Museum to display Afghan treasures

Travelling exhibition now in British Museum

Published on 4 March 2011

Author(s): UKPA

Type:  Exhibition

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World runs from March 3 to July 3 at the British Museum

Treasures stolen from the National Museum of Afghanistan are going on show at the British Museum after they were discovered by a London art dealer. The coloured ivory inlays were looted from Kabul between 1992 and 1994, after which the whereabouts of the items became unknown.

It has now been revealed that a benefactor, an art dealer who wishes to remain anonymous, paid an undisclosed sum for the items after tracking them down last year. He gave the objects, which date from the 1st-century AD, to the British Museum for cleaning and scientific research, with the aim of returning them to the museum in Kabul.

The British Museum in London is adding the fragments of intricately carved ivory to its Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World exhibition. The treasures, decorative plaques used to overlay wooden furniture, were initially discovered in 1937 and 1939 by French archaeologists excavating an ancient city at Bagram, north of Kabul.

They were hidden among a wealth of luxury goods, including bronzes and glassware from Roman Egypt and lacquered bowls from China, in two strong-rooms hidden inside the heart of a palace.

They are thought to have been the hoarded treasure of the Kushan rulers and some of the most important antiquities ever discovered in Afghanistan. The ivories are among 200 objects in the exhibition, including pieces on loan from the museum in Afghanistan.

A gold crown - said to be one of the "world's most beautiful and priceless objects" - is set to be one of the show's star attractions. The "collapsible" crown was discovered by Soviet archaeologists in 1978 in an elite nomadic cemetery and has never been shown in Britain before. Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World runs from March 3 to July 3 at the British Museum.

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