Sunday, October 26, 2008
Afghanistan 3: Gold
During the press preview, the curator and archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert was most excited when relating the story of being on an archaeological dig in a neighboring "stan" country with his mentor Viktor Sarianidi, a famous Russian archaeologist.
"At night on the digs, we used to sit around a huge bonfire and tell stories. Somebody asked Viktor what his most exciting discovery had been, and he immediately replied 'Tillya Tepe in Baktria just a couple of years ago.' It was six royal graves from the first century filled with the most beautiful gold work he had ever seen."
He deposited the treasures in Kabul in 1979, photographed them in 1982, and didn't know if they even continued to exist over the next 20 years.
The gold pieces are exquisitely delicate, meant for nomadic people who carried their wealth with them in collapsible crowns such as the one above.
"That's what we're all going to be doing soon," I told the museum's director, "once this economy completely implodes," which was met with nervous laughter.
The museum is offering timed admissions to keep the crush down but there are no special surcharges like the silly King Tut exhibit slated for the deYoung next year, and the first Sunday of the month is free admission.
It seems that the Bay Area, specifically the Union City/Fremont area, is home to the largest population of Afghanis in the country, so a number of interesting events have been planned for that exile community. Click here to see a schedule.