Realms of Gold: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

August 24, 2008 at 1:12 pm (Art, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington)) ()

This past Friday, a friend and I had a most extraordinary experience: we visited the above named exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington D.C.

The works on display date from 4500 BC to 200 AD. The story of their discovery, and recovery, is at least as astonishing as the objects themselves. It is a tale of wanton destruction, danger, incredible luck – and equally incredible courage.

Here are some of the wonders you can behold there:

[This painted glass beaker dates from the first century AD. Restorers pieced the fragments of the original onto the surface of a clear glass facsimile.]


And finally, there’s the gorgeous gold crown featured on the cover of the sumptuously illustrated catalog. The diadem dates from between the years 25 and 50 AD, and can be disassembled for easy packing (sounds oddly modern, doesn’t it?).

The exhibit is organized chronologically and is centered on findings from four different archaeological expeditions. (My thanks to Suite 101 for this clarification. Click here for the complete article.) I strongly recommend watching the film “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures” – the long version shown in the auditorium downstairs, not just the shorter one that runs in a continuous loop within the exhibit itself. The narrator is Khaled Hosseini, who chronicled the suffering and loss in his native country so poignantly in The Kite Runner. [Khaled Hosseini]

Many of us remember the destruction of the giant Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley in 2001. The National Museum itself was bombed and looted in the 1990’s. To my mind, there are few depredations as unforgivable as the deliberate effort to obliterate a people’s cultural patrimony. The Buddhas are lost to us forever, but the National Museum has risen, Phoenix-like, from its ashes. Its motto is “A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive.”

“Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul” has been organized in conjunction with The National Geographic Society and several other institutions. It remains at the National Gallery until September 7. See it if you possibly can.

1 Comment

  1. Nik said,

    Wonderfull….Thank you

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