British Museum – Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World






The British Museum London



Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World
3 March – 3 July 2011





Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World will highlight some of the most important archaeological discoveries from ancient Afghanistan and will display precious and unique pieces on loan from the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul currently undergoing reconstruction. The geographical position, overland connections and history ensured that it was a region which enjoyed close relations with its neighbours in Central Asia, Iran, India and China, as well as more distant cultures stretching as far as the Mediterranean. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is supporting this unique opportunity to see rare treasures of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage in the UK.


Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World


Crown (Tillya Tepe, Tomb VI), 1st century BC-1st century AD
Gold and imitation turquoise,
National Museum of Afghanistan.
Copyright Thierry Ollivier / Musee Guimet





The exhibition will showcase over 200 stunning objects belonging to the National Museum of Afghanistan, accompanied by selected items from the British Museum. The artefacts range from Classical sculptures, polychrome ivory inlays originally attached to imported Indian furniture, enamelled Roman glass and polished stone tableware brought from Egypt, to delicate inlaid gold personal ornaments worn by the nomadic elite. Together they showcase the trading and cultural connections of Afghanistan and how it benefited from being on an important crossroads of the ancient world.

All of these objects were found between 1937 and 1978 and were feared to have been lost following the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the civil war which followed, when the National Museum was rocketed and figural displays were later destroyed by the Taliban. Their survival is due to a handful of Afghan officials who deliberately concealed them and they are now exhibited here in a travelling exhibition designed to highlight to the international community the importance of the cultural heritage of Afghanistan and the remarkable achievements and trading connections of these past civilisations.


Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World


Ceremonial plaque depicting Cybele (Ai Khanum, Temple with niches), beginning of the 3rd
century BC
Gilded silver, National Museum of Afghanistan.
Copyright Thierry Ollivier / Musee Guimet

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World


Goblet depicting figures harvesting dates (Begram, Room 10), 1st-2nd centuries AD
Glass and paint,
National Museum of Afghanistan.
Copyright Thierry Ollivier / Musee Guimet

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World


Statuette of a woman standing on a makara, possibly a furniture ornament (Begram, Room10), 1st-2nd centuries AD
Ivory,
National Museum of Afghanistan.
Copyright Thierry Ollivier / Musee Guimet





The earliest objects in the exhibition are part of a treasure found at the site of Tepe Fullol which dates to 2000 BC, representing the earliest gold objects found in Afghanistan and how already it was connected by trade with urban civilisations in ancient Iran and Iraq. The later finds come from three additional sites, all in northern Afghanistan, and dating between the 3rd century BC and 1st century AD. These are Ai Khanum, a Hellenistic Greek city on the Oxus river and on the modern border with Tajikistan; Begram, a capical of the local Kushan dynasty whose rule extended from Afghanistan into India; and Tillya Tepe, (“Hill of Gold”), the find spot of an elite nomadic cemetery.







Courtesy The British Museum London
Images © Thierry Ollivier / Musee Guimet





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~ by Stampfli & Turci on December 4, 2010.

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