The traveling exhibition “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures From the National Museum, Kabul” opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC yesterday. On display are objects mostly excavated between 1930 and 1980. Many objects have been destroyed or stolen during the Soviet invasion in 1979, Taliban rule, or during the recent US invasion. The exhibition brings together a number of objects which had been feared lost or destroyed.
Here’s how Neely Tucker of the Washington Post describes the exhibition:
“This is probably our best picture of how the Silk Road actually worked,” Hiebert is saying, giving a walk-through of the exhibit. He gets enthusiastic, pointing to a series of decorative plaques. They are flat and rectangular and carved of ivory. They depict women in various poses, sitting, standing, reclining. All these were part of an elaborate chair or throne, the rest of which is missing. On the adjacent wall, a flat-screen monitor shows a rotating three-dimensional re-creation of how all the pieces would have been placed together on the throne. “This is the first time in 2,000 years anyone has seen that throne,” Hiebert says.
Last year, there was criticism that this show was a bad deal for Afghanistan, and many of these objects were on previous display in Paris. Hopefully, the traveling exhibition will produce some excellent benefits for Afghanistan, as its position on the Silk Road made it one of the most interesting places in the ancient world. These kind of loans are of course often used as examples as potential solutions to ameliorate the illicit trade in antiquities.