Unsung heroine behind Nepal's priceless archaeology finds
May 7, 2007 - 10:38:05 AM

Kathmandu, May 7 - A Harvard graduate, whose feats include unearthing a 500-year-old frozen mummy in Peru and bringing to light the Sherpa climbers who made the earliest Everest expeditions successful, triggered the search for archaeological finds in northern Nepal - and the discovery of a treasure trove.

Less than a week after IANS broke the story of a team of explorers, archaeologists and experts discovering ancient caves in Mustang - once an independent and powerful Tibetan kingdom, the world's eye has been drawn to the treasury of wall paintings, ancient manuscripts, pottery and burial mounds lying undisturbed in the inaccessible mountainous district.

However, few know about the catalyst for the stupendous discovery that could result in an ocean of information about Buddhism, the ancient history of Nepal, Tibet and India and the salt-trading route spanning the three countries that brought prosperity to Mustang.

The root of the search goes back to 2003 when Bostonian Liesl Clark, who had already made a name for herself with three amazing documentaries on Mt Everest, made 'Lost Treasures of Tibet' - a mosaic of history, science, politics, religion and art - focusing on the remarkable restoration work going on in the former kingdom that opened its borders to the outside world only in the 1990s.

The exploration Clark did in Mustang to make her documentary made her feel that the discovered objects were just a tip of the iceberg, that there was a far greater trove lying hidden.

When she conveyed her thoughts to US author Broughton Coburn and her husband, Peter Athans, an Everest legend who has climbed the world's highest peak seven times, the trio decided it was time for another expedition.

In March, an expedition, partly funded by adventure gear-maker North Face and American Sky Door Productions stumbled upon the human excavated caves, some of which are multi-storeyed, with one enclave containing a mural of 55 paintings, highly evocative of the Ajanta paintings found in India's Maharashtra state.

Since the new amazing discovery, Clark has returned to the US.

However, she is likely to be back soon with a new project on which she has already started working - building libraries in remote northern Nepal with the first one already established in Solu Khumbu district, considered the gateway to Mt Everest.

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