Monday, 26 January 2009

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

The second day we were in San Francisco, we went to the Asian Art Museum in the afternoon.  We had already walked around the city quite a bit that morning so we focused on the special exhibit of Afghan antiquities saved in the museum in Kabul, thanks to the quick thinking of their curators (read more here).  

This assemblage comes from part of Afghanistan formerly known as Bactria, and situated at the confluence of several trade routes between China, India, Central Asia and "the West."  Artefacts in the exhibition dated back to about 2500 BC and spanned rougly 2000 years.  They included antiquities from the famous site of Tillye Tepe and the hoards of more than 20,000 gold ornaments and grave goods from at least six burials of nomadic (and clearly quite important/wealthy) individuals (dated to about the 1st Century BC).  It was fascinating stuff.  Gold jewelry, coins, pottery, you name it.  Culturally, it's a really interesting assemblage that demonstrates how this area was really the crossroads of several major early civilizations.  I don't usually like Bronze Age archaeology, but this stuff was amazing.

The museum also contains a pretty overwhelming permanent collection of art and archaeology from China, Japan, Nepal, India, Bhutan........  My favorite things were the Bronze Age Chinese vessels and jades, which reminded me of one of my favorite classes as an undergraduate.  I think Scott gets really embarrassed as I run from case to case announcing the Chinese words for the shapes of the vessels and the jades: "Oh look, it's a Ding!  It's a Cong!  It's a Bi!  Do you see the taotie on that one?"  I can't help getting excited about them!

Finally, as we were walking out, there was a video playing on loop in the lobby.  As best I could tell, the theme of the video was 'What it's like to be an archaeologist.'  Needless to say, I forced Scott to sit and watch most of it with me.  I think I'm the only person who sat there and said "Oh, it's so-and-so" or "OH MY GOD I LOVE HER!" when various people came on the screen.  I guess I've officially become an archaeo-dork.

No comments: