Afghanistan to reveal its Hidden Treasures at Museum of Civilization

July 24, 2009

Afghanistan to reveal its Hidden Treasures at Museum of Civilization

Gatineau, Quebec, July 23, 2009 — Some of the most exquisite artifacts from Afghanistan’s ancient past, including precious gold from the fabled Bactrian Hoard, are coming in the National Capital Region this fall. These artifacts are among the thousands feared stolen or destroyed during the past three decades of violent conflict in the geographic heart of Asia. AFGHANISTAN: Hidden Treasures will be presented from October 23, 2009 to March 28, 2010 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the sole Canadian venue for the acclaimed international exhibition.

AFGHANISTAN: Hidden Treasures will feature more than 200 objects from the National Museum in Kabul, including delicate jewelry, fine sculptures, ancient weapons and pottery from the third century BCE to the first century CE. Their rediscovery in 2003 was met with joy and praise for the Afghans who risked their lives to protect their country’s legacy from from destruction and looting.

“The exhibition tells a dramatic tale of both ancient and modern cultures,” said Victor Rabinovitch, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “For centuries, Afghanistan was a thriving crossroads on the Silk Road, the great trade route that once linked empires from Asia all the way to the Mediterranean. Today, commerce has given way to conflict, yet Afghanistan’s rich and resilient heritage will endure.”

After surviving two millennia, these irreplaceable relics from Afghanistan’s past were almost wiped out by more recent events. In 1978, as chaos and civil war threatened Kabul, a group of Afghans resolved to protect the precious contents of the National Museum and transferred thousands of artifacts and works of art to secure hiding places. Heroic Afghans kept the location of these treasures a secret until 2003 when Afghan president Hamid Karzai surprised the world when by announcing these artifacts had been located intact in the presidential palace bank vault in Kabul, more than 25 years after they had vanished from public view.

“This exhibition is the culmination of many years of work by the Afghans. Without their courage and commitment, these objects would not exist today,” said Dr. Fredrik T. Hiebert, curator of this travelling exhibition and a National Geographic Society Archaeology Fellow. “Having worked closely with Afghan officials since 2003 on the preservation and inventory of the objects, I am honoured to be part of the effort to share these treasures with audiences around the world and ultimately to enhance the understanding of Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage.”

Visitors will see objects drawn from four distinct archaeological sites. Gold vessels and other beautiful objects from the Bronze Age city of Tepe Fullol hint at Afghanistan’s local wealth and its artistic links to Mesopotamia. Bronze and stone sculptures and a gilded silver plaque from Aï Khanum, a Greek colony in northern Afghanistan, show a Hellenistic influence. Bronzes, ivories, ceramics and painted glassware imported from faraway Roman, Indian and Chinese markets were excavated from ancient storerooms discovered in the 1930s and 1940s in Begram.