The Date of Kanishka


It is essential that you read Falk (2001) before commencing any further reading on the date of Kanishka. The position argued on this page that the date of Kanishka is an open question, is a minority position. In fact, it would be fair to say that in 2004 I am the only person involved in Kushan Studies who does not publicly accept Falk's position. So you should read Falk's article, compare it with my criticism and come to your own conclusion. If you find Falk's argument convincing then further reading would probably be wasted. Since then Falk has made a further response to my criticisms in Silk Road Art and Archaeology 2005 and I have made further response to that which you can download as a word file here.

There are three notable collections of papers which anyone interested in the Kanishka era should read. Basham (1968) is the proceedings of the 1960 conference on the date of Kanishka. Though out of date, it highlights most of the evidence that has been employed in the past 40 years. The UNESCO publications on Central Asia contain a number of useful articles on the Kushan Period including contributions by Puri and Harmatta (1994) on the date of Kanishka. The last item (Alram & Salter, 1999) is the last published collection in which Kanishka's date was the subject of extensive debate. It includes an article by Gobl (1999), which is the last statement of his third century century position. It also includes articles by Bopearachchi and Alram on the Indo-Parthian sequences, which were only weakly understood at the 1960 conference. And it includes an article by Cribb, which is probably the most comprehensive statement of the 100-120AD theory that he spend the 1990s argueing for.

Other articles and books I have quoted in the arguments are listed below. References to particular pages numbers are included in the text if you wish to pursue any particular argument.

Online Material

Joe Cribb's excellent 1999 article can be found online at

Books & Articles

Alram, M. & Klimburg-Salter, D.E. (editors) Coins, Art and Chronology, Verlag der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999

Alram, M. "Indo-Parthian and Early Kushan Chronology: The Numismatic Evidence" in Coins, Art and Chronology, Verlag der Osterreichischen, 1999

Basham, A.L, Papers on the Date of Kaniska, Leiden-Brill, 1968

Bivar, A.D.H. & Bridge, M.C. 'Tree Rings for Kanishka' in South Asian Studies, 1989

Cribb, J. "Gandharan Hoards of Kushano-Sasanian and Late Kushan Coppers" in Coin Hoards 6, 1981: 93-108

Cribb, J. "Sino-Kharosthi Coins of Khotan, their attribution and relevance to Kushan Chronology" NC, 1984: 128-52, & 1985: 136-49

Cribb, J. "Numismatic Perspectives on Chronology in the Crossroads of Asia", in Gandharan Art in Context (ed. Allchin, Ancient Indian and Iran Trust, 1997

Cribb, J. "The Early Kushan Kings: New Evidence for Chronology. Evidence from the Rabatak Inscription of Kanishka I" in Coins, Art and Chronology, Verlag der Osterreichischen, 1999: 177-206

Falk, H "The yuga of Sphujiddhvaja and the era of the Kusanas" SRAA 7 (2001)

Göbl, R "The Rabatak Insciption and the date of Kanishka" in Coins, Art and Chronology, Verlag der Osterreichischen, 1999: 151-176

Harmatta, J. Puri, B.N. Lelekov, L. Humaya, S. Sircar, D.C. "Religions in the Kushan Empire", History of Civilizations of Central Asia vol.II, Harmatta, 1994

Harmatta, J. "Languages and Literature in the Kushan Empire", History of Civilizations of Central Asia vol.II, UNESCO, 1994

Lohuizen-de Leeuw, J.E. The Scythian Period: An Approach to the History, Art, Epigraphy and Paleography of North India from the 1st Century BC to the 3rd Century AD, 1949

MacDowell, D.W. "The Interrelation between Indo Parthian and Kushan chronology" in Histoire et Cultes de l'Asia Centrale Preislamique (ed. Bernard, P. & Grent, F.), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1991

Mukherjee, B.N. Kushana Coins of the Land of the Five Rivers, Indian Museum, 1978

Narain, A.K. 'Indo-Europeans in Inner Asia' in The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia (ed. Sinor, D.), Cambridge University Press, 1990

Narain, A.K. 'The Date of Kaniska' in Basham, 1968

Nikitin, Alexander "Notes on the chronology of the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom" in Coins, Art and Chronology, Verlag der Osterreichischen, 1999: 259-263

Puri, B.N. "The Kushans" in History of Civilizations of Central Asia vol.II, UNESCO, 1994

Puri, B.N. India Under the Kushans, Bombary, 1965

Rosenfield, Dynastic Art of the Kushans, University of California Press, 1967

Senior, R.C. "The Indo-Greek and Indo-Scythian King Sequences in the Second and First Century BC", ONS 179, 2004

Shrava, S. Sakas in India, New Delhi, 1980

Sims-Williams, N. New Light on Ancient Afghanistan: The Decipherment of Bactrian, SOAS, 1997 

Sims-Williams, N. "Ancient Afghanistan and its invaders: Linguistic evidence from the Bactrian documents and inscriptions" Indo-Iranian Languages and People (ed. Simms-Williams, N.), 2002: 225-243

Sircar, D.C. "Northern India after the Kushanas" in The Age of Imperial Unity, sixth edition, (ed. Majumdar, R.C.), Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1990

A Collection of Prakrit and Sanskrit Inscriptions, Bhavnagar Archaeological Department, 

Contents Page The Date of Kanishka Did Kanishka's era begin in 127AD? Lohuizen's Second Century Dates The Second Kushan Century

©Robert Bracey.