July 6, 2021
In this episode of Monuments Woman ...
Host and oral historian George Gavrilis introduces the podcast featuring American archaeologist Laura Tedesco's 11-year journey to help protect and preserve Afghanistan's cultural heritage.
Imagine a country so rich in archaeology that it would take a lifetime to see it all. Ruined fortresses in a countryside of fruit orchards and steep mountains. Ancient and medieval sites from a dozen civilizations in nearly every province. So much to protect and preserve, even more to uncover. But, this is not Italy or Greece or Turkey. This is a country without tourists, without money, and without peace. This is Afghanistan.
In 2010, the U.S. government decided to help Afghanistan protect and preserve its archaeological sites, museums and cultural heritage. These were better times, when the U.S. was flush, willing to pump massive sums of money into rebuilding the country. It was a time of optimism, even though the Taliban had regrouped and trouble was on the horizon. And so, the State Department dispatched an archaeologist to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
This podcast is the story of the archaeologist, Laura Tedesco, the Monuments Woman. I should say that Laura hates the title of the podcast; you will learn why as you listen. I should also say that you, our listener, will not be given lessons about ancient civilizations or even the history of Afghanistan. Instead, this podcast is very much about the present day. What does it mean to be an archaeologist in the 21st century? What does it mean to preserve the past for the sake of an uncertain future? After all, this is a country that witnessed the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas at the hands of the Taliban. And if the U.S. is exiting Afghanistan and leaving the elected government at the mercy of the Taliban, what is the point of doing all this work?
My name is George Gavrilis, and I will be your host. I’m an oral historian and writer with a fondness for Afghanistan. I think that Kabul looks like Los Angeles if you squint. Laura, our reluctant Monuments Woman, is the storyteller. We are good friends, so I get to call her Laurie. She’s a cultural heritage specialist and archaeologist who worked in trouble spots like Armenia, Syria, and the Metropolitan Museum, all before coming to Afghanistan. Come join us.
Ep 0: The Reluctant Monuments Woman — Introduction
Topics Covered in this Episode
Introducing Laura Tedesco, archaeologist, Monuments Woman
Introducing George Gavrilis, host
2010 United States Department of State cultural heritage preservation in Afghanistan
Archaeology in the 21st century
Recorded on May 28, 2021
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