ArExhibition: Ria and Joseph Hackin, discoverers of Alexandria Caucasus

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At the Invalides, in Paris, an exciting exhibition of the Museum of the Order of the Liberation stages the works of Joseph Hackin and Marie, known as Ria, his wife, discoverers, in Afghanistan, of Begram, Alexandria of the Caucasus. Located a hundred kilometers north of Kabul, is one of dozens of cities founded by Alexander the Great on his way to India, IV th  century BC.

The son of a coachman , Joseph Hackin (1886-1941) is one of the great figures of oriental archeology. It brings to light the treasures buried at the feet of the vertiginous peaks of the Hindu Kuch. Luxemburgish naturalized French, graduated from political science at 20 years, Hackin is passionate about Asia, becomes the secretary of Emile Guimet, works in the museum of industrial lyonnaiset studies philology, Sanskrit and Tibetan School practice of high studies. He joined Afghanistan at the call of Alfred Foucher, to which he succeeded the leadership of the new French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA), created in 1922 at the request of King Amanullah.

Shale stele depicting the "Buddha with a great miracle", the water coming out of his feet, fire from his shoulders, coming from the Païtava monastery in Kapisa, Afghanistan.

During excavation campaigns (1924-1940), he explored the Buddhist site of Bamiyan, its monasteries and caves excavated by hundreds in the cliff on a length of one kilometer, with the help of the architect Jean Carl and Ria . The drawings and watercolors of Alexander Iacovleff, who is at their side, remain the rare evidence of the lost scenery, including the records of the great Buddhas destroyed by the explosive in 2001 by the Taliban. On the murals is the subtle and sensual mixture of codes and palettes of the Indian, Sassanian and Roman arts of the East.

An enigmatic treasure

Opening the exhibition, the map of Afghanistan draws the chaos of mountains crisscrossed with waterways; a country that the great powers have never ceased to covet for its mineral riches – lapis lazuli, gold, emerald, rare earths, copper … The letters, manuscripts and notebooks of excavations, of the small regular writing of Joseph Hackin, complete the films and photos taken by Ria and shown in the exhibition. Equipped with a Rolleiflex camera and a camera, she is interested in local life, the people she is close to, raising the legends and tales she makes a collection.

View Large Format:   Seen From A Drone, The Treasures Of My Aynak, Afghanistan

Ichthyomorphic, fish-shaped, first-century glass vase from Syria or Alexandria, found among the coins of Begram

Ria was entrusted with the management of the excavation site of Begram (1937-1939), from which she exhumed an enigmatic treasure. “Two rooms were filled with hundreds of glass objects from Alexandria or Syria, including a representation of the Lighthouse of Alexandria – the best existing document – and a glass fish (I st -II th  centuries) , says Philippe Marquis, current director of DAFA . But also, in the thousands, small portraits of divinities or donors, of a delicate polychrome clay, Indian influence, covered with gold leaf for Buddhas . And thousands of small pieces of ivory, finely chiseled furniture veneers, an Indian production of Ier  century which no evidence exists in India today. “objects loaned mostly by the Guimet Museum.

In 1940, Ria and Joseph Hackin joined Free France. Charged with a diplomatic mission in India, Asia and the Middle East, Joseph embarked with Ria in February 1941 in Liverpool. This will be their last crossing, the Jonathan-Holt is torpedoed by the Germans off the Faroe Islands.

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