AFGHANISTAN - Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul
The exhibition, co-organized by the National Geographic Society and the National Gallery of Art, will travel to the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, October 24, 2008 through January 25, 2009; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, February 22 through May 17, 2009; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 23 through September 20, 2009. After its tour through Paris, Turin, and Amsterdam, the show was reorganized for the United States and accompanied by a new catalogue and a video documentary produced by National Geographic and narrated by the celebrated author; Khaled Hosseini.
Metropolitan Museum of Art / New York, June 23 - September 20, 2009
Museum of Fine Arts / Houston - February, 22 - May 17, 2009
Asian Art Museum / San Francisco - October 24, 2008 - January 25, 2009
National Gallery of Art / Washington, DC - May 25 - September 7, 2008
A NATION STAYS ALIVE WHEN ITS CULTURE STAYS ALIVE
(Omara Khan Masoudi, General Director of Museums)
Some 228 extraordinary artifacts unearthed in modern Afghanistan—most on view for the first time in the United States—attest to the region's importance as a vital and ancient crossroads of trade routes known as the Silk Road, which stretched from Asia to the Mediterranean. Many of the objects were long thought to have been stolen or destroyed during some 25 years of conflict until they were dramatically recovered from a vault under the Presidential Palace in 2004. Dating back 2,000 years and more, the works belong to the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul, whose motto is "A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive." The exhibition, which begins its U.S. tour at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, explores the cultural significance of the treasures and illustrates the story of their discovery, excavation, and heroic rescue.
Ranging in date from 2200 BC to AD 200, the objects present a rich mosaic of Afghanistan's cultural heritage and are drawn from four archaeological sites. The works include gold bowls with artistic links to Mesopotamia from Tepe Fullol in northern Afghanistan; bronze and stone sculptures from the site of the former Greek city of Aï Khanum; bronzes, ivories, and painted glassware imported from Roman and Indian markets discovered in Begram; and more than 100 gold ornaments from among the 20,000 pieces known as the "Bactrian Hoard," found in 1978 in Tillya Tepe, the site of six nomad graves.
Maps will illustrate the locations of some 1500 archaeological sites, ancient cities, the routes known as the Silk Road, and regions that relate to the artifacts. A documentary film narrated by celebrated Afghan-American author, Khaled Hosseini, explores ancient Afghan culture, the history of these collections and their dramatic rediscovery. Short films throughout the show will include recreations of Aï Khanum and one of the intricately carved chairs—thought to be thrones—found there.
Source: National Gallery of Art
History & Maps
On the National Gallery of Art Web site, a short trailer for the documentary film highlights the dramatic 2004 recovery of ancient objects hidden during the decades of turmoil in the country. The video is also available via Apple iTunes T"'. The 28-minute version of the National Geographic documentary will air later in the year on public broadcasting stations. A "timeline of treasures" highlights close—ups of artifacts from the Bronze Age (2200 BC) through the rise of trade along the Silk Road from c. 300 BC to c. 200 AD. The timeline includes descriptions of the areas where the artifacts (on view in the exhibition) were originally found. The site will also offer a print—friendly PDF of a special Family Guide to the exhibition, available in late May.
ln addition to the short trailer, the National Geographic Web site provides video, maps, and six audio slideshows featuring historical and cultural information from many important archaeological and cultural sites in Afghanistan. Included are the Kabul Museum, Tillya Tepe, Bamian, A‘i Khanum, and Begram, as well as other information about Silk Road cultures. Stories about how the artifacts in this exhibition were hidden for some 25 years—from just before the Soviet invasion in 1979, through the Afghan civil wars, and during Taliban rule—and contemporary stories about the country shed new light on this former heart of the Silk Road.
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The Gallery will offer a diverse program of lectures, films, gallery talks, and family activities related to the exhibition. All programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. For more information, call (202) 737-4215, visit the Web site at
or inquire at the information Desks.