In 1978, a discovery of 2,000-year-old nomad tombs yielded an extraordinary trove: some 22,000 individual pieces of gold buried with the remains of six Bactrian Central Asian nomads. Not long after the discovery, the Soviet Union invaded the country and through decades of war, Afghanistan’s national treasures were looted or destroyed.
The so-called Bactrian Hoard disappeared and was presumed to be lost. Twenty-five years later, in 2003, Afghanistan surprised the world by announcing that the priceless artifacts had been located intact in the presidential palace bank vault in Kabul. They had been rescued and protected in the intervening years of turmoil by a group of selfless Afghan heroes who have come to be known as “the key holders.”
Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul explores the rich cultural heritage of ancient Afghanistan from the Bronze Age (2500 BCE) through the rise of trade along the Silk Road in the first century CE.
Nadia Tarzi, founder and executive director of Association for the Protection of Afghan Archaeology, says, “Afghanistan became the home of hundreds of civilizations from the Greeks in the West to the Mughuls in the East, and it is clear that Afghanistan has a unique past and that its ancient art reflects it. This exhibit is a great opportunity for Afghans and non-Afghans to rediscover Afghanistan.”
Showing Oct. 24 through Jan. 25. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. (415) 581-3500. www.asianart.org/afghanistan.htm.