Thursday, May 29, 2008

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

The NGA has done a spectacular job with its installation of the Afghanistan's Hidden Treasures Exhibit. The Government of Afghanistan should be quite proud about what the show says about Afghanistan's glorious multi-cultural past and the enduring spirit of the Afghani people.

The story about how the objects were brought to light after the fall of the Taliban is quite a tale to tell, but I found the artifacts themselves transcended even that. Walking through the exhibit one is struck with the diversity of objects and the cultures they represent. Ancient Afghanistan saw influence from multiple cultures during its ancient history, including Classical Greek and Roman, the Kushan and others. This makes sense when one considers that Afghanistan was on the Silk Road that linked China with the Classical Civilizations of Greece and Rome. As a coin collector, I was particularly interested to see indisputable evidence that "coins travel." One of the cases displayed a Roman Aureus of Emperor Tiberius along with a Parthian Silver Drachm that were found together in a Kushan era grave.

Looking at this mix of artifacts, I could not help but think of how ridiculous it is for cultural nationalists in countries like Greece and Cyprus to claim that "anything Greek anywhere in the world" should belong to the modern Greek or Cypriot nation states.

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