ROMARCH: Oxford Conference, Problems of Chronology in Gandharan Art

Apollo and Daphne: Gandharan schist dish from the Met

Problems of Chronology in Gandharan Art,

23-24 March 2017

This first Gandhara Connections international workshop, generously supported by the Bagri Foundation, will take place in Oxford.

The Gandhara Connections project identifies chronology and dating as one of the key problems outstanding in the study of Gandharan art. Chronology is not only fundamental for establishing the nature of Gandharan art’s connections with the traditions of Greece and Rome, but also for any other systematic attempt to put it in context or explain its development.

In recent decades there have been some huge strides in understanding the chronology of Gandharan art, including invaluable results from excavations in the Swat Valley and a growing consensus about the second-century date of the Kushan ruler Kanishka and the era that he founded. However, considerable obstacles remain as a result of various factors. For example, only a portion of the thousands of Gandharan sculptures that survive come from published archaeological excavations and looting remains a big problem. Many Gandharan Buddhist sites had long lives which resulted the fascinating but confusing re-use of architectural sculpture in antiquity. There is no clear or agreed understanding about how the styles of Gandharan art changed through time, and indeed a better knowledge of dating is required to improve that understanding. We have very few inscribed artefacts which would help us to establish fixed dates, and the interpretation even of the most valuable Kushan inscriptions is sometimes still subject to debate. Finally, there are open questions about how long the Gandharan tradition continued, and consequently what its relationship is with the post-Kushan art of Central Asia. Above all, perhaps, there is further scope for understanding the art-historical implications of asking such questions.

By pooling the most recent knowledge and critical thinking across the disciplines of archaeology, art and architectural history, epigraphy, linguistic studies and numismatics, there is the potential to move the debate forward decisively. The aim of this first international workshop in the Gandhara Connections project is to facilitate such an exchange of ideas and information. The proceedings of the workshop will be published in an open access, online book and we aim to make a recording of the event itself available online.

Further details will follow soon. The workshop will be free, but it is necessary to book in advance by contacting: carc@classics.ox.ac.uk

Giles Richardson
Administrative Assistant, Classical Art Research Centre
University of Oxford

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