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Asia Society
Homeland Afghanistan

Geography and Destiny For centuries, scarce resources and difficult terrain have required people in the Hindu Kush region to develop unique solutions to survive. But while geography has brought challenges, it has also offered opportunities. In Afghanistan, geography is a multi-sided destiny.

Identity and Perception Local, tribal, and religious identities in the Hindu Kush region have always shifted depending on one’s point of view. As Afghanistan decides what it means to be Afghan, it faces a kaleidoscope of moving perspectives.

Tradition and Modernization Afghans have always had to be flexible. At times, this flexibility has brought people together, and at other times it has torn them apart. Reconciling tradition and modernization means making sense of what’s at stake when people change--and when they don’t.

Traces and Narratives History is not always written. Much of what we know about Afghanistan comes from scattered artifacts, symbols, and oral traditions. Understanding these traces means piecing together the narratives that history leaves behind.

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Age of Empire

Reveal Source

Al-Biruni. Illustration by Al-Biruni (973-1048) of Different Phases of the Moon, from Kitab Al-tafhim (in Persian). 973-1048. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1976). Islamic Science: An Illustrated Study, World of Islam Festival Publishing Company.

Al-Din, Rashid. Jami Al Tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles) by Rashid Al-Din. Mongols Attacking Baghdad. 14th C. Staatsbibliothek Zu Berlin--Preussischer Kulturbesitz Orientabteilung/ Art Resource, NY Diez A Fol. 70, No.7.

Alexander Mosaic. 100 BCE. Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Arnesen, Marius. "Musalla Complex and Minarets - Herat, Afghanistan." Digital image. Marius Arnesen's Flickr Photostream. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/anarkistix/4112214896/in/set-72157622697812403.
Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Dupree, Nancy. 61-114-C. Dupree Collection, Williams Afghan Media Project, Williams College, Williamstown, MA.

Firdawsi. Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings) by Firdawsi; Battle between Zanga and Awkhast. 1493-1494. Freer Gallery of Art / Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC.

Firdawsi. Folio from a Shahnama (Book of Kings) by Firdawsi (d.1020); Rustam Encamped. 1425-1450. Freer Gallery of Art / Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC.

Lensfodder. "Timur on Horseback." Digital image. Lensfodder's Flickr Photostream. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/runnerone/2637824277/. Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en

PHG. "SeatedBuddha." Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SeatedBuddha.jpg. GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License

PHGCOM. "SeleucosCoin." Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed August 19, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SeleucosCoin.jpg.

Rattray, Lieutenant James. City of Kandahar, Its Principal Bazaar and Citadel, Taken from the Nakkara Khauna. 1848. British Library. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000000562u00028000.html. Lithograph, courtesy of the British Library

Rattray, Lieutenant James. "Interior of the City of Kandahar, from the House of Sirdar Meer Dil Khaun." Digital image. British Library. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019xzz000000562u00023000.html.

Shah Jahan on the Peacock Throne Which Was Carried off by Nadir Shah in 1738-9. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Shams, A. "Ahmad-Shah-Durani." Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed August 20, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ahmad-Shah-Durani.jpeg.

Unknown. Babur Entering Kabul, from Illuminated Manuscript Baburnama (Memoirs of Babur). 16th C. The Baburnama, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en

Unknown. Folio from a Haft Awrang (Seven Thrones) by Jami (d. 1492); Verso: Bandits Attack the Caravan of Aynie and Ria; Recto: Text. 1556-1565. Freer Gallery of Art / Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC.

Unknown. Paying Homage, from Illuminated Manuscript Baburnama (Memoirs of Babur). 16th C. The Baburnama, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en


Producer: Kate Harding

Central Asia witnessed repeated and often devastating cycles of conquest. But with destruction came creation. Afghan cities were situated on trade routes that connected Eurasian empires. The region flourished with art, knowledge, and cultural fusion. Over time, Afghanistan's tribal clans joined forces and an Afghan homeland started to emerge.



Meet the first great conqueror of the age of empires.

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