Fred Hiebert is an archaeologist. Archaeologists study ancient objects called artifacts. They use artifacts to learn about the past. In 2004, Hiebert was in Afghanistan. He suspected a treasure trove was locked in the president's palace. 

 

The treasure was hidden in several safes. Unfortunately, there was no key. Eventually, someone opened them with a saw. 

 

When the first safe opened, it was amazing, Hiebert says. Out popped bags of gold. "They were so beautiful I was leaping for joy."

 

As he suspected, it was the Bactrian Hoard. The treasure was made up of 20,000 gold, silver and ivory objects. They were from many different parts of the world. The artifacts are more than 2,000 years old. They are part of Afghanistan's history. Bactria is the name of an ancient region. Part of it was located in the area that is now Afghanistan. 

 

For Hiebert, the gold wasn't the most exciting part. He was more excited to be able to prove that different ancient cultures were linked together.

 

Archaeologists sometimes find great treasures, but Hiebert says that's not what they are really searching for. They are searching for knowledge. "That's our real gold," he says.

 

Even 5,000 years ago, people were connected like they are today, he said. Cities and countries traded with each other. They shared ideas and art. Even in ancient times, people traveled around.


Connected Cultures

 

Archaeology links the past and the present, Hiebert says. Once he was digging at a merchant's house in Egypt. It was built about 800 years ago. There were many traded goods from India and China. On the last day, he pulled up the front mat. Under it was the key of the merchant. The key had the man's name written on it. 

 

Hiebert said it was an amazing feeling to find the key.

 

Digging Deep
This jug has carried a lot of history!
amphora
Noun

large, oval-shaped storage vessel with two handles, often used in antiquity.

ancient
Adjective

very old.

archaeologist
Noun

person who studies artifacts and lifestyles of ancient cultures.

Noun

study of human history, based on material remains.

array
Noun

large group.

Noun

material remains of a culture, such as tools, clothing, or food.

Bactria
Noun

ancient region between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Amu Darya (Oxus) river.

Bactrian Hoard
Noun

(1st century BCE) archaeological treasure from the burial site of a wealthy nomadic family in Northern Afghanistan, discovered in 1978. Also called Bactrian Gold.

Bronze Age
Noun

time period between the Stone Age and the Iron Age. The Bronze Age lasted between 3000 BCE and 500 BCE.

caravan
Noun

group of people who travel together for safety and companionship through difficult territory.

ceramic
Adjective

made of clay.

circular saw
Noun

electric saw with a flat, disc-shaped blade, designed to revolve on its axis.

Noun

complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

curator
Noun

person who designs, assembles, and manages an exhibit at a museum or other cultural center.

devastate
Verb

to destroy.

economic
Adjective

having to do with money.

establish
Verb

to form or officially organize.

excavate
Verb

to expose by digging.

exhibit
Noun

display, often in a museum.

Explorer-in-Residence
Noun

pre-eminent explorers and scientists collaborating with the National Geographic Society to make groundbreaking discoveries that generate critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories.

foster
Verb

to promote the growth or development of something.

gold
Noun

valuable chemical element with the symbol Au.

good
Noun

object or service that serves a human need or want.

heritage
Noun

cultural or family background.

historian
Noun

person who studies events and ideas of the past.

inscription
Noun

record that has been cut, impressed, painted, or written on a hard surface.

ivory
Noun

hard, white substance that forms the teeth or tusks of some animals.

literally
Adverb

exactly what is said, without exaggeration.

medieval
Adjective

having to do with the Middle Ages (500-1400) in Europe.

merchant
Noun

person who sells goods and services.

Noun

political unit made of people who share a common territory.

National Geographic Fellow
Noun

experts who provide the National Geographic Society with consultation on projects, education and outreach, and environmental and public policy.

National Geographic Society
Noun

(1888) organization whose mission is "Inspiring people to care about the planet."

ornament
Noun

decoration.

palace
Noun

large home or mansion, often the home of a leader or dignitary.

papyrus
Noun

ancient writing material, similar to paper, made from the papyrus plant.

perspective
Noun

representation of volume or depth on a flat surface.

Noun

any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

research
Noun

scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

Robert Ballard
Noun

(1942-present) oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.

shipwreck
Noun

remains of a sunken marine vessel.

Noun

ancient trade route through Central Asia linking China and the Mediterranean Sea.

silver
Noun

chemical element with the symbol Ag.

site
Noun

specific place where something is located.

social
Adjective

having to do with a community or other group of organized people.

stunning
Adjective

stupefying, strikingly beautiful or astonishing.

Titanic
Noun

luxury cruise ship that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912.

trade route
Noun

path followed by merchants or explorers to exchange goods and services.

travel
Noun

movement from one place to another.

trove
Noun

collection of valuable objects.

vessel
Noun

craft for traveling on water, usually larger than a rowboat or skiff.

Noun

large-scale armed conflict.