Gold anklets and ornaments, burial, Tillye Tepe ('Hill of Gold’).

Hidden treasures

(click any image to expand the gallery)

The objects in this gallery span 2,000 years of history in what is present-day Afghanistan. Until the middle of the 20th century, they were among the most prized pieces on display at the National Museum, Kabul.

In the mid-1970s, the museum’s collection numbered 100,000; by the mid-1990s, after years of war and violence, only 4,000 remained. Another 2,500 were destroyed following the Taliban’s edict against idolatrous objects. The museum building itself was bombed and over-run.

However, at high personal risk, a handful of museum staff spirited away some of the most precious objects. Until 2003, they lay undisturbed in vaults below the presidential palace. Following verification of their authenticity, and restoration in France, the artefacts have been touring the world as an exhibition since 2008.

How are we to regard these objects? Archaeological artefacts, cultural history, museum displays, precious jewellery, works of art? If you get the chance, see the exhibition and decide for yourself.

The exhibition contains objects from the late Bronze Age settlement of Tepe Fullol; a city founded by Alexander the Great, Ai Khanum; a merchant’s storeroom from the Silk Road depot of Begram; and a burial ground called Tillye Tepe, which means ‘Hill of Gold’, so named for the astonishing volume and array of gold objects.