Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD
Date: 14 January 2010
Warwick Ball – Ralph Pinder-Wilson and Afghanistan
An overview of the ‘Pinder-Wilson years’ at the British Institute of Afghan Studies in Kabul, where he was Director from 1976 until its closure in 1982 following the Soviet invasion. During this time a number of major field operations were carried out which Ralph Pinder-Wilson oversaw and guided. Chief of these were three seasons of the Institute’s excavations at the major urban site of Kandahar, that were directed in the field by Svend Helms. There was also a major campaign of preservation work at the Buddhist stupa-monastery complex at Guldara, as well numerous other activities that the Institute was involved in. Ralph Pinder-Wilson’s own work was a major new study of the Minarets of Jam and Ghazni, analysing their inscriptions and placing them firmly within the tradition of early Islamic victory towers proclaiming the conquering power of Islam. Finally, there will be a brief examination of Ralph Pinder-Wilson’s other activities and achievements outside Afghanistan, in Turkey, Egypt and Iran, as well as in the British Museum where he spent almost thirty years.
Warwick Ball, F.S.A., is an author and archaeologist who has excavated in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and elsewhere. He worked and travelled in Afghanistan between 1972 and 1981, where he was due to succeed Ralph Pinder-Wilson as Acting Director of the British Institute of Afghan Studies in Kabul. His 2 volume Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan, originally published in 1982, remains one of the standard reference works on Afghanistan and is currently being updated and expanded for a new edition. He published (with A W McNicoll) the first two seasons of the Institute’s excavations at Kandahar in 1996, and his book Rome in the East: the Transformation of an Empire was winner of the 2000 James Henry Breasted Prize for History and Choice Outstanding Academic Book in 2000. He co-edited (with Leonard Harrow) Cairo to Kabul. Afghan and Islamic Studies presented to Ralph Pinder-Wilson (published by Melisende, London) which was presented to the dedicatee at a special occasion at the British Museum in 2002. His latest work on Afghanistan, The Monuments of Afghanistan: History, Archaeology and Architecture, was published in 2009, and he is the author of numerous other books and papers on the history and archaeology of the region as a whole. Born in Australia, Warwick now lives in the Scottish Borders where he is Director of Eastern Approaches, a tour company specialising in cultural and historical interest travel in the Middle East and Central Asia broadly.
The president of the Royal Asiatic Society, Dr Gordon Johnson, presents the Sir Richard Burton Medal to Richard Robinson, nephew of Ralph Pinder-Wilson: