Portland Harper Lecture with Gil J. Stein: In the Shadow of the Taliban: Saving Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage at the Nation

The Harper Lecture series is offered to the University community across the country and around the world by the University of Chicago Alumni Association. Named for the University's first President, William Rainey Harper, the series carries on his vision of broadly accessible and innovative education.


The Governor Hotel
614 SW 11th Avenue
Portland, Oregon

Event Details

Afghanistan is the quintessential "crossroads of culture" where the civilizations of the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and China came together over millennia in a shifting mixture of trade, migration, and conquest. This history gave rise to some of the most important archaeological and artistic treasures in world cultural heritage. However, as exemplified by the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas and the looting of their National Museum, Afghanistan faces deep and continuing threats to this cultural patrimony.

During 30 years of continuous warfare, the museum lost more than 140,000 objects and almost all of their object records to looting and vandalism during this conflict. Despite this, the National Museum retains priceless collections of art and artifacts of Afghanistan's heritage. The Oriental Institute is working with the US State Department and the National Museum of Afghanistan to develop a bilingual Dari-English database and conduct the first-ever complete inventory of the museum's collections. Stein's talk will showcase highlights of Afghanistan's ancient cultures and describe the efforts to protect this heritage.

Gil J. Stein is director of the Oriental Institute and professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Chicago. He has excavated and surveyed in Arizona, New Mexico, Turkey, and Syria, and is starting a new project in Iraqi Kurdistan. His publications and research interests focus on the development of early cities and state societies in the Near East, zooarchaeology, economic systems, and the archaeology of ancient colonies. Since 2012 he has travelled to Kabul multiple times as the principal investigator of the Oriental Institute and National Museum partnership.


$20 general admission; $10 recent graduate (College alumni of the past ten years and graduate alumni of the past five years).


Register Online

Deadline: 10/27/2013

Speaker Profiles

Gil J. Stein (Speaker)
Director of the Oriental Institute and Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, The University of Chicago

Gil Stein is an archaeologist whose fieldwork has investigated early civilizations on two continents and whose theoretical writings examine colonialism. Stein has excavated in Arizona, New Mexico and Syria, and since 1981, in Turkey. From 1992 through 1997, he directed excavations at Hacinebi, a Mesopotamian colony in Turkey, which is part of the world's first-known colonial system.
Comparing what he knew of Hacinebi with the ideas about colonialism that were then current led Stein to write Rethinking World Systems: Diasporas, Colonies, and Interaction in Uruk Mesopotamia (University of Arizona Press, 1999) to look at the world's earliest colonial system and see how it was different from the modern models. He also is the author of The Archaeology of Colonial Encounters: Comparative Perspectives (School of American Research Press, 2005).
- See more at: http://news.uchicago.edu/profile/gil-stein#sthash.WAf0MJR8.dpuf>


Kelly Doody