the Bactrian Treasure is one of the largest collections of gold in the world
It also contains golden rings, coins, weapons, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, weapons, and crowns.
Unearthed between 1978 and 1979 by Soviet and Afghan archaeologists, the six tombs of five women and one man were discovered on what was a vital trade route in the ancient Greco-Bactarian Kingdom that formed around 300 B.C. during Alexander the Great’s rule.
One of the tombs contained a young woman in her thirties who was described as a nomadic princess by the leader of the dig.
Inside the tomb were Roman coins from the first century A.D., daggers with Siberian bears on them, an Indian medallion with an early depiction of Buddha, intricate golden belts, and a 5-inch tall gold leaf crown.
Other treasures uncovered dated back to the Kushan empire which was formed by the Yuezhi in the Bactrian territories in the early 1st century.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, they destroyed many historical artefacts including two massive sixth-century statues known as the Buddhas of Bamiyan carved into a cliff.
After the arrival of British and US forces following the 9/11 attacks, the Bactrian treasure was taken out of hiding and has since been displayed in 13 countries bringing in over £3 million to the Afghan treasury.
But on the day Kabul fell last month to the marauding Taliban forces, the country’s National Museum posted a message on social media appealing to ‘influential parties’ to help prevent looting if the ‘chaotic situation’ deteriorated further.
The director told National Geographic: ‘We have great concerns for the safety of our staff and collections.’
Now, the Bactrian Treasury has disappeared from the museum.
The Taliban’s Wasiq said that ‘any contract that has been signed with the international community over the protection of ancient and historical monuments will remain in place.’