Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World

Surviving treasures from the National Museum of Afghanistan

3 March – 17 July 2011

This exhibition is now closed

Supported by
 Bank of America Merrill Lynch


All supporters


Nearly lost during the years of civil war and Taliban rule, these surviving treasures reveal Afghanistan’s ancient culture, its immense fragility and its remarkable place in world history.

Watch the latest videos

 Afghanistan: returning ivories

Returning ivories

The remarkable story of conservation and repatriation of the Begram Ivories.
Watch video

Read the exhibition blog


Buddha on display in Room 1

The remarkable story of an outstanding sculpture of the Buddha which is due to be returned to Afghanistan.
Read more

Audio: The Guardian debate

What makes a nation? Jon Snow chairs a panel discussion on Afghanistan, with an introduction by Neil MacGregor. 
Listen now

Gold crown from Tillya Tepe

Explore the objects

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    1: Gold crown from Tillya Tepe, 1st century AD

    This astonishing object was found in the tomb of a nomadic woman. It was designed and assembled from different pieces which allowed it to be folded when not in use. It is the ultimate example of portable nomadic wealth.

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    2: Gold bowl from Tepe Fullol, 2200–1900 BC

    This fragment was part of a large group of gold and silver vessels found at Tepe Fullol in northern Afghanistan. Its discovery in 1965 suddenly revealed new evidence for the early antiquity of the region. The design on it resembles that of bulls shown in ancient Mesopotamian art – the two regions were connected by trade.

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    3: Corinthian capital found at Ai Khanum, before 145 BC

    Ai Khanum is the modern name of a Hellenistic Greek city built on the banks of the river Oxus (Amu darya) in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Extensively excavated by French archaeologists in the 1960s and 1970s, it gives an almost complete city plan. The architecture is a combination of local tradition and imported Classical styles.

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    4: Enamelled glass goblet from Begram, 1st century AD

    This was made in Roman Egypt and exported by sea via the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to India. It was then brought overland to Begram which was the summer capital of the Kushan Kingdom. It was found in a storeroom at the heart of a palace. The decoration shows a scene of people harvesting dates.

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    5: Indian ivory furniture support from Begram, 1st century AD

    A large number of heavily decorated pieces of furniture were found in the palace storerooms at Begram. The wood had disintegrated but the ivory and bone inlays survived. These were originally heavily painted. The style of carving suggests they were imported from India.

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    6: Inlaid gold pendant from Tillya Tepe, 1st century AD

    This is one of a pair of identical pendants found in a tomb. It shows a figure subduing a pair of mythical beasts. It is heavily inlaid with different coloured materials, including turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and pearl, some of which are long-distance imports. This underlines the position of Afghanistan on the crossroads of the world.

Press release

For further information or images please contact
the Press Office on 020 7323 8583 / 8394.
Read the exhibition press release

Images in slideshow: National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet