johnleiser

Afghanistan@ The Met

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2009 at 3:09 pm

New civilizations, no, old ones that we know nothing about are a part of history that we spend very little time exploring. Generally there is no written language, so we have to find them where they are buried for centuries. The French and Russians were digging in Afghanistan until 1979. They unearthed four sites spanning the years of the Silk Road trade route from the Greek and Roman Empires across unnamed nomadic tribes and the cities that evolved along the route to India and China to accommodate and profit from the trading.  They travelled by pack animals so  the treasures had to be light and precious, spices and gold and metals. Tepe Fullol from the Bronze Age,the Hellenistic city of Ai Khanum,first century Begram, and Tillya Tepe are the names given to the sites that were discovered. The artifacts are arranged by site with a must see film that really makes sense of the project for this unschooled visitor. The Afghans that risked their lives to save these treasures are the stars of the show. Contemporary Afghans can look back and realize that they have been an integral part of history.

The intermingling of western and eastern technique makes for beautiful artifacts unlike what we are used to. The folding crown , so it can be stored easily and moved, might not only be the most beautiful in the show, but the most telling. Gold vessels from the bronze Age and Greek sculptures and architectural elements and Indian style ivories and Roman glass are the broad categories of the artifacts. These ancient people had complex societies and interaction with all the other cultures that traded along the route influenced them and brought new ideas and techniques and materials  that they made their own.

I went to this show with no preconception and left with a better understanding of the region and what the world needs to consider to move forward in our “trade route” with Afghanistan

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