Faculty & Staff

Professor unveils book on Ancient Afghanistan

A UH history professor explores the story behind an ancient civilization in his new book, “Lost World of the Golden King: In Search of Ancient Afghanistan.”

In the book, professor Frank Holt explains cognitive numismatics — understanding the civilization’s language based on its coins.

Holt said cognitive numismatics helped him develop a story covering two centuries of Bactria history, beginning with the colonization by remnants of Alexander the Great’s army and ending with the kingdom’s collapse after a series of nomadic invasions.

“I think of the coin as the original data disk,” Holt said. “Instead of studying the Kings and Queens, I studied the people who actually crafted the coin. The coin shows mistakes the Greeks made that betrayed their identity.”

“Lost World” describes how newly unearthed archaeological evidence and the language behind the Greek coin contributed to the rediscovery of 18th and 19th century Afghanistan. The methodologies of numismatics and historical writings of the 20th century led to the discovery of one city out of the thousands that have been discovered, revealing buildings, a temple and a treasury.

“Dr. Holt is an amazing colleague,” said Associate Professor Raul Ramos, director of undergraduate studies. “With history, everyone writes and studies different time periods, and Holt has made the ancient world accessible to others.”

Holt has studied history for more than 30 years, traveling to see museum collections in places such as Athens, London and New York, he said.

In 2007, Holt attended a conference in Paris that inspired him to write the book.

“There are two things readers should keep in mind,” Ramos said. “The first — Dr. Holt told a story never told. The second is he is very thoughtful about his methodology. He does not take the study for face value, and people could learn a lot from his methodology.”

The difficulty with studying this time period is that few documents remain that can chronicle it, Ramos said.

Holt got around this problem by studying the culture’s coins, he said.

“I want people to understand and love the detective work behind ancient Greek history,” Holt said. “It is mind-boggling to understand how these cultures interact and how it is very relevant with today and our society.”

Holt’s book is available at local bookstores and online retailers.

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