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Southern Bactria and Northern India before Islam: A Review of Archaeological Reports Author(s): Gérard Fussman

Southern Bactria and Northern India before Islam: A Review of Archaeological Reports Author(s): Gérard Fussman

Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 116, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1996), pp. 243-


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A discussion of the past twenty years of archaeological reports from the three major sites of Ai

Khanum (northeastAfghanistan), ButkaraI (Swat) and Sonkh (Uttar Pradesh). Emphasized are the contrasting approaches to the excavations and especially the differing methods and results of their

publication. Noted are the important historical and cultural questions that still remain unanswered.


the history

of northern India from the death of Asoka

to the first inroads of the Moslem armies is still im- perfectly known. About its social history we can only state that new peoples kept coming from Iran and CentralAsia and were, in the course of time, integrated

into an Indian social


about which we have

very little incontrovertibledata.1Its economic history is summed up by lists of commodities, some indications

about currencies and monetary policies,

records of its trade with China and the Roman Empire.

Thanks to recently discovered

between Buddhism and

tures, the complex

early Hinduism now appears in a new light, but this

new data comes from widely separated places (mainly Gandhara and Mathura) and its interpretation may be

and imprecise

and sculp-



* This is a review articleof some twenty-seven recentarchae-

ological reports, those whose authorsare noted in small caps in the

1 We may assume that, as in almost every society, Indian society at that time was made up of a number of groups. But we do not know whether these groups were knitted into a fixed and hierarchized social frame bearing some resemblance to the modern Hindu jati system or whether there was only

one system of ranking, incorporating the many groups of fol- lowers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Iranian religions into one and the same scheme. If we can judge from some

stray inscriptions, social groups of foreign origin, especially the ruling clans, kept to quite unshastric family systems and rights of inheritance (Fussman 1980, 23). Brahmins could be engaged in trade and their widows could act as family heads (Fussman 1993, 115). This scanty data is enough to show that around the Common Era, Indian society was still far from functioning like the ideal Hindu society depicted in the proba- bly much later dharmaSastras.



disputed.2 The political history of northern India still



bare lists




an often


relative chronology and a still more unsure absolute chronology. These chronological uncertaintiescannotbut

have a bearing on the history of

early IndianArt which,


some advances,3 has not yet been established


a sure footing. The extant Indian, Western, and Chinese literatures

have been so carefully sifted that new important revela- tions are not to be expected. New inscriptions and coins are published almost every year, but they are more of-

ten than not stray finds whose

are imper-


fectly known.4 Thus, the only hope for the historian of early India lies in regular excavations. Indeed, as early

as 1903, (Sir) John Marshall planned to start excava-

tions in Taxila, partly because its location and history reminded him of ancient Greece, but mostly because he

wanted to recover all kinds of data "on the political and


For Buddhism, see now the summary in Fussman 1994. Vaishnava bhakti cults in Mathura, the best overview is


still Srinivasan 1988, although dating back to 1981.

3 The chronology of early Mathuran art still rests on the

excellent, though now half-a-century-old, Ph.D. thesis by

summed up by

Lohuizen de Leeuw

Sharma 1984, 173-242. For early Gandharan art, see Fussman




4 Stray finds bought on the antique market are very often given a provenance which may or may not be true. Local deal- ers, as a rule, never give the true provenance of artifacts they sell either because they are intermediarieswho have every rea-

son to keep the origin of the artifact secret, not to be bypassed by other dealers, or because they got them from middlemen who have the same reason for not divulging its source. Schol- ars ignorant of the rules governing the antique marketare very

often misled by such provenances.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 116.2 (1996)

and its material

religious history of the northwest

culture during lengthy periods between 500 B.c. and A.D. 500."5 The trend was followed by (Sir) Mortimer

Wheeler, who came to India in February 1944 with a

plan of systematic excavations for recovering India's past.6 But he had to leave India (now Pakistan) without being able to implement his plan fully. The Archaeo- logical Survey of India and the Department of Archae- ology of Pakistan did not follow in his steps. But his ideas were taken up by three archaeological missions whose heads had impressive academic backgrounds: the

Arch6ologique Francaise en Afghanistan


(DAFA), whose postwar director, Daniel Schlumberger, had the same taste for history as its founder, Alfred Foucher;7 the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo

Oriente (IsMEO), whose chairman, Giuseppe Tucci, in 1955, earmarked places in the Swat valley of Pakistan

for excavations with the specific purpose of unraveling

Buddhism in northwestern India and

the history of

discovering the sequence of the Hellenized Buddhist art

of Gandhara;8 and the Archaeological Mission of the Museum of Indian Art (Berlin) which began to dig at Sonkh, near Mathura, in 1966 under the leadership of Herbert Hartel, then director of the museum, a pupil and heir of Professors Liiders and Waldschmidt, to "collect materialinformationon the early history of the once-flourishing State of Mathura, one of the most im- portant cultural centres of ancient India."9 This was how, during the sixties, three large excava- tions were conducted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Republic of India which should have helped to solve,

but did not, the vexed questions of the origins of early Buddhist art, the creation of the anthropomorphicrep- resentationof Buddha, andthe subsequentdevelopments

of early Indianart:Ai

Khanumin northern Afghanistan


was to have given im- of northwestern India;

ButkaraI in Swat, "chosen by Prof. Tucci after careful

study of historical sources continually checked by in- spection of the ground,"1'entirely dug out by Dome-

nico Faccenna (1956-1962),

where it was hoped that

careful stratigraphical excavations could help to estab- lish on a sure footing the chronology of Gandharanart;

entirely led by P. Bernard, which portant clues to the Hellenization

started by D. Schlumberger but almost

and Sonkh, excavated by Prof. Hartel in eight seasons (1966-1974), which should have been the counterpart of ButkaraI in the Gangetic valley. These were large-

scale excavations, backed by

ted with great care by first-class scholars with relatively

importantbudgets and a good staff of technicians and young promising scholars. We now know that they did not solve the difficult problem of the sources and chro- nologies of the Gandharanand MathuranBuddhist arts. Despite the wealth of well-recorded finds, the new ad- vances came mainly from stray finds," and the best overviews are still Schlumberger 1960 and Lohuizen de Leeuw 1949. There is no reason to blame this failure on the excavators. Luck simply was not with them. They cannot be held responsible for not having dug out in- scriptions giving a genealogy of Bactrian kings or as- cribing a fine sculpture to the reign of a Saka sovereign. Although the problems of early Buddhist art were not solved during