PULLMAN – Priceless treasure, a code of silence, a bank bombing and the ancient Silk Road will be among the topics discussed when National Geographic archeologist Fredrik Hiebert presents “The Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in the CUB ballroom.
 
“His career adventures are often likened to those of cinema’s Indiana Jones,” said Brian Shuffield, program director for WSU’s Visual, Performing, and Literary Arts Committee (VPLAC), which is hosting the free public presentation.
 
“We are also hoping that Mr. Hiebert will share his insights into archaeologists’ concerns that Egypt’s historical treasures are under threat as a result of that nation’s recent political uprising,” said Trevor Park, VPLAC student chair.
 
“His visit is timely, in that the subjects he will discuss align well with topics raised in this year’s Common Reading Program book used by more than 3,000 WSU freshmen in dozens of courses across seven academic colleges,” Shuffield said.
Hiebert is an authority on the Silk Road, one of the ancient world’s most important trade routes running between Europe and East Asia. He is a pioneer of underwater archeology, having searched for evidence of ancient settlements in the Black Sea between Europe and Asia and in Lake Titicaca between Peru and Bolivia.
 
He is curator of a traveling exhibition, “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul,” that explores the rich cultural heritage of ancient Afghanistan from the Bronze Age through the rise of trade along the Silk Road.
 
Hiebert was among an elite cadre of international experts called to Afghanistan to authenticate artifacts discovered in 2003 in several museum boxes hidden in the presidential bank vault in Kabul. He helped to identify many of the 20,600 gold ornaments in a treasure cache called the “Bactrian Hoard,” which included 2,000-year-old coins, bejeweled necklaces, belts and medallions.
 
Presumed stolen by political or religious forces or looters, the treasure had been hidden years earlier by museum workers who kept the boxes’ location a long-held secret. Those “Afghan heroes,” Hiebert said, cared deeply about their endangered cultural heritage. They protected it during the Soviet invasion in 1979, a decade of civil wars and Taliban control.
 
The Taliban were on the verge of bombing the bank vault when American troops arrived and the militants were forced to flee.
 
This year’s common reading book for freshmen is “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” by humanitarian Greg Mortenson.
 
Thousands of students at the Pullman campus have become familiar with a variety of contemporary and historical issues, as well as research conducted throughout WSU, through their involvement with the Common Reading Program, part of the WSU University College. For more information, visit http://CommonReading.wsu.edu.
Most weeks throughout the academic year, faculty researchers and other experts meet with freshmen and other students to share their knowledge on common reading-related topics. Attendance at nearly 20 such presentations August-February approached 2,900, said Karen Weathermon, co-director of the Common Reading Program and a VPLAC member.
 
VPLAC is part of the Student Entertainment Board and Student Involvement and Leadership Development. For more information, go to http://studentinvolvement.wsu.edu/VPLAC.