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date: 30 November 2022

The Archaeology of Gandhāralocked

The Archaeology of Gandhāralocked

  • Luca Maria OlivieriLuca Maria OlivieriCa' Foscari University of Venice


This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article.

The main themes of archaeological research in Gandhāra are currently developing along a timeline that starts in the Late Bronze Age and ends in the Shahi period. The majority of scholarship, however, is focused on the chronological phase between 150 bce and 300 ce. Because of the unbalanced level of studies, it is not easy to define what archaeology can positively say about the knowledge of the ancient world in this corner of Asia. However, the overall result of archaeological research in Gandhāra shows that the region was itself a center, not simply a frontier region of interaction between Central Asia and Iran, India, and its coastlands. Gandhāra appears to have played a central role in many of the developments that occurred throughout the period considered here. With the spread of domesticated rice during the mid-2nd millennium, a double-crop agricultural system and associated farm breeding system developed, linking Gandhāra with Kashmir and trans-Himalaya. Toward the end of the 1st millennium, the northern valleys saw the diffusion of burial and settlement features and associated material culture, which allows archaeological and genetic comparisons with earlier complexes of Central Asia and Iran up to 1000 ce. The initial urban phase in Gandhāra (500–150 bce) is defined by the evidence from Barikot, Bhir Mound (Taxila I), and Charsadda. Mature urban phases (150 bce–350 ce) are defined by the evidence of the restructuring of old cities (such as Barikot) and new urban foundations (e.g., Taxila III and Charsadda/Shahikhan-dheri) during the phases of contact with the Indo-Greek, Saka-Parthian, Kushana, and Kushano-Sasanian systems of power. During the last three centuries of the mature urban phase, the Buddhist art of Gandhāra developed a narrative biographical mode, which represents its most distinctive feature. The following period until 650 ce, distinguished by uncertain or scarce assemblages, is defined as post-urban. The post-650 to c. 1000 ce evidence, marked by cultural material associated with the Shahi dynasties and the first phase of contact with the Islamic dynasty of the Ghaznavids, defines the late ancient period.


  • Archaeology
  • International and Indigenous Anthropology