A.S.H. Smyth

A pawn in the Great Game: the sad story of Charles Masson

Edmund Richardson describes how an archaeologist, discovering priceless treasures near Kabul, was forced to spy for the EIC and was ultimately ruined

G.T. Vigne’s sketch of the plains of Bagram and Kohistan mountains, 1836. Credit: Getty Images

‘Everyone knows the Alexandria in Egypt,’ writes Edmund Richardson, ‘but there were over a dozen more Alexandrias scattered across Alexander the Great’s empire.’ By the early 19th century, though, very few had been identified. Moreover, the prevailing scholarly view was that there remained ‘not a single architectural monument of the Macedonian conquests in India’ — let alone in Afghanistan, which had, ‘for more than 1,000 years… been a blank space in western knowledge’.

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