The legendary Nancy Dupree, a historian and archaeologist, who dedicated most of her life to preserving Afghanistan’s history died on Saturday night in a Kabul hospital.
According to sources Dupree had been ill for a while.
Born in 1927 in India to American parents, Dupree first came to Afghanistan in 1962 as a diplomat’s wife. Several year later she met Louis Dupree, a renowned archaeologist and scholar of Afghan culture and history.
The two reportedly fell in love and after divorcing her husband she married Dupree.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Dupree was forced to leave the country, but her husband stayed behind.
Rather than return to the United States, she moved to a refugee camp in Peshawar in Pakistan to help Afghan refugees. Her husband joined her a while later after being arrested on suspicion of being a CIA spy. He died in 1989.
During her time in Peshawar, Dupree realized the need to preserve unique documents about Afghanistan and to prevent them from being destroyed. In order to do this, she formed the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) and began to collect government and non-government documents relating to Afghanistan’s history and culture.
In previous interviews, Dupree said looting started after the Soviet invasion and that many priceless books were sold to be used for fuel. A large number of books were also sold by weight to be used to wrap food, she said.
In 2001 when coalition forces overthrew the Taliban government, Dupree chose to stay on in Peshawar as she was concerned about the safety of the document collection.
But in 2005, Dupree moved back to Kabul and worked with the Afghan government to establish a home for the collection of documents that at the time numbered over 7,000 items.
The collection was eventually moved to its own building at Kabul University where today it is known as the Afghan Collection.
In 2007 Dupree established the Louis and Nancy Hatch Dupree Foundation which promotes research and raises awareness of the history and culture of Afghanistan. The foundation also ensures the safety of the document collection – which will in turn ensure the Dupree’s legacy lives on.