No history of China, India, Persia or Russia can be fully understood without continual reference to central Asia. At the heart of the region lie the deserts and mountain range of Afghanistan that even today remain largely unexplored. Yet in the past Afghanistan saw the rise of great cities, empires and civilizations such as the Kushan in the first few centuries AD, the Ghaznavid in the 11th century, and the Timurid in the 15th. Despite bearing witness to ancient and more recent battles, the scarred landscape of Afghanistan is strewn with the monuments to illustrate this rich history: from the recently uncovered Ai Khanum in the north-east and the spectacular 12th century minarets at Jam in the mountains of the west, to the magnificent palatial complexes of the 11th century sultans at Lashkar Bazar in the south and what remains of the 5th and 7th century Buddhist world of Bamiyan in the Hindu Kush - notoriously destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. This book provides a general background to the history and cultural heritage of Afghanistan. It includes broad summaries of the history, architecture and archeology, together with a gazetteer of the main monuments and archeological sites.
Warwick Ball, F.S.A., M.I.F.A., is a distinguished writer and archaeologist who has conducted excavations in Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and Ethiopia. From 1972-1981 he worked in Afghanistan under successive regimes from kingdom to Soviet occupation. Between 1981-82 he was Acting Director of the British Institute of Afghan Studies. From 1983-85 he was Architectural Conservator in the Department of Antiquities in Jordan, and then between 1985-88 he served as Director of Excavations and Assistant Director of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq. He is now Director of Eastern Approaches, a company organizing tours to central Asia and beyond. He has published numerous books, which include Syria: A Historical and Architectural Guide (1994), Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire (2000) and (with Leonard Harrow) Cairo to Kabul: Afghan and Islamic Studies Presented to Ralph Pinder-Wilson (2002). Rome in the East won the James Henry Breasted Prize for History in 2000, and was Choice's Outstanding Academic Book in the same year.