Sunday, April 29, 2007

Casualties of our wants and needs

During the 2004 election, I worked down the hall from the good folks at Sage Council who were trying to defeat a bond measure to ram a road through the Petroglyph National Monument next to Albuquerque. We lost -- residents of sprawling tract developments had to cut their commute times, no matter what damage followed from intrusion on ancient native holy sites. Here are a few of my pictures of those endangered petroglyphs.

Currently a German archeologist is trying to record, since he cannot save, a truly amazing historical trove of petroglyphs etched on the sides of mountains high in the Indus River Valley near Pakistan's border with China.

Here, in an oppressively narrow and steep canyon, construction of a gigantic dam is planned -- as high as a skyscraper and kept in place by its sheer weight. The future power plant's turbines are to yield 4,400 megawatts of electricity -- the capacity of four nuclear power plants. Behind the retaining wall, a reservoir will flood 32 villages and force as many as 40,000 people to undergo evacuation in the name of progress.

But the reservoir will also bury beneath itself the witnesses of entire civilizations and ancient cultures along the Indus -- mainly stony messages and images from Buddhist times, whose loss is fully comparable to that of the famous Buddhas of Bamyan, which were demolished with explosives by the Taliban in March 2001.

Der Spiegel

The region's stone carvings can't stand in the way of this poor country's need for energy, but thousands are being recorded by Harald Hauptmann. Photos by Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften.

A leopard hunts a large horned mountain goat: The Scythians of Central Asia were masters at etching animal petroglyphs.

The depiction of a mighty horned goat originates from the 6th century BC. Persian stone carving artists left the image behind on a cliff.

Sitting Buddha dating from sometime after 500 CE and the Muslim invasion of the area.

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