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.
When farmers discovered a burial cache here in 1966, they brought to light the earliest evidence that the Oxus civilization, an ancient culture, occupied an area that extended into Afghanistan.
Artifacts uncovered at Tepe Fullol reveal the wealth generated by trade in precious materials found locally, such as gold and lapis lazuli. The exhibition includes fragmentary gold bowls decorated with bearded bulls, a design that reveals artistic links to distant Mesopotamia, and shows that Afghanistan was already part of a far-reaching commercial and cultural network 4,000 years ago.
This Greek outpost, founded in the fourth century B.C.E., was once Greece's easternmost outpost in Asia. Here, Mediterranean and eastern traditions melded into a distinctive style. AÏ Khanum was invaded and destroyed by nomads in around 145 B.C.E.
French archaeologists began excavating the well preserved site of AÏ Khanum in 1964. In 1979, the site became a battleground. It has been looted repeatedly since that time. The exhibition features surviving artifacts that show a strong Greek influence, including a Corinthian capital, stone sculptures and a gilded silver plaque depicting Cybele, the Greek goddess of nature.
Two thousand years ago, the city of Begram was a bustling commercial centre along the Silk Road. During archaeological work in the 1930s, two sealed storerooms were discovered. Their excavation yielded a cache of luxury trade goods such as bronzes, ivories, ceramics, glassware and lacquerware imported from as far away as the Mediterranean, India and China.
Artifacts in the exhibition illustrate the diversity of cultures that converged in Begram: a painted glass goblet from Roman Egypt depicting the harvesting of dates; three ivory statuettes of an Indian goddess standing on a makara (a creature that is part crocodile, elephant and fish); and a bronze mask of Silenus, companion of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.
Tillya Tepe ("Golden Hill") was discovered in 1978. This is the source of the famous Bactrian Hoard, a treasure trove of more than 20,000 gold ornaments unearthed from the graves of six mysterious nomads buried around the first century C.E. The artisans of these ornaments had absorbed and reinterpreted elements of other traditions they had encountered during their travels, resulting in a unique artistic style that reflected Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, Chinese and Siberian influences. For this reason, the stunning collection is considered one of the most significant discoveries in the history of archaeology.
Many of the ornaments are made of solid gold and embellished with semiprecious stones such as turquoise from Iran, and carnelian and garnets from local mines. About 100 of the most spectacular pieces are on display, including necklaces, belts, rings, an elaborately constructed crown and two exquisite pendants depicting a "Dragon Master" holding two mythical creatures in a scene known to both ancient Persian and Siberian art.