Review: Afghanistan Exhibition @ British Museum

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 93 months ago
Review: Afghanistan Exhibition @ British Museum

Crown (Tillya Tepe, Tomb VI), gold and imitation turquoise, National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Gui
Crown (Tillya Tepe, Tomb VI), gold and imitation turquoise, National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Gui
Goblet depicting figures harvesting dates, National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet
Goblet depicting figures harvesting dates, National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet
Boot buckles depicting a chariot drawn by dragons (Tillya Tepe, Tomb IV), National Museum of Afghanistan ©Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet
Boot buckles depicting a chariot drawn by dragons (Tillya Tepe, Tomb IV), National Museum of Afghanistan ©Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet
Statuette of a woman standing on a makara, possibly a furniture ornament, National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet
Statuette of a woman standing on a makara, possibly a furniture ornament, National Museum of Afghanistan © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

The British Museum's new exhibition displays over 200 objects from Afghanistan, all thought to have been lost during the Soviet invasion and ensuing civil wars. In fact, a few Afghan officials secreted them away, their continuing existence only confirmed after the fall of the Taliban government. These incredible objects spent a few years travelling the world and now they're in London.

Shorter than some of the other major BM exhibitions, the focus is on showing off the artefacts found at four separate Afghan sites rather than teaching you stuff. Intricately carved ivories sit next to beautiful painted glass beakers and fabulous glass fish, statues that are actually furniture legs, pottery and rock crystal bowls. Afghanistan's position at the centre of trading routes means there are Greek, Roman and Indian influences in these 2,000 year old objects; styles change from case to case.

Sometimes the main publicity image of an exhibition is the one you hunt out in a sea of disappointing artefacts but the delicate crown that's on posters everywhere sits alongside bucketloads of shiny. It's just one of a jawdropping collection of gold jewellery and ornaments found at six 1st century nomad's tombs in Tillya Tepe, a hill in northern Afghanistan. We particularly recommend a look at the flower-shaped ornaments in the case where one body is 'laid out' and the gold shoe sole, which is too ridiculous for words. If you like the jewellery section of the V&A, you will love this.

We saw this exhibition at the press view.

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World opens today at the British Museum and runs until 3rd July. Tickets cost up to £10, depending on concessions.

Last Updated 03 March 2011