Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Afghanistan : Hidden Treasures Exhibition

By on Wednesday, December 02, 2009 4 Comments

A remarkable exhibition of Afghanistan's Hidden Treasures from the National Museum in Kabul has been touring for the past few years. The exhibition is now at the Canadian Museum of Civilisation in Ottawa until March 28, 2010. The introductory National Geographic trailer here is well worth the view as it puts into context the significance of these archaeological finds. The cultural history of a people is indeed the very soul of a nation.

Opening Of Exhibition 'Hidden Aghanistan'

This astounding cultural and historical legacy was so very nearly lost in the chaos of war and a period of deliberate destruction of historical artifacts. That these treasures survived at all is entirely due to the courage of a handful of Afghans - unknown "keyholders" - who hid and kept the location of the archaeological finds secret. No one knows who these people were, let alone if they are still alive but future generations of Afghans and the world are indebted to them.

The treasures date back in time from about 2200 BC to about 200 AD. The most spectacular collection of all  is the Bactrian Hoard, which consists of more than 20,000 gold, silver and ivory ornaments from 6 burial tombs of royal nomads in Tillya Tepe (Mound of Gold) in northern Afghanistan.

The treasures were first unearthed in 1978 by a Russian archaeologist, one year before the Soviet invasion. The finds were taken to the National Museum in Kabul. The museum was later bombed and the Bactrian Hoard disappeared. When the Taliban was ousted in 2003, the treasures were eventually found safe in boxes in the underground vaults of the Presidential palace.

Ancient Treasures Of Afghanistan
The golden treasures date back to the heyday of the Silk Road when caravans frequently traversed this historical area, Bactria (it included much of modern Afghanistan), making it a cultural crossroads. The nomads who lived there carried their wealth with them in the form of precious ornamentation - there were no banks in their day! The gold items ranged from tiny beads sewn to garments to gold sandals.

The tombs were that of a male chieftain who was buried surrounded by five females. He was buried with elaborately decorated weapons like the sword hilt above.

Ancient Treasures Of Afghanistan
The women were wearing really heavy jewelry - some of them were laden with 2-3 lbs of solid gold!! One young woman was buried with a gold crown. Interestingly, the crown is a composite design. It is in sections and totally collapsible - the five upright portions could be detached from each other and the circular band below- a useful feature if one was a nomad.

What really astounds me about ancient jewelry is the great skill of the original artisans. These designs have also stood the test of time as much of the jewelry is highly wearable today.

Ancient Treasures Of Afghanistan

Turquoise is the main gemstone used. The archaeologists believe the turquoise was of local origin so what we are seeing today are Bactrian nomadic designs created in the area but influenced by other cultures.

Ancient Treasures Of Afghanistan

Ancient Treasures Of Afghanistan

Ancient Treasures Of Afghanistan

Ancient Treasures Of Afghanistan

Ancient Treasures Of Afghanistan

For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips

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  1. These pieces must be beautiful! in person and with such a rich history...truly outstanding.

  2. Thanks for sharing; it was very interesting. The pieces are beautiful - especially the crown! How interesting that it collapses. Wish I could see this in person.

  3. Wow. You ARE a serious blogger. The crown is stellar, but the tatting is out of this world!

  4. Wonderful...those pieces are gorgeous!