Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

Written by: Alex Richards, Digital Marketing Coordinator

Our new international exhibition is one that sheds light on the story of an ancient civilisation as well as a contemporary story of the bravery of a small group of people who risked their lives to protect and preserve their cultural heritage.

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul brings to Queensland over 230 priceless objects from the world of the ancient Silk Road, including gold, jewellery, sculptures and ornaments. Some of these objects are visiting Australia for the first time.

Over the next few weeks we’d like to highlight some of the fascinating stories and objects that are featured in the exhibition, starting with Afghanistan’s place at the heart of the Silk Road.

The Silk Road

Map of the Silk Road, courtesy National Geographic
Map of the Silk Road, courtesy National Geographic

The Silk Road was not a single “road”, but rather a network of trade routes that linked cities, trading posts, hostels and caravan-watering places. It was most active from about 300 BC to 200 AD and extended between the Eastern Roman frontier in the Middle East to the Chinese frontier, with other paths going north through Afghanistan from the Indian Ocean to the Siberian Steppe.

Products were seldom carried from one end of the Silk Road to the other by the same merchants. People in these widely separated locations participated in the trade network by adding various goods to the caravans as they passed through markets along the way: ivories from India, horses from Siberia and Mongolia, rubies and garnets from Afghanistan, and carpets from Persia and northern Central Asia.

Afghanistan’s location at the heart of the Silk Road is visible in the objects showcased in this exhibition, reflecting a variety of different cultures and an assortment of precious goods and materials.

In our next post, we’ll share some images of some of the gold jewellery and ornaments found in the area of Tillya Tepe in Afghanistan’s north. The find is sometimes known as the Bactrian hoard and it was one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of the 20th century.