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Authenticity of Oxus Treasure to be Examined by Iranian Expert at British Museum


17 July 2005



Mehdi Daryaii, an expert at the National Museum of Iran, is to make a speech on the authenticity of the Oxus Treasure at the conference of the British Museum’s September exhibition entitled “Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia”.


He has been studying on the project over the past year. “The treasure is of such a high value that some experts believe they are not original. I have carefully examined all the coins and found no false and inconsistent sample, and I will announce it in the conference by offering adequate and solid evidence.”


Part of Daryaii’s article at the conference will also reveal the fact that the treasure belongs to the Iranian art and civilization.


“The oldest item of the treasure dates back to the Achaemenid era. The coins are all in one shape and also belong to the same era,” he said.


The Oxus treasure is the most important surviving collection of Achaemenid Persian metalwork. It consists of about 170 objects, dating mainly from the fifth and fourth centuries BC. This was the time of the Achaemenid Empire, created by Cyrus the Great (559-530 B.C.), when the Persian’s domination stretched from Egypt and the Aegean to Afghanistan and the Indus Valley .


The treasure seems to have been gathered together over a long period, perhaps in a temple. It includes vessels, a gold scabbard, model chariots and figures, armlets, seals, finger-rings, miscellaneous personal objects, dedicatory plaques and coins.


It was found on the banks of the River Oxus, probably at the site of Takht-i Kuwad, a ferry station on the north bank of the river.


In May 1880, Captain F.C. Burton, a British political officer in Afghanistan , rescued a group of merchants who had been captured by bandits while traveling from Kabul to Peshawar . They were carrying this rich collection of gold and silver objects with them. Burton bought a gold armlet from them, now placed in the Victoria and Albert Museum .


Other pieces from the treasure subsequently emerged in the bazaars of Rawalpindi . Some of those now being in The British Museum were acquired by Major-General Sir Alexander Cunningham (1814-93), director general of the Archaeological Survey of India. Others were obtained by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, who was a curator of the museum and also a generous benefactor.


In due course Franks bought Cunningham's share of the treasure, and eventually the entire Oxus Treasure was bequeathed by him to the British Museum.




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