Afghanistan Cultural Heritage Consulting Organisation (ACHCO)

News on Afghan cultural heritage

Documentation and conservation at Topdara, Parwan, and Tepe Maranjan, Kabul, 28 November 2016

On 24th September 2016 a Federal Assistance Award was signed by the US State Department to enable ACHCO to begin documentation and conservation at Topdara in Parwan province and Tepe Maranjan in District 8 of Kabul. 

Situated close to the provincial capital of Charikar, the complex at Topdara is one of the best-preserved of the Buddhist complexes in the region. Possibly commissioned by the Kushan ruler Kanishka in around 400AD, the principal structure is a stone stupa whose drum has a diameter of 23 metres and stands almost 30 metres above the surrounding fields. The drum retains a decorative band formed from small pieces of schist, with on the east side a tripartite niche that housed a seated figure of Buddha (or boddhisatva) flanked by donors, aligned with a ceremonial stair aligned with Begram, the Kushan capital in the valley below. The site was identified in the 1830s by Charles Masson and included in Wilson’s 1841 publication ‘Ariana Antiqua’ but not surveyed until 1965 by a team of Japanese archaeologists. For further images go to the Gallery

Tepe Maranjan stands on a ridge that was the site of several Buddhist religious complexes, east of Kabul’s old city. Excavations by French archaeologists in 1933 revealed a fort-like structure that was thought to date from the 4th century AD, over which a small stone stupa was superimposed in the 6th or 7th century AD. This latter structure yielded an assortment of objects, including a fine schist boddhisatva figure (now in the National Museum) as well as coins from the 3rd-4th century and ceramics from the 5th to 9th century AD. Subsequent excavations by Afghan archaeologists between 1981-7 exposed on the lower part of the site a large stone platform for a stupa. It is this area that will be the focus of stabilisation, after the site is fenced, accumulated waste is cleared and detailed documentation has taken place.

Conservation at Kuhandiz, Herat, 10 August 2016

In June 2016, ACHCO published a bilingual account of conservation work at the Mausolea of Shahzada Abdullah and Abdul Qasim at Kuhandiz, Herat. The aim of this publication is to provide Afghan and other practitioners with technical details of the research that took place to inform the conservation and the rationale behind decisions that were made, as a reference for future initiatives.

Printed copies of the publication have been made available to our partners in Afghanistan and both the English and Dari versions are also available in the library section of this website. Financial support for preparing this publication came from the US State Department.

ACHCO Gallery, 26 May 2016

New photos added to Gallery:

  • Kabul, Shuhada Saleheen
  • Addtions to Kabul, Burj e Shahr Ara

ACHCO Library, 24 May 2016

New link uploaded in the Library: UNESCO, Keeping History Alive. Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Post-Conflict Afghanistan (Paris 2015)

ACHCO Gallery, 24 May 2016

New photos added to Gallery:

  • Kabul, war damage 1994
  • Kabul, Qasr e Babojan

ACHCO Gallery, 20 May 2016

New photos added to Gallery:

    • Kabul, Baghe Bala
    • Kabul, Baghe Padsha Bukhara

    Ceremony at Shahzada Abdullah, Herat, 21 April 2016

    On 21st April 2016, a ceremony was held at the mausoleum of Shahzada Abdullah to mark the completion of a project of conservation that has focused on this monument and the adjoining mausoleum of Shahzada Abdul Qasim. Initiated in 2013, the conservation work was supported by the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation of the US Department of State. It entailed extensive structural repairs as well as cleaning and restoration of the largest extant area of Timurid mosaic faience decoration in Herat. The ceremony was officiated by HE Governor of Herat, Asif Rahimi and attended by representatives of the local administration, civil society and community leaders.

