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The Buddhist monastery of Tepe Narenj (Kabul) in the light of recent excavations

Tepe Narenj-Détail de la salle de la chapelle circulaire.8ème s. (Cl.Zafar Paiman)

Conference by Zafar PaÏman, Scientific Director of excavations at the Afghan Archeological Institute.

The name of Tepe Narenj or “Hill of the orange trees”, given by the inhabitants, is unknown in the ancient texts or in modern texts. 1752 M away as the crow flies to the South from the old Citadel of Kabul, it is far enough from the center of the city for the calm of the monks to be insured. The site spread over almost three hundred metres East-West, is split lengthwise into two main parts, added to this is a chapel. Tepe Narenj main site is built on a slope of 45 ° East-West, on the East flank of a mountain named Koh-e-Zanbourak, or “mountain of the small wasp”. It overlooks a lake named Kol-e-Allan Khan. The site is very well delimited to the West and South by the mountain and to the East by the Great Lake.

It is a large Buddhist monastery, and according to the ceramic finds and coins, we date it between the middle of the 5th or probably beginning of 6th and the late 10th century.

Ten excavation campaigns revealed chapels, two great stupas, cylindrical columns, and particularly clay sculptures, including 16 bodhisattvas in a circular chapel, standing on a circular bench; this chapel is part of a series of five on Tepe Narenj. To this are added Buddhas sitting in meditation and Bodhisattvas in the lower part of the site named area XIV, which is unique to this day in Afghanistan.