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Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul (Australian Review) - -

Title: Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul
Where: Melbourne Museum
When: Mar 22 - 28 Jul 2013
Review Date: April 2013


Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

Uncover a hidden world from Afghanistan that dates back thousands of years to experience the heart of the Silk Road, a trading route that was used by ancient Kings to cement their kingdoms.

Welcome to the Melbourne Museum's latest exhibition, Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul which boasts more than 230 artefacts and takes the visitor on a journey from both ancient and modern times about war-torn Afghanistan.

Ironically many of these artefacts were believed to have been lost or destroyed from three decades of wars that has scarred this country since the civil war and Soviet-Afghan war but in 2003, they were retrieved from the vaults of the Presidential Palace.

These artefacts were placed their by the courageous staff of the National Museum of Kabul to keep them safe. Due to the strict religious laws of the Taliban, these individuals risked their lives to keep these priceless treasures safe and now they can be safely shown again. The beauty of this exhibition is the diverse nature of the objects and as Afghanistan was at the crossroads of the Silk Road, you can actually see how these items have been influenced from a variety of ancient cultures such as Egypt, Rome, Greece and China.

Some of the objects in this collection date back 4000 years and features highly detailed gold jewellery, clay masks and religious figurines from a variety of eras that will leave you amazed by their craftsmanship. Each piece has something unique such as links to Alexander the Great or Mesopotamian motifs. The fish shaped flasks from antiquity is another impressive object in this collection that are not only extremely detailed but features some an amazing colour combinations.

Another highlight of the exhibition is the presentation which almost makes it feel like you are walking down the Silk Road. The first room of the exhibition serves as a movie theatre which informs the visitor of the importance of Afghanistan on the Silk Road, a trading network of roughly 6,500 kilometres that went from China to Syria. This is an important link to the visitor as it dispels the modern media myth that Afghanistan is the root of all evil in the world.

As you explore the rest of the exhibition, it is broken into different exhibits, all based on a certain culture or influence on ancient Afghanistan. These sections include Tepe Fullol (2220 BC), Ai Khanum (300 BC - 145 BC), Tillya Tepe (100 BC - 100 AD) and Begram (100 - 200 AD). There is also a section on the Silk Road which explains just about every facet of this ancient trading route that dates back to 300 BC to 100 AD.

The highlight of the exhibition for me was a collapsible nomadic gold crown dating back between 100 B.C. to 100 A.D. which would have looked stunning on the wearer. The jewellery also showcased in this exhibition is quite exquisite and the attention to detail of these small artefacts is breathtaking like a gold and turquoise clasp of two Cupids riding two Dolphins.

Final Thoughts?

The unfortunate aspect of this exhibition is that Afghanistan is still a country of turmoil and with the Taliban still based in this country, the future of this rich and diverse country is unfortunately still hazy at best. Thankfully the exhibition does help dismiss some of the negativity portrayed by modern media through the links from both modern and ancient times.

The only downside of this exhibition opposed to previous exhibitions such as The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia (2012) or Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs (2011) is that the experience was not that interactive and Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures was more like a traditional exhibition. This does not deter the  beauty and majesty of the experience but you do have some self-imposed expectations from the previous exhibits. Nonetheless, Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures is a fascinating journey into both ancient and modern Afghanistan that we would recommend to all history fanatics.

For more information on Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul - visit


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