A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive.

Treasure Gallery

Afghanistan Treasure Slide Gallery
  • Crown

    Crown, Tillya Tepe, gold,
    100 B.C.E.–100  C.E.

    This crown was found in the tomb of a high-ranking nomadic woman. The ingenious design allowed the crown to be dismantled and easily transported. Golden birds appear in the upper branches of four of the five trees, which represent the Tree of Life, a common theme in nomad beliefs. This type of collapsible crown, with tree and bird motifs, has many parallels among nomadic peoples who occupied the steppes of northern Central Asia.

  • Sculpture Fragment

    Sculpture Fragment, Aï Khanum,
    Unfired Clay, about 150 B.C.E.

    The use of clay and plaster in sculpture was a major legacy of the Greeks to Central Asia, and was popular with Greco-Bactrian artists. These materials were less costly than bronze or stone, and were easily worked. The soft, full features of this figure resemble those of Classical Greek sculpture. Remains of red pigment on the right cheek may be traces of an adhesive used to apply gold leaf.

  • Ram-shaped Headdress Ornament

    Ram-shaped Headdress Ornament, Tillya Tepe, gold, 100 B.C.E.–100  C.E.

    Nomads from the northern grasslands that stretch from the Black Sea to Mongolia invaded Bactria (northern Afghanistan) around 145 B.C.E., bringing an end to the Greco-Bactrian kingdoms that had flourished there. The first archaeological evidence of this nomad presence was found at Tillya Tepe, which means “hill of gold”. The site contained the tombs of a nomadic chieftain and five female members of his household, buried with thousands of gold objects and ornaments. This gold ram was originally attached to a tall headdress worn by the chieftain.

  • Statuette of a Woman Standing on a Makara

    Statuette of a Woman Standing on a Makara, Begram, ivory, 1–200  C.E.

    This statuette once decorated a piece of wooden furniture. The woman may represent the Indian river goddess Ganga, whose mount is the mythical makara — a creature that is part crocodile, part elephant and part fish.The statuette shows a blend of influences between Greek and Indian representations of deities.

  • Goblet

    Goblet, Begram, painted glass,
    1–200 C.E.

    Chemical analysis of the glass has shown that this goblet was made in Roman Egypt and traded along the Silk Road. Egypt was conquered and incorporated into the Roman empire in 30 B.C.E. The country produced papyrus, glass and porphyry vessels that were exported to the rest of the Roman empire and beyond, as this fragile object attests.

  • Aquarium Lid

    Aquarium Lid, Begram, bronze,
    1–200 C.E.

    This bronze lid originally sat on top of an aquarium, which may have been a luxury amusement for guests at a banquet. The fish on the lid have fins and tails made of moving parts wired to small weights. When the aquarium basin was filled with liquid, the weights would sway, causing the fish to appear to swim. The centre of the lid features the head of Medusa, a monstrous female from Greek mythology, whose gaze turned onlookers to stone.

  • Belt with Disks

    Belt with Disks, Tillya Tepe, gold,
    100 B.C.E.–100 C.E.

    The belt consists of a flexible band of eight braided gold chains, ornamented with nine medallions. A figure sitting on a panther is depicted on the medallions. He holds a twohandled drinking cup (kantharos), a symbol of Dionysus, Greek god of wine, and rests an elbow on the animal’s head.

  • Fish-Shaped Vessel

    Fish-Shaped Vessel, Begram, glass,
    1–200 C.E.

    Fish were favourite shapes among ancient glass artists. Ribbons of liquid glass were used to shape the fins and gills. This fish vessel was probably an unguentaria: luxury vessel for cosmetics.

  • Chieftain’s Dagger

    Chieftain’s Dagger, Tillya Tepe, iron, gold and turquoise, 100 B.C.E.–100 C.E.

    Although short swords or daggers of bronze were characteristic of nomadic horsemen, this one has a rare iron blade and solid gold handle. The dancing bear depicted on the round pommel appears to be feasting on grapes, which have been rendered in locally available turquoise.

  • Pendant Depicting the “Dragon  Master”

    Pendant Depicting the “Dragon Master,” Tillya Tepe, gold, turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian and pearl, 100 B.C.E.–100 C.E.

    This elaborate hair ornament depict a man holding two mythical creatures in a scene known to both
    ancient Persian and ancient Siberian art. The man is dressed in garments typical of Central Asian nomads, but has an Indian-style mark on his forehead, and a crown similar to those worn by Persian rulers.

  • Crown
  • Sculpture Fragment
  • Ram-shaped Headdress Ornament
  • Statuette of a Woman Standing on a Makara
  • Goblet
  • Aquarium Lid
  • Belt with Disks
  • Fish-Shaped Vessel
  • Chieftain’s Dagger
  • Pendant Depicting the “Dragon  Master”

A sample of the 200 brilliant treasures showcased in the exhibition.