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    Afghanistan's Ancient Gold Treasures

    Afghanistan Gold Treasures

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)
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    December 21, 2007—Part of the famed "Bactrian hoard" of treasures, a folding gold crown dating from the first century A.D. is one of the Afghan treasures that will go on display in the United States in 2008, it was announced today.

    The crown was discovered in one of six graves of nomads of the ancient state of Bactria at an archaeological site in northern Afghanistan in 1978.

    Russian-Greek archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi unearthed the hoard—a crown, necklaces, belts, rings, and headdresses set with precious jewels. The finds were later hidden and eventually thought stolen until the Afghan government found them stashed in boxes in 2003.

    The touring exhibition—"Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum"—is organized by the National Geographic Society and the U.S. National Gallery of Art, in cooperation with the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul.

    (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

    The 17-month tour of the U.S. will begin in spring 2008 in Washington, D.C.
    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet
    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)
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    A close-up shows detail of a dagger dating from the first century A.D. The knife will go on display in a new U.S. exhibition of Afghan treasures in 2008.

    The dagger was found at the archaeological site of Tilly Tepe, in northern Afghanistan, where the graves of six ancient nomads were discovered in 1978.

    The far-flung origins of the exhibition's pieces show Afghanistan's role as a cultural hub in the set of trade routes known as the Silk Road during the first century B.C, according to archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert, a National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration grantee.

    Hiebert helped inventory the objects and is curating the U.S. exhibition.

    "This exhibition is really about heroism," Hiebert told National Geographic News.

    "These pieces should not be around today. They are here because people risked their lives to safeguard them.
    —Photograph by Kenneth Garrett © 2007 National Geographic

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This large glass beaker, dating from the first century A.D., shows two female and two male figures between bands of yellow and red.

    The artifact is part of the 17-month U.S. touring exhibition of Afghan treasures that begins in spring 2008.

    The more than 200 artifacts are at the Nieuwe Kerk exhibition hall in Amsterdam through April 20, 2008. They have been on display at the Musée Guimet in Paris and the Museo di Antichità in Turin, Italy.
    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This gold pendant with turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and pearls depicts a “dragon master.” The artifact will be part of the U.S. exhibition “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul" in 2008 and 2009.

    The pendant, dating from the first century A.D., was found at one of four Afghan archaeological sites that yielded the works of art in the exhibition.

    The ornament was part of the some one hundred gold objects taken from the graves of six Bactrian nomads.

    Many of the Bactrian objects reflect local artisans' distinctive blend of motifs known from Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese art.
    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This fragment of a golden bowl with Mesopotamian motifs, dating from about 2500 B.C., was discovered at the Tepe Fullol archaeological site in northern Afghanistan.

    The artifacts from Tepe Fullol date between 2500 B.C. and 2200 B.C. They are the earliest objects in a new Afghan treasures exhibition, which will tour the U.S. in 2008 and 2009.

    All the artifacts—which are the property of Afghanistan—were once housed in the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul.
    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This sculpture of a water goddess standing atop a makara—a mythical Hindu water creature—was found at the Begram archaeological site in northern Afghanistan.

    Begram is one of the four sites from which ancient works of art have been drawn for a 2008-2009touring exhibition of Afghan treasures in the U.S.

    Artifacts from the site include elaborately carved Indian ivory reliefs, ivory statues, vases, and painted glassware—many of them imported from Roman, Indian, Chinese, and East Asian markets.

    When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, they destroyed statues, paintings, and artifacts deemed to be idols—specifically those depicting human and animal forms.

    "People were trying to hide animal and human structures from them," Said T. Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, told National Geographic News.

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This unfired-clay sculpture dating from the second century B.C. will be featured in the 2008-2009 U.S. exhibition of "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul.”

    The object was found at the former Greek city of Aï Khanum, in a region of Afghanistan conquered by Alexander the Great.

    The archaeological finds from Aï Khanum reflect the Mediterranean influence in the region between the fourth and second centuries B.C.

    The Afghan treasures will be shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. They are also tentatively set to visit the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet


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