Surkh Kotal (Persian: سرخکوتل; Pashto: سور کوتل), also called Chashma-i Shir or Sar-i Chashma, is an ancient archaeological site located in the southern part of the region of Bactria, about 18 km north of the city of Puli Khumri, the capital of Baghlan Province of Afghanistan. It is the location of monumental constructions made during the rule of the Kushans. Huge temples, statues of Kushan rulers and the Surkh Kotal inscription, which revealed part of the chronology of early Kushan emperors (also called Great Kushans) were all found there. The Rabatak inscription which gives remarkable clues on the genealogy of the Kushan dynasty was also found in the Robatak village just outside the site.
The site of Surkh Kotal, excavated between 1952 and 1966 by Prof. Schlumberger of the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan, is the main site excavated of the Kushan Empire. Some of the site's sculptures were transferred to the National Museum of Afghanistan (also known as the 'Kabul Museum'), the rest of the site was completely looted during the Afghan Civil War. The most famous artifacts of this site are the Surkh Kotal inscriptions, the statue of King Kanishka and the fire altar. The statue of the king was destroyed during the Taliban wave of iconoclasm in February–March 2001, but has been restored by French conservationists. The three artifacts are currently on display in the Afghan National Museum.
The current, well-established name for the site was given to it by the French team of archaeologists headed by M. Schlumberger that originally surveyed the remains. This is not its ancient name, but is instead the modern name for the hills upon which it sits.
An ancient name for the site has been put forward by W. B. Henning and J. D. M. Derrett based on a word in fragments of text found in situ that reads "ΒΑΓΟΛΑΓΓΟ" - "BAGOLANGO" - which would fit with the current name for the nearby city and its region, Baghlan. Though the script of the text is Greek, the language is unknown, so it is not known with certainty whether this word is in fact the name of the site or merely another word for something else. They propose that this language is likely to be the local Iranian dialect, and compare the word with the Old Iranian baga-danaka, meaning "temple/sanctuary".
Here are translations of the inscriptions from Surkh Kotal by J. Harmatta. They were originally in the Bactrian language and written in Greek script. For possible interpretations of their meanings, see Harmatta's article.:
The "unfinished inscription" (SK2) has been translated as:
Unfortunately, the fragments of an inscription from the period of Kanishka's reign contain only about one fifth (124 letters altogether) of the original inscription. They have been translated as:
The text of SK 4 (A, B, M) runs:
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