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Gandharan Toilet-Trays: Some Reflections on Chronology

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[Abstract A thorough investigation on Gandharan toilet-trays, taking into consideration archaeological, social and religious data along with iconographic, stylistic and technical issues, is still to be done. The following notes are mainly aimed at suggesting a new perspective in the chronology of these fascinating finds, which, according to an apparently unshakable assumption, have been and are still considered as a bridge linking the Hellenistic (i.e. Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek) period and the threshold of the Kushan epoch. Toilet-trays are commonly thought of as a pre-Gandharan (and pre-Buddhist) chapter in the art of the North-West of the Indian Subcontinent or a preparatory as well as experimental stage (2nd and 1st centuries BCE) of Gandharan sculpture in its proper sense (from the 1st century CE onwards). G. Erdosy’s reconsideration of the archaeological data yielded by J. Marshall’s excavations at Sirkap, and the chronological shift deriving from it, indicate that the picture sketched above might not be the right one: since a major percent of Sirkap toilet-trays is very likely to be dated into the 1st or even the early 2nd century CE, we are compelled to re-evaluate their relationship with Gandharan art., Abstract A thorough investigation on Gandharan toilet-trays, taking into consideration archaeological, social and religious data along with iconographic, stylistic and technical issues, is still to be done. The following notes are mainly aimed at suggesting a new perspective in the chronology of these fascinating finds, which, according to an apparently unshakable assumption, have been and are still considered as a bridge linking the Hellenistic (i.e. Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek) period and the threshold of the Kushan epoch. Toilet-trays are commonly thought of as a pre-Gandharan (and pre-Buddhist) chapter in the art of the North-West of the Indian Subcontinent or a preparatory as well as experimental stage (2nd and 1st centuries BCE) of Gandharan sculpture in its proper sense (from the 1st century CE onwards). G. Erdosy’s reconsideration of the archaeological data yielded by J. Marshall’s excavations at Sirkap, and the chronological shift deriving from it, indicate that the picture sketched above might not be the right one: since a major percent of Sirkap toilet-trays is very likely to be dated into the 1st or even the early 2nd century CE, we are compelled to re-evaluate their relationship with Gandharan art.]

1. Dar S. R."Toilet trays from Gandhara and beginning of Hellenism in Pakistan" Journal of Central Asia 1979Vol II 2 141 184
2. Erdosy G. Taddei M., Callieri P."Taxila: Political History and Urban Structure" South Asian Archaeology 1987 (Serie Orientale Roma LXVI) 1990 Rome 657 674
3. Francfort H.-P. Les palettes du Gandhāra (MDAFA 23) 1979 Paris
4. Harle J. C. Taddei M., Callieri P."Artefacts of the Historical Periods from Bannu" South Asian Archaeology 1987 (Serie Orientale Roma LXVI) 1990 Rome 643 655
5. Litvinskiï B. A., Sedov A. V. Tepai shakh. Kul´tura i svyazi kushanskoï Baktrii 1983 Moscow
6. Lo Muzio C. Callieri P., Filigenzi A."L’artigianato di lusso nel Nord-Ovest di epoca indo-greca, Saka e partica: i “piattelli per cosmetici”" Il Maestro di Saidu Sharif. Alle origini dell’arte del Gandhara 2002 Rome 77 83
7. Marshall J. Taxila 1951 Cambridge 3 vols
8. Tanabe K."Greek, Roman and Parthian Influences on the Pre-Kushana Gandharan “Toilet-Trays” and Forerunners of Buddhist Paradise (Pâramitâ)" Silk Road Art and Archaeology 2002Vol 8 73 100
9. FN11 Harle 1990, 644-49, figs. 1, 6.
10. FN22 Dar 1976; Francfort 1979.
11. FN33 A group of toilet-trays unknown in previous studies has been recently published by Tanabe (2002).
12. FN44 Marshall 1951, II, 493-498.
13. FN55 Litvinskiï & Sedov 1983, 75-77, pl. XI.
14. FN66 Francfort 1979.
15. FN77 The principles of this classification (further developed and fully exemplified throughout the book) are enunciated in the introduction (Francfort 1979, 6-7).
16. FN88 Francfort 1979, nos. 1-18.
17. FN99 Ibid., Nos. 21-57.
18. FN1010 Ibid., Nos. 27-31.
19. FN1111 Ibid., 58-89.
20. FN1212 Ibid., 52-53 [No. 58], 86.
21. FN1313 Ibid., Nos. 59-66.
22. FN1414 For some general remarks on Francfort’s classification, also from the iconographic viewpoint, see Lo Muzio 2002.
23. FN1515 Ibid., 90.
24. FN1616 Marshall 1951, I, 118.
25. FN1717 Francfort 1979, 90.
26. FN1818 Erdosy 1990.
27. FN1919 Erdosy 1990, 667.
28. FN2020 Ibid., 670.
29. FN2121 Marshall 1951, II, 493-498.
30. FN2222 Tanabe 2002.
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/content/journals/10.1163/157005711x595167
2011-01-01
2015-08-31

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