Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Unhidden Treasures of The Silk Road

Afghan jewelry from first century BC. Images from NPR , more info & time line at NGA

There's a traveling exhibition of ancient artifacts from Afghanistan, starting at the National Gallery in DC, then moving on to San Francesco and elsewhere. The artifacts date as far back as 2000 BC. Some of the jewelry belonged to nomads, who weren't much for banking and carried their wealth with them. The most interesting part of the story to me is actually only 25 years old. Back in the chaos of the 1980's, folks in the Afghan national museum packed up these artifacts in metal boxes, loaded them on trucks and tucked them away in a presidential-palace vault outside Kabul. They remained hidden, their whereabouts protected by a code of silence for over 20 years. The artifacts apparently reflect old (pagan) Afghan culture, including influences of the various outsiders who traveled through or invaded Afghanistan. I wonder how long these treaures would've lasted had the Taliban Mullahs got their hands on them. They probably would have gone the way of the giant Buddhas of Bamyan. This time, however, the force of civilization won the battle, preserving the ancient artifacts and uncovering new beauties in the human heritage of Afghanistan.

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