    ACHCO Gallery,
    5 April 2016

    New photos added to Gallery:
    • Istalef, Kabul
    • Nimruz Province
    • Topdara, Parwan
    • Jebel as Saraj and Gulbohar, Parwan
    • Takht e Rustam, Samangan

    Open Jirga Programme in Qandahar
    , 29 Nov 2015

    Images of the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Abdali and Khirqa-e Sharif included in the ACHCO Gallery by courtesy of BBC Media Action, who recently recorded a TV debate, part of the Open Jirga series, in Qandahar, see The programme was recorded beside the mausoleum.

    ACHCO Gallery, 26 Nov 2015

    New photos added to Gallery: Ziaratgah, Herat

    ACHCO projects, 15 Nov 2015

    Panorama of Takht e Rustam added to Gallery

    United Nations 70th anniversary: 'Celebrating Afghans', 29 Oct 2015

    Habib Noori was selected by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) as one of nine Afghans to represent their work in their respective fields, as part of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations:

    ACHCO projects, 21 Oct 2015

    ACHCO has been commissioned by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit) to undertake research and analysis at Takht e Rustam in Samangan province, Afghanistan. The aim of this assignment is to record the characteristics, condition and transformations of this important Buddhist site that dates from the 4th/5th centuries. Work is continuing on preparation of a conservation assessment and protection plan as a contribution to a possible programme of interventions aimed at encouraging public access while ensuring that measures are taken to ensure the safeguarding of key structures and the surrounding landscape.

    Photos are uploaded in the Gallery.

    ACHCO Gallery, 21 Oct 2015

    New photos of the mausolea of Shahzada Abdullah and Abdul Qasim added to the Gallery: Kohandiz, Herat.

    DAM Architectural Book Award, 14 Oct 2015

    The 'Informal Market Worlds Atlas' (published in 2015), to which Jolyon Leslie contributed a piece about Kabul's 'Bush Bazaar', was shortlisted for the 2015 DAM (German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt) book award. See

    ACHCO Library, 21 November 2014

    New link uploaded in the Library: J. Leslie, 'Cult, Culture and the Need for Public Education: Why the National Museum in Kabul has little meaning for Afghans' (21 November 2014).

    ACHCO Gallery, 31 Mar 2014

    New images uploaded of Herat Old City and Kohandiz as well as Tajbeg Palace and Tepe Maranjan, Kabul.

    ACHCO projects, 21 Nov 2013

    Since April 2012, ACHCO has worked in partnership with the Oriental Institute of Chicago in support of a project to inventory, re-house and develop a database for the collection of the National Museum in Kabul, funded by the US Department of State.

    In July 2013, ACHCO received funds from the Special Mission of the Republic of Lithuania to Afghanistan to undertake an assessment mission to the Jam minaret in Ghor province, in collaboration with the Department of Historic Monuments of the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture. The findings of this mission, which took place in October 2013, are being integrated into an Action Plan for Jam, currently under preparation.

    In October 2013, a Federal Assistance Award was made by the US State Department to ACHCO to enable the documentation of the mausolea of Shahzada Abdullah and Shahzada Abdul Qasim in Herat, and priority conservation of the former. Situated in Kuhandiz, which is thought to be the site of a settlement dating to the Achaemenid period, the mausoleum of Shahzada Abdullah dates from 1487 and is one of a number of religious buildings constructed by the members of the Timurid court. Typical of elite funerary architecture of that period, the building suffered damage as a result of conflict in the 1980s. The immediate focus of the conservation will be on structural stabilization of the brick masonry structure, in parallel with documentation of surviving Timurid glazed tilework and painted internal decoration.

    Treasures returned to Afghan Museum, The Guardian, 5 Aug 2012

    Back to Kabul, The British Museum, 3 Aug 2012

    Worry replaces hope in race to restore ancient Afghan city, Radio Free Europe/Libery, 13 June 2012

    Afghan archeologist pleads for help to save treasures, Culture in Development, 18 May 2012

    Museums and massacres, Afghan Analysts Network, 21 Mar 2012

    The many owners of Ashab Baba: land conflict at the Ainak copper mine, Afghan Analysists Network, 10 Mar 2012