Afghanistan. Surviving Treasures

A selected Collection of the National Museum of Afghanistan

11 June 2010 to 2 January 2011

For the first time in Germany, the Art and Exhibition Hall presents Afghanistan’s legendary national treasure which almost miraculously survived years of civil war and destruction.
The spectacular gold, silver and ivory objects bear witness to the significance of the kingdom of Bactria in ancient Afghanistan, a thriving crossroads on the Silk Road that became a melting pot of a wide range of cultural influences from both East and West. In the wake of Alexander the Great’s military campaign of around 330 BC, more and more Greeks and Macedonians were drawn to settle in the area, where they helped establish the Bactrian civilisation.
This unique synthesis of cultures is immediately apparent in the exhibition. Objects such as the highly detailed figure of a winged Aphrodite with an Indian bindi (ornamental dot on the forehead) or Eros astride a dolphin illustrate the distinctive fusion of Greek, Persian and Indian motifs.
Highlights of the exhibition are finds from four important archaeological sites. From the Bronze Age site of Tepe Fullol in ancient Bactria (c. 2000 BC) come delicately wrought gold and silver objects – the oldest pieces in the exhibition. The remarkable aesthetic sophistication of the gold vessels testifies to the key role played by Bactria in the exchange between the Middle East and India. From Aï Khanum, a city founded by Alexander the Great (4th–2nd century BC), come objects that illustrate the tremendous reach and impact of Graeco-Hellenism. The Greek presence in Central Asia was fundamental to the history of the southern Hindu Kush and the development of art in the region. The finds demonstrate not only the faithful perpetuation of Greek traditions but also the symbiotic adoption of stylistic elements from the East. At the heart of the exhibition are the magnificent gold finds from a group of six graves discovered at Tillya Tepe (1st century AD) which fittingly translates as ’Golden Mound’. The sheer diversity and the extraordinary quality and finesse of the jewellery with its set precious stones and its striking Graeco-Roman, Indian and even Chinese influences speaks eloquently of the contacts between Bactria and the great empires of the sedentary world. The presentation closes with the outstanding finds from Begram, the ancient ’Alexandria of the Caucasus’. The treasure was discovered in two walled-up chambers in the former royal palace. While the exquisitely worked ivories of the 1st century AD bear witness to the Indian influence on the region, other objects – among them numerous glass vessels, bronzes and stucco medallions
– demonstrate the links with Alexandria and the Roman world.

The Afghan National Treasure is of incalculable artistic, cultural and historical value. The objects shown in this exhibition were long thought to have been stolen or destroyed by the Taliban. In view of the unstable security situation towards the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the late 1980s, a few forward-thinking members of staff of the Kabul National Museum hid the most important pieces of the collection, shielding them from the decades of disorder and armed conflict that followed. It was not until after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2004 that the vaults of the presidential palace of Kabul were opened and the treasure could once more be shown. 230 of the most valuable items can now be presented in Bonn.
In today’s world the need for open dialogue between civilisations has become ever more pressing. This outstanding exhibition constitutes one more step on the way towards intercultural understanding.


Afghanistan. Gerettete Schätze
Die Sammlung des Nationalmuseums in Kabul
Format 24,8 x 30 cm
288 pages with colour illustrations
German edition
Publisher: Museumshop De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam
ISBN: 978-90-78653-20-2

Cataloguecover: Afghanistan
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  1. Image from ExhibitionPhoto: David Ertl © Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH

Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Museumsmeile Bonn
Helmut-Kohl-Allee 4
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Mondays closed
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Thursdays–Sundays, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
(including public holidays even those which fall on Mondays)

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