Kavan Ratnatunga (President of the Sri Lankan Numismatic Society) forwarded a link to this article where Sri Lankan numismatist Prof. Osmund Bopearachchi "recounts to Smriti Daniel his great find among the treasures of Mir Zakah"
Osmund gave the Sri Lankan Numismatic Society an excellent power point presentation on this topic at our monthly meeting on 18th Sept, and I requested Ms Smriti Daniel to do this interview.
Embossed on the gold coin is the arrogant profile of Alexander the Great. On it, the young conqueror's features endure: his luxuriant curly hair and the crooked line of his broken nose; his elongated cheeks and large, unblinking eyes. Curiously though, his head is covered in the scalp of an elephant, its trunk curling triumphantly over his brow. Around his neck is the image of the Gorgon, the coiling snakes worn as an aegis. The horn of Ammon protects his temple.
The striking image is valued for far more than its obvious beauty. It is believed to be the only portrait actually created during the lifetime of Alexander the Great to survive into modernity. This is Alexander as he saw himself - invulnerable, verging on godhood, immortalized in the moment of his triumph.
"It's exactly Alexander, there is no doubt about that," says Sri Lankan numismatist Prof. Osmund Bopearachchi. Having announced the find to the world, more recently Osmund co-authored a book with History professor Frank Holt which was published just last month titled The Alexander Medallion: Exploring the Origins of a Unique Artefact'. Written partly in defence of the authenticity of the gold medallion, the book describes the extraordinary circumstances that led to the unveiling of the priceless artefact. Its historical significance far outweighing the value of the precious metal itself, its history is both the subject of the book and of Osmund's long obsession.
At the centre of the story is a humble village in Afghanistan. Located in one of the most hostile political and geographical landscapes on earth, Mir Zakah lies along the ancient trail that connects Ghazni in modern Afghanistan to Gandhara in what is now Pakistan. Travelling in the company of a French journalist and 12 bodyguards, Osmund made his way there in 2004. As the temperature plummeted to minus 15 degrees centigrade outside, the men covered themselves with carpets to keep warm and brushed their teeth with snow. Despite the abject poverty that surrounded them, in the evenings the numismatist would show his hosts pictures of incredible treasures of gold, silver and bronze ornaments, vessels and coins - and ask them whether there were any among them they recognized.
The pieces he was showing them were in the possession of a Japanese museum.
The museum had been sold the pieces which had been deliberately misrepresented by corrupt agents as belonging to another set known as the Oxus treasure . Now, Osmund was unsurprised to discover the men had in fact seen many of the pieces before. After all, some of them had actually handled the objects themselves, pulling each piece fresh from the earth just a few feet away from where they now huddled together. Some shared their keepsakes with the visitors on the palm of his hand, one man displayed a single diminutive gold coin. Unbeknownst to the Afghan farmer, the Indo-Scythian coin with the image of Azes stamped onto its face was a rarity, worth an estimated $20,000. Yet, this was only one of Mir Zakah's treasures and there are hundreds of thousands more.
To read the complete article, see:
Getting hold of the Alexander medallion
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: THE ALEXANDER MEDALLION BY HOLT AND BOPEARACHCHI
Wayne Homren, Editor
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