The Helmand Sistan Project
Tales of the Field

The Ambassador Visits!

We planned to work at Shahr-i Gholghola, deep in the sand dunes of Sar-o-Tar, in 1974. While in Kabul preparing to go to the field, we were told that the American Ambassador would be coming to visit us. After having been ignored by most of the American diplomatic community for years, suddenly we were a hot commodity in Kabul. Our social invitations dramatically increased in number and people pretended they were interested in ancient history and sandy deserts. We knew when the Ambassador was coming because an advance party, another group of Kabul diplomats, thought they would score political points by visiting the scruffy archaeologists before the Ambassador got there. We shared our limited food and water with the advance party and were not disappointed that they left after a day. Finally, the big day arrived. The convoy of large, new, 4-wheel drive vehicles contained far more people and goods than we could ever have mustered on our own. Our cook planned a feast for that night. We convinced our workmen to pull out their musical instruments and give us a demonstration of Baluch dance and music. And two days of work were lost while we shepherded the party around our excavations. It was only after we returned to Kabul a couple of months later that we discovered the Ambassador had an ulterior motive: He was an avid birder and the Hamun Lakes near us were an important autumn flyway for birds migrating from Siberia to India for the winter. How else could he practice his hobby without a trip to visit an otherwise forgotten team of archaeologists?

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