Monday, August 25, 2008

Final weeks of Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan Exhibit in Washington D.C.

A treasure hunter's fantasy - bronze sculptures, intricate ivory
carvings, painted glass, and more than 20,000 gold pieces. These are
among the nearly 230 objects on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Most of the artifacts in this exhibition have never been exhibited here in the United States.

When you look at these "hidden treasures," you begin to understand
why - they are some of the most important archaeological discoveries of
our time, dating from 2200 B.C. to around the second century A.D. The
oldest are a set of gold bowl fragments from Tepe Fulloi.

"They were found by a series of farmers in northern Afghanistan who
had no idea that these were 4,000-year-old treasures," said Hiebert,
the curator of the exhibition. "And they were so happy with their good
luck of having found these golden bowls that they immediately started
to divide up their good luck."

For thousands of years, Afghanistan attracted settlers and nomads,
traders and artisans ... and conquerors, beginning with Cyrus the Great
of Persia in the sixth century B.C., followed by the Greek Alexander
the Great 200 years later. His followers founded cities like Ai Khanum
in northern Afghanistan, known in ancient times as Bactriaj.

One object, a water spout, was still is working condition when it
was found, Hiebert explained. "It's completely iconic of the kind of
art that the Greeks would bring to the Afghan area to impose and to
show their culture. And it became part of the fabric of the art of

There are stone sculptures made in the Greek style, a Corinthian
capital, an ancient sundial, and one of the oldest artifacts found at
Ai Khanum, a ceremonial plaque made of gilded silver dating from around
300 B.C.

The exhibit "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures From The National Museum,
Kabul," is at the National Gallery of Art through September 7, 2008. The exhibit will then travel to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California (where I hope to see it) and be on display October 24, 2008 - January 25, 2009. Then it moves on
to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (February 22-May 17, 2009) and then to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (June 23-September 20, 2009).