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Exhibition of Archæological Finds from Afghanistan

Nature volume 143, page 713 (29 April 1939) | Download Citation



AN exhibition of antiquities of both archaeological and artistic interest from the Swat Valley and Afghanistan in the Indian Section of the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, opened on April 25. These antiquities are the material results of an archaeological expedition to the Swat Valley and Trans-Oxiana in 1938, which was supported by the Museum and the Royal Geographical Society, and was led by Mr. Evert Barger. An account of the expedition was given by Mr. Barger before the Royal Society of Arts on November 30 (see NATUBB, 142, 1029, 1046; 1938). The object of the expedition, as was then stated, was to study the development of the Grseco-Buddhist art which flourished in these regions from the first century B.C. until the fifth century of our era. The importance of this investigation lies in the fact that it followed up the route by which Indian cultural influence penetrated to central Asia and eventually to China; but although the Swat Valley had been visited by Sir Aurel Stein in 1926 no excavations had been carried out previously. The finds now exhibited reveal a remarkable local hybrid culture, caused by the meeting of Graeco-Roman and Indian influences. Especially notable are a large number of very fine carvings in grey schist, illustrating scenes in the life of Buddha. An outstanding specimen is a seated Buddha, of which the drapery and head-dress are markedly Greek. This came from Amaluk, a ruined monastery in the hills, 4,000 ft. above the valley. Another carving shows Buddha being asked to preach the law. Several small plaster heads of Buddhas and Boddhisattvas, and specimens of ironwork, including door-hinges and a monastery bell, come from Swat. In the region across the Oxus, the ancient Bactria, no excavations were made; but coins, seals and fragments of pottery, found on the sites of ancient cities, are shown. Little is known of the ceramics of this area. Three Hellenistic column bases of stone, seen and photographed at Kunduz, are the first Greek structural remains to be found in Afghanistan and constitute the expedition's most important discovery.

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