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Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World – Ruth Tomlinson

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World

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Seeing as it is just around the corner from my studio, I quite often drop by The British Museum to gather my thoughts and get a bit of inspiration.  I’d been hearing really good things about their current Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World exhibition, so I paid it a visit the other day.  The exhibition was brilliant and definitely lived up to my expectations. 

Ranging from classical sculptures personal ornaments, the exhibition displays over 200 fascinating artefacts. Most of the objects (on loan from the National Museum of Afghanistan) were believed to have been lost forever after the Museum was destroyed during the Soviet invasion of 1979, and the civil war which followed.These artefacts however, were saved by Afghan officials who risked their lives to rescue these items and keep them safely hidden away.

Whilst showcasing ‘the trading and cultural connections of Afghanistan and how it benefited from being on an important crossroads of the ancient world’ the exhibition also tells an amazing story of the fragility of cultural heritage and the unassuming heroes of the preservation of Afghanistan’s history.

The main attraction of the exhibition, and my favourite piece, is the gold “flat pack” crown from Tillya Tepe (an archaeological site in northern Afghanistan).  This amazing object was designed to be dismantled so it could be folded up when not being worn, making it easy to be carried by the nomadic tribes on horseback. It is a truly mesmerizing piece and when you see it in the flesh it’s clear to see why it’s getting so much media attention. 

Other highlights include an inlaid gold pendant (also from Tillya Tepe). The pendant is one of an identical pair and shows a figure mastering a pair of mythical beasts. The pendant is inlaid with different coloured materials from all over the world, including turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and pearl.

As well as the jewellery, I also loved all the tableware such as the colourful enamelled glass goblet from Begram and the engraved gold bowl from Tepe Fullol.

The exhibition runs until July 3rd and you can find out more about it on The British Museum’s website. 

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