A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive.
Get just a small taste of the wonders that await you at the Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures exhibition.
Afghanistan can rightly claim to be a crossroads of civilization, a place that has historically brought together people from many different cultures.
Afghanistan owes much of its colourful history to a geographic twist of fate. Situated strategically on the cusp of Central Asia, China, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, the area is a natural gateway between East and West. For millennia, it has found itself directly and inevitably in the path of empire builders, conquerors, merchants, pilgrims, missionaries and nomadic tribes.
Northern Afghanistan was part of an extensive trading network at least 4,000 years ago. In time, that network evolved into the Silk Road, the fabled collection of trade routes that stretched from China all the way to the Mediterranean. These routes linked faraway cities, settlements and oases, acting as an efficient conduit for commerce and culture.
At its peak, around 300 B.C.E. to 200 C.E., the Silk Road brought an unprecedented variety of goods to and through Afghanistan. Silk and lacquerware from China, carpets from Persia, ivories from India, bronze and glassware from the Roman Empire, horses from the Eurasian steppes - all were transported by caravan and traded along the way by merchants. As these commodities changed hands, so too did knowledge, ideas and artistic trends.
The extent of cultural exchange triggered by commerce is obvious in the artifacts in the exhibition. For example, many of the luxury goods retrieved from the ancient storerooms of Begram can be traced to Egypt, China and points in between. Other items, made locally for export, hint at how craftspeople in northern Afghanistan absorbed foreign influences and created their own unique style.