Publications in 2007


The growing prominence of the Kushan period in Western accounts of Ancient Indian history is amply demonstrated by the time dedicated to it in a recent BBC television series by Michael Wood. Wood is an Anglo-Saxon specialist so don't expect any real insight but in a subject that is often only weakly covered by more general books this isn't a bad account.

This year there has been one monograph solely dedicated to a topic of Kushan interest. Craig Benjamin's account of the Yuezhi migration.  Not unrelated the Silk Road remains a trendy subject. E Kuzmina has released a volume about the 'prehistory' of the Silkroad. Exactly what the remit of the monograph is is unclear but it probably incorporates those periods of interest for studies of the Yu-Chi. These accounts are concerned with evidence that has already been discussed and revisited on numerous previous occasions, but some new material has come to light. Not news to Chinese scholars but a group of letters found near Dunhuang, at a site called Xuanquan, include mention of the yuezhi and of a number of the yabghus, potentially the sources which underpin the account of the Han Shu and Hou Han Shu. A very brief note on these documents is the only real contribution of an article by Grenet (2006) on the locations of the Yuezhi yabghus.   

With the demise of Silk Road Art and Archaeology Kushan studies has been deprived of one of its principle outlets for scholarly publications.  To compensate two former newsletters have upgraded themselves to the status of journals and thus expanded the space they devote to material. The CIAA has become the Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology (JIAAA) which has been very professionally published by Brepols. There were several articles of interest in 2007 which I have already covered and though nothing in the 2008 volume is directly Kushan related it is likely many will be of general interest.

Bulletin of Asia Institute will release its 2008 volume in December. This will include a panel from the South Asian Archaeology conference in 2005 on the Hephtalites. The Hephtalites were amongst the nomadic invaders who swept over Bactria and the Northwest as the strength of the Kushan and Kushan-Sassanian states waned in the fourth and fifth centuries. The understanding of this period amongst non-specialists is still rather vague and these will undoubtedly be valuable contributions (though why they are being published here rather than in the conference proceedings is unclear). As well as the large number of articles on Hephtalites, Fiona J. Kidd's "Costume of the Samarkand Region of Sogdiana between the 2nd/1st Century B.C.E. and the 4th Century C.E." may also be interesting.

The newsletter of the ONShas now become the Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society. The year has given a substantial number of articles on Indo-Greeks of limited value, two very good notes from Shailendra Bhandare (No.191) on the Kshaharatas and Ksatraps who were the Kushans principal political and military rivals in India, and two slightly odd articles on the Kushans. The two articles are by Hans Loeschner and both revolve around a single copper coin. In the first Loeschner attempts to use the coin to help resolve Kushan chronology, though he doesn't actually use the coin in his rather confused account. What makes his account confused is that he juxtaposes the AD 78 and AD 127 theories as if they were both plausible dates for the inception of the Kanishka era. In reality AD 127 is a serious candidate, where-as AD 78 has been dead in the water since 1960 and no serious scholar can propose an alternative to the Falk date that falls outside the AD 105 to AD 146 range. His second article is equally odd, he presents a piece which he assumes to be a genuine coin of Kanishka and uses the unbearded king to try and suggest that 'this novel coin justifies the attribution of the reliquary casket of the huge Shah-ji-ki-Dheri/Peshawar stupa to the Kushan emperor, Kaniska I the Great'. The coin was obviously not minted by Kanishka, as it is struck to Huvishka's post-devaluation weight standard (11.2g) and is rather clumsy in execution - it is likely to a contemporary imitation of Huvishka, and can be added to the many other curiosities known to us. Again Loeschner's discussion and conclusions seem to have a completely arbitrary relationship with the coin he presents.

The Buddhist Manuscripts have been the subject of more publications. The wealth of data from these continues to grow, and it is clear that in Pakistan and Afghanistan there are sites that rival the payprus dump at Oxyrynchus. Since only a fraction of the material is published it is useful to have, every so often a general update in a non-technical sense of the material available - and Mark Allon provided that in a contribution to Himanshu Prabhu Ray's volume on Alexander. There has also been the release of volume III of Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schoyen Collection, which includes articles by Salamon's team on carbon dating of some manuscripts - a subject on which unfortunately they do not show the same mastery as they do in the actual editing of the manuscripts.

Increasingly Gandhara has become 'trendy' for academics, particularly with the finds of Buddhist scrolls in the last decade, and the commencement of publication on the site of Kashmir Smast. As a result far more attention has been focused on what were previously considered minor elements of Indo-Parthian history. One example of this are the Apracharaja's, known as Buddhist patrons from number of inscriptions and through a group of coins that imitate those of Azes. So we have a publication dedicated exclusively to them. by Srivastava, and are likely to see a great deal more in the next few years.

Bibliographic Details


Contents Page Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Women in Ancient India The Date of Kanishka Kushan Coinage

Robert Bracey.