The Helmand Sistan Project

Why HSP Is Important

  • HSP was the first long-term, comprehensive survey of a large portion of Afghanistan. Previous projects had been brief and covered only part of the region.
  • There has been almost no archaeological work in this region since the Soviet invasion of 1979, so our work represents the most recent archaeological findings about the area and may be the last for many years to come.
  • Most previous archaeological projects in Afghanistan focused on large sites, visible monuments, and fancy artifacts. Ours was an anthropologically-based project attempting to establish a cultural history of the region.
  • It was unusual for Central Asian archaeological projects of its time to be multidisciplinary in their approach: the HSP linked the archaeology to ethnography, ecology, climatology, hydrology, and geology.  
  • Our project contained a collaborative ethnographic project involving a locally trained anthropologist, Ghulam Rahman Amiri, who conducted a study of life in the local Baluch villages as well as serving as part of the archaeological team.
  • Our comprehensive project was able to incorporate the findings of previous researchers into a synthesized, broad understanding of the history of Sistan.
  • Our project is one of the few in Afghanistan to have established a complete cultural sequence from the development of the first complex cultures to the present.  
  • Our work complements the extensive research done in neighboring regions of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan by filling in the gaps of researchers’ knowledge of the whole region.
The Helmand Valley from the edge of the Dasht-i Margo to the east.