Glistening Treasures in the Dust Ancient Treasures of Afghanistan (1)
Glistening Treasures in the Dust Ancient Treasures of Afghanistan (2)
Glistening Treasures in the Dust Ancient Treasures of Afghanistan (3)
Glistening Treasures in the Dust Ancient Treasures of Afghanistan (4)
Glistening Treasures in the Dust Ancient Treasures of Afghanistan (5)
Glistening Treasures in the Dust Ancient Treasures of Afghanistan (6)
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A heroic story of people risking death to rescue priceless cultural heritage

Glistening Treasures in the Dust – Ancient Artefacts of Afghanistan exhibition, at the Hong Kong Museum of History, tells a historic and heroic story of people risking death to rescue their priceless cultural heritage. Rare artefacts show the importance and significant role played by ancient Afghanistan as the cultural intersection and a place of exchange along the Silk Road.

This exhibit focuses on four archaeological sites that illustrate the importance of Afghanistan on the culture of the world today. The four sites are Tepe Fullol, with artefacts that date back to the Bronze Age (2200 – 1900 BC); the ancient city of Aï Khanum, founded by the successors of Alexander the Great; Tillya Tepe, where six members of a nomadic family were buried in 25-50 AD with over 20,000 thousand gold objects; and Begram, where a fleeing merchant bricked up his warehouse of imported goods intended for Silk Road trade and never came back.

The National Museum of Afghanistan History was founded in 1919 and moved to the current location in 1931. It became the preeminent repository of the best archaeological finds of this culturally rich region. But, in April 1978, the centrist government in Afghanistan was overthrown. In the years of invasion, civil war and reign of the Taliban, terrible damage was inflicted on the museum and its contents. It was estimated that 70 percent of its contents were destroyed or looted and that the 30 percent that remained was in unbelievably bad condition.

But somehow, Afghan treasures survived. The most precious collection – The Bactrian hoard of about 20,600 ornaments, coins, and other kinds of artefacts, made of gold, silver, ivory etc., that were found in burial mounds at Tillya Tepe were hidden away and saved.

The items on display are a small sample of the collection secretly and courageously saved by Afghan museum staff. They willingly risked their lives for the belief that “a nation stays alive when its culture stays alive”.

Text Martin Wray / Photos Cammy Yiu and Hong Kong Museum of History