One can easily be blown away by a glass artist's skills.  Watch Bill Gudenrath of the Corning Museum of Glass in New York recreate a fish shaped flask which was discovered in Begram, Afghanistan.  

The process is a joy to watch. He makes it look easy but it isn't when you consider he is sculpting with molten glass! (Want to watch more amazing glass work? Check out the two seasons of the Blown Away glass competition on Netflix.)

The original artefact in blue and yellow glass is now part of Afghanistan's cultural treasures. The British Museum hosted an exhibition, Afghanistan : Crossroads of the Ancient World back in 2011 which showcased this fish flask as well as other amazing archaeological treasures.  The  golden crown also shown in the video is spectacular.

Original Fish Flask (Screen capture from video below)

Afghanistan has a rich history as well as being a place of turmoil for centuries. It was the location of ancient trade crossroads of the Old Silk Road between Rome and China because of its strategic position in Central Asia.  Afghanistan was important to the British in the 19th century as a buffer between British India and Russia.  The British called this confrontation with Russia The Great Game

It also suffered from repeated invasions for more than 2000 years from the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Sikh Empire, Genghis Khan, Timur/Tamerlan, the Mughal Empire, the British, the Russians and more recently, the US-led one which began in the aftermath of 9/11. 

Many of Afghanistan's historical treasures were looted or destroyed in the turmoil from when their civil war began in 1978. That some pieces like the fish flask above survived at all is due to the courage and foresight of the curators from the national Museum in Kabul. They hid the treasures for several years during a particularly vulnerable period under the Taliban's tyrannical rule when many historical artefacts were destroyed. 

Why bother at all, you might ask?  Once lost, historical treasures and links to the past will be gone forever.  And that will impact a nation's identity. That is why Afghanistan's national museum's motto is : "A Nation Stays Alive When Its Culture Stays Alive".  It isn't always war which can destroy cultural heritages - fires too,  can devastate like the one at Windsor Castle in 1992 , the destruction of Brazil's National Museum in 2018 and the Notre Dame Cathedral in 2019.

The Allies during the dying days of the Second World War also recognized the potential of such losses in the chaos of war. Much of Europe was devastated as the Allies advanced into Nazi occupied territories.  

A brave, dedicated Allied team of about 350 mostly middle aged men and a few women from about 13 nations- curators, artists, art experts, historians and architects called the Monuments Men  -worked as close to the front as possible- largely alone with little resources and in considerable haste and danger. The urgency was real because Hitler ordered the destruction of millions of art treasures etc if he died or if Germany lost. 

Their mission was to locate and save stolen Nazi art treasures and historical structures before they were accidentally or wilfully destroyed. They were enormously aided by one courageous French woman. Rose Vallard, an art historian and curator, who risked her life spying on and gathering critical art location information from the Nazis. She was initially reluctant to share her information to the Monuments Men because she was afraid the Allies would not return the artefacts. Their combined efforts saved 5 million of Europe's art treasures and cultural icons.

I thoroughly recommend Robert Edsel's book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.  (I listened to the audiobook from my lending library.)

The movie of the same name is based on their story but focuses only on a few key American and British individuals.  The movie might be in your Netflix or other streaming service. It can also be borrowed from your lending library.  

See how the movie compares with the real historical story here

Here is the movie trailer :

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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM