Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Alexander's Afghan Gold

After establishing the Egyptian port city of Alexandria in 331 BC, Alexander founded Greek garrison cities across Asia, including Afghanistan. His legacy was on show in a Paris exhibition in February this year.

Sovereign and Dragon pendant found at the Tillia Tepe treasure

The Afghanistan, Les Trésors Retrouvés exhibition in Paris featured discoveries of international importance made by French archaeological missions in Afghanistan over the course of the last century, most of which have never been seen before outside the country. The exhibition allowed visitors to glimpse material that not only had never been lent before by the Afghan National Museum in Kabul, but that was also considered lost during the decade of civil war that wracked Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989, destroying much of the country as it did so.

The material includes the famous "Bactrian gold" discovered by joint French and Afghan archaeologists in northern Afghanistan shortly before Soviet forces moved into the country in 1979. Long thought lost, it survived the later civil war locked in the vaults of the National Bank in Kabul, where it was "rediscovered" following the US-led invasion in October 2001.

Left: Ring with the image of Athena, part of the Tillia Tepe treasure. Right: A brooch of the goddess Aphrodite.

Other objects on display were found walled up in two underground chambers at Begram by French archaeological missions in 1937, again including material from the Greek Mediterranean world and from India and China. There are plaster medallions representing Zeus and Ganymede, as well as the youth Endymion, condemned to eternal sleep to preserve his beauty. Bronze statuettes represent Eros and Harpocrates and, most intriguingly of all, fragments of a painted glass vessel show Homer's story of the combat between Achilles and Hector at Troy.

Author: magicmountain (06.11.2007)


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