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Hellenistic-style Gandharan Terracotta Head

Gandhara Region, Present-day Pakistan
4th-5th century AD

height: 11cm, depth: 4.5cm, weight: 190g

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private collection, London.

This terracotta head and upper torso shows a female form with an extravagant hair style that includes a long plait down the back. It shows much Hellenistic (ancient Greek) and Alexandrian influence suggestive of trade routes and military contact between the peoples of the north-western part of the Indian sub-continent and the ancient Greek empire.

A larger version of a terracotta head of a figure thought to be a (Buddhist) bodhisttava is illustrated in Behrendt (2007, p. 86).

Gandhara was an ancient region in the Peshawar basin in the north-west of the Indian subcontinent, corresponding to present-day north-west Pakistan and north-east Afghanistan. During the Achaemenid period and Hellenistic period, Pushkalavati served as its capital which equates to modern-day Charsadda. Later the capital city was moved to what is now Peshawar.  Gandhara was at the crossroads of Asia and connected land trade routes that linked Asia with the Middle East and Europe. The local culture evolved and was shaped by outside influences accordingly. Buddhism thrived until the 8th or 9th centuries, after which Islam began to become more prominent. The colonial British administration conducted archaeological surveys and excavations in the area in the early 20th century and from that period, small items such as this found their way back to the UK and into colonial-era collections.

The object is stable and free of cracks to what remains. It has a varying patina and colouring with light encrustation.


Behrendt, K.A., The Art of Gandhara: In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press, 2007.

Harle, J.C. & A. Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum, Ashmolean Museum, 1987.

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