Afghan treasures give peek into history

From the Houston Chronicle:

260xStory Simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking, “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul,” opens Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Beautiful, priceless works of art illuminate a rich, historic mosaic of cultures, civilizations and trade along the fabled Silk Road of Central Asia — a far cry from the war-torn, Taliban-ravaged Afghanistan of today.

Many of the objects on view are literally “hidden treasures.” They were thought to have been lost, stolen or destroyed during the country’s recent years of strife and turmoil.

In 1988, as the 10-year Soviet occupation was ending and civil violence was escalating, museum staff were able to spirit away several boxes of the most valuable treasures, including the “Bactrian Hoard,” more than 20,000 mostly gold artifacts that few had ever seen. No one was sure how or even if the treasures had survived.

It was a joyous occasion when, in 2003, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that the treasures were intact and had been located.

Fredrik Hiebert, the National Geographic curator of the show, who is a specialist in ancient Silk Road sites, said he was invited to take part, several months later, in the opening of the boxes. “I gasped,” he said. “I knew exactly what they were, but I never thought I’d get to see them.”

More here.