Treasures of Afghanistan visit Washington
Washington Travel Blog› entry 20 of 66 › view all entries
Late one sunny August afternoon I went to see Afghanistan: Hidden Treasurers from the National Museum, an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. The exhibit, from the
The Hidden Treasurers exhibit displays a collection of ancient artifiacts discovered in Afghanistan during the 20th century.
The exhibit is organized around the four archaeological sites in which the artifacts were discoverd. Each represents a different epoch and culture ranging from the Bronze Age (ca 2200 BCE) to the second century CE.
Tepe Fulloi in northern Afghanistan is the earliest site.
The city of Ai Khanum was founded in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquest of Bactria. Flourishing around 400-300 BCE, the city was laid out in the classical Greek style. Artificats retrieved from the site are typically Greek: Corinthain columns, sculptures, and architectural details. Jutting out of a wall is a waterspout with a jovial gargoyle-like Greek face. The spout or spigot was still in working condition when discovered.
Ancient storerooms at Begram were found to contain artifacts from Greece, Rome, Egypt,and China. Striking here are the Egyptian glass objects: colorful goblets and figurines of fish. So too are the ivory carvings from India, thought to have been inlaid details for wooden furniture. Whey were they collected there? The site was not a tomb or palace. Could it have been something as pedestrian as a distribution warehouse where luxury objects from distant lands were readied for trade along the Silk Road?
Tillya Tepe was a buiral site for a nomadic people that displaced the Greek-influenced culture in Bactria in the second century CE.
I found one of the most impressive items to be one of the smallest. A gold figure of Aphrodite is only a few centimeters in length, yet the workmanship is amazing. So, too, is the evidence of multicultural influences. The body of the figure is Grecian, but the classically drapped Greek goddess has Persian wings and Indian bracelets and a forehead dot! The single piece attests to Afghanistan’s important position in the Silk Road trade route between East and West and of the many cultures that have passed through this crossroads and influenced the region’s history.
The motto of the Kabul National Musuem, “A nation stays alive when its culture and history stay alive," is displayed at the conclusion of the exhibit.
The exhibit will also travel to San Francisco, Houston, and New York City.