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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.]

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