Here be treasure!

Old pirate maps marked the location of treasure with a big X. If you are lucky enough to be visiting London next Spring, you’ll find it at the British Museum. A fabulous exhibition will display more than 20,000 golden objects discovered in six tombs in Afghanistan in 1978. The exhibition will take place March 3 to July 3, 2011.

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World has already toured other parts of Europe and the USA. Many of the treasures were believed to have been lost when war engulfed the country, but they miraculously survived through the efforts of Kabul’s National Museum staff.

Discovered at a site so rich it was named “the hill of gold”, the artefacts quickly acquired legendary status. Yet, few people had ever seen them apart from the archaeologist who led the team that found them and a handful of staff at the national museum in Kabul.

A gold pendant from Tillya Tepe, 1st century AD, inlaid with different coloured materials, including turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and pearl, was among the treasure that vanished, believed melted down and smuggled out of the country as bullion. During years of conflict, the Kabul museum was closed, looted, and bombed. The objects, however, had been placed in strong boxes and hidden in Afghanistan’s national bank.

Many books have written about the country, including an outstanding account by Thomas Barfield called Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (2010). But nothing can match the delight of seeing for oneself the beauty and sheer exuberance of this long-forgotten, newly rediscovered treasure trove. Not to be missed!

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