81546 - Archaeology of Pre-Islamic Historical South Asia

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Luca Colliva

  • Credits 6

  • SSD L-OR/16

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Ravenna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in History, preservation and enhancement of artistic and archaeological heritage and landscape (cod. 9218)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale

  • Course Timetable from Mar 25, 2022 to May 09, 2022


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Peace, justice and strong institutions Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims at providing the student with the critical tools necessary to move in the complex field of the archaeology of pre-Islamic historical India, through the deepening of a monographic theme, different from year to year, faced starting from the direct examination of the historical, literary and archaeological sources, considered in the critical perspective of the scientific research. At the end of the course, the student, in addition to having acquired the specific knowledge of the monographic theme, will be able to deal critically with the vast existing bibliography on the archaeology of pre-Islamic historical India and to organise the sources for an archaeological research with a rigorous methodology.

Course contents

The course concerns a single theme of the archaeology of India, studied in a more detailed monographic approach, with a particular concern towards critics and methodology.

The subject of the 2021-22 course is: "Iconographies and Architecture of the Kushana Period between India and the Iranian World"

The course aims to briefly present the study issues related to secular and religious architectures and iconographies attested in the Kushana period.

The course also includes fundamentals of Indian culture, geography and history, necessary to provide the basis for the monographic study.

For a better adherence to the methodological perspective of the course of study, some hours will be devoted to the history of studies, in order to introduce students to the main actors of archaeological research. 

Some hours will also be dedicated to the knowledge of the main institutions in charge of safeguarding cultural heritage in the area and of the main local and international archaeological collections, in order to illustrate strategies and problems concerning the cultural heritage protection and enhancement in the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent.

Main topics:

  • Geographical, historical, cultural and religious overview of Pre-Islamic India.
  • Fundamentals of Indian archaeology history: the Archaeological Survey of India and the major archaeological excavations of the twentieth and twenty-first century.
  • Protection of the archaeological heritage in the Indian subcontinent. The main archaeological collections in the subcontinent, in Italy and in the world.
  • The Kushan empire
  • Khalchayan
  • Surkh Kotal
  • Mat
  • Taxila in the Kushan period
  • The numismatics of the Kushan period


For an introduction to the pre-Islamic Indian archeology:

M. Taddei, India Antica (Le Grandi Civiltà), Milano, 1972, pp. 1-174.

C. Lo Muzio & M. Ferrandi (eds), “Buddha”, “Ashoka”, “Menandro”, “Kanishka”, “Gupta”, “Veda”, “Cosmo”, “Buddhismo”, “Jainismo”, “Induismo”, “Brahma”, “Shiva”, “Vishnu”, “Sarasvati”, “Durga”, “Lakshmi”, “Epica”, “Purana”, “Tempio Hindu”, “Stupa”, “Monastero Buddhista”, “Dharma”, “Scritture”, “Lingue”, “Yama”, “Samsara”, “Lomash Rshi”, “Sanchi”, “Taxila”, “Butkara”, “Mathura”. “Ajanta”, “Carta geografica del Subcontinente indiano”, “Cronologia”, “Musei”, “Glossario”, in India. Milano, Electa, 2008, pp. 10-33, 74-80, 86-140, 143-157, 174, 182-184, 212-214, 244-264, 270-280, 374-380.

Monographic section:

C. Lo Muzio, Archeologia dell'Asia centrale preislamica. Dall'età del Bronzo al IX secolo d.C., Firenze, 2017, pp. 117-149.

For those not attending lessons, the following bibliography is added:

For an introduction to the pre-Islamic Indian archeology:

AA. VV., “La regione dell'Indo”, “Swat”, “Gandhara”, “Panjab”, “Sind” “Bir-kot-ghwandai”, “Butkara”, “Charsada”, “Taxila”, “La pianura gangetica”, “Mathura”, “Sonkh”, “Bengala”, “Orissa”, “La regione dei Vindhya e il Rajasthan”, “Maharashtra e Gujarat”, “La frontiera Indo-Iranica”, “Bamiyan”, “Fondukistan”, “Hadda”, “Tapa Sardar” in Enciclopedia Archeologica, III. Asia, Roma, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, 2005. pp. 505-510, 511, 512-514, 516-520, 527-528, 534, 535-536, 539-542, 545-547, 556-557, 580-582, (can be found also at site www.treccani.it .)

A. Filigenzi L‘arte del Gandhāra, in Sulla via di Alessandro da Seleucia al Gandhāra, Cinisello Balsamo, 2007, pp. 229-238.

Monographic section:

G. Verardi, ‘The Kusāna Emperors as Cakravartins, Dynastic Art and Cults in India and Central Asia: History of a Theory, Clarifications and Refutations’, East and West, 1983, 33.

However, it is strongly recommended that non-attending students contact the teacher to arrange a specific programme and bibliography.


Among the texts used by the teacher for the preparation of the frontal lessons, BUT NOT REQUIRED FOR THE ORAL EXAM, it is worth mentioning:

Aśvaghoṣa, Le Gesta del Buddha, a cura di A. Passi, Milano, 2000 (1a edizione 1979).

M. Bussagli, L’arte del Gandhāra. Torino, 1984.

L. Colliva, ‘The Apsidal temple of Taxila. Traditional hypotheses and new possible interpretations’, in A. Hardy (ed.) The Temple in South Asia, London, 2007, pp. 21-27.

L. Colliva, ‘The Excavation of the Archaeological Site of Barikot (Bīr-kot-ghwandai) and its Chronological Sequence’, in Journal of Asian Civilizations, 2011, 34/1, pp. 157-91.

Erdosy, G. ‘Taxila: Political History and Urban Structure’, in M. Taddei & P. Callieri (eds) South Asian Archaeology 1987, Roma, IsIAO, 1990, pp. 657-674.

J.M. Kenoyer, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, Oxford, 2004 (1a edizione 1998).

L.M. Olivieri, ‘Outline History of the IsIAO Italian Archaeology Mission in Pakistan (1956-2006)’, East and West, 2006, 56, 1-3, pp. 23-41.

C. Pieruccini, L’arte dell’India. Vol.I , Torino, 2020.

M. Taddei, India (Archaeologia Mundi, Enciclopedia Archeologica), Ginevra, 1976.

M. Taddei, Arte narrativa tra India e mondo ellenistico, Roma, IsMEO, Conferenze 5, 1993.

The list will be updated during the course.


Teaching methods

Frontal lessons with direct and critical examination of the archaeological and iconographic documentation through projection of images and distribution of didactic material (when possible also uploaded on the "Virtuale" site).

The aim of the course is to introduce the student to the main problems of the proposed research theme. Emphasis is placed on the methodological approach to research, in order to stimulate critical reflection on the part of the student.

Assessment methods

The examination consists of an oral interview to assess the critical and methodological skills matured by the student and the acquisition of basic knowledge in the field of Indian archaeology.

The evaluation will take into account the student's ability to orientate within the sources and the bibliographic material in order to obtain useful information that will enable him to explain themes and problems and to know how to connect them.

In addition to the contents, students will be evaluated on the ability to synthesize and analyse archaeological themes and the ability to express themselves adequately and with appropriate language.

Full acquisition of these skills and an exhaustive knowledge of the matter will be assessed with excellence marks (27-30).

A predominantly mnemonic acquisition of course's contents and discontinuous language and logical skills will be assessed with discrete marks (24-26).

A minimum level of knowledge of the course contents combined with training gaps or inadequate language and logical skills will be evaluated with marks slightly above the sufficiency (18-24).

The absence of a minimal acquisition of the course contents combined with inadequate verbal expression and logical skills will be considered insufficient.

Teaching tools

Projection of images and distribution of didactic material in pdf, when possible also via the "Virtuale" site.

Office hours

See the website of Luca Colliva