Though the site is called ‘Kushan History’ it is more appropriate to refer to ‘Kushan Studies’. The reason, and part of the interest in this area, is that Kushan Studies are approached from a wide variety of different fields and different forms of evidence. This can give the field a disparate and disjointed appearance, but it also encompasses one of its challenges. There is no question in Kushan Studies that does not depend on reconciling evidence from multiple competing fields (history, archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics, linguistics). Likewise students are almost always drawn from other fields as few academic departments focus directly on the period. So where as in many fields one type of evidence will dominate (intensive excavations in Archaic Greece, Political texts in Roman History etc) in Kushan Studies it is important to draw on a wide variety of disciplines.
So it is not unsurprising that the boundaries of Kushan Studies are a little blurred. For clarity I have tried to outline here what I feel the scope of this site is, though at times it is a little arbitary. Though the term Kushan is a dynastic term, coming from the long study over the last century of the ‘Great Kushans’ identified on coins in the nineteenth century, the scope of Kushan studies should be seen more broadly. Geographically it encompasses the north of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Western China (in particular the Tarim Basin). This is broadly the area of the migrations of the Yu-Chi tribes, and the region of influence of the later Kushan Empire (shown on the map).
Chronologically Kushan Studies runs from the second century BC to the fourth and fifth centuries AD. These can be divided broadly into three periods. The first period, during which the Yu-Chi tribes migrate west into Bactria and settle in the former Greek kingdom of Bactria, until the foundation of the Kushan Empire. This period overlaps with that of Parthian history in Iran, and the Indo-Greek, and Indo-Scythian periods in India and Pakistan. In fact the decision not to include the various Scythian and Greek kingdoms within Kushan Studies is rather arbitrary and you should note that they are studied by broadly the same group of scholars. The second period is that of the Kushan Empire, beginning in the first century AD and ending in the third century AD. The third period is that in which the name ‘Kushan’ is maintained by various kings and princes before their eventual displacement by the Guptas and the various Central Asian and Muslim invaders. This includes the ‘lesser’ Kushan Kings in India, the Kushano-Sasanians and the Kidarites. Again, though these geographical and chronological boundaries have been defined in terms of dynasties and kings these are purely convenient markers.
Kushan Studies relevance to History
Though it is inappropriate to refer to ‘History’ as some monolithic structure it is worth saying a few words on how Kushan Studies relates to other periods, and wider questions in history. In religious history, this is the period during which Buddhism first spread to China. During this time there was a transition from Prakrit in inscriptions to the use of Sanskrit.
About The Author
Robert Bracey works for the British Museum where he engages in research on the history of South and Central Asia. He is principally responsible for the South and Central Asian coins held by the museum. His research is focused primarily on the Kushan period which encompasses the first to fourth centuries AD from Central Asia to Northern India. He works on a variety of material, particularly numismatics, and his main areas of interest are historiographic, die studies, chronology, and gender.
- Robert Bracey works for the British Museum where he engages in research on the history of South and Central Asia. He is principally responsible for the South and Central Asian coins held by the museum. His research is focused primarily on the Kushan period which encompasses the first to fourth centuries AD from Central Asia to Northern India. He works on a variety of material, particularly numismatics, and his main areas of interest are historiographic, die studies, chronology, and gender.