The Helmand Sistan Project

The Helmand Sistan Project (HSP) represents the only long-term, comprehensive archaeological survey and excavation project ever conducted in Southwest Afghanistan. In the field between 1971 and 1979 by agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and the Afghan Institute of Archaeology, HSP identified almost 200 sites in the Sistan region of the lower Helmand Valley, in the adjoining Sar-o-Tar Basin, and in other areas along the southwestern Afghan border. We also conducted brief reconnaissance work in neighboring Pakistan and Iran in hopes of widening the scope of the project.

The work done during the HSP represents the first attempt to create a comprehensive culture history of this region and to examine its historical ecology (the relationship between environment and cultural patterns over time).  The project also engaged in ethnographic, geological, and hydrodological studies of the region.

Further research in the project area was prevented by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Since that time, there has been no opportunity to return to the field because of continuous military and political conflicts that will seemingly continue into the foreseeable future.

This website summarizes the work of HSP for non-specialists interested in the Sistan region of Afghanistan and neighboring areas.  

More information on the scholarly work of HSP can be found in our various publications. The HSP field data will be submitted to the National Anthropological Archives of the Smithsonian Institution to ensure its availability to future scholars and other interested parties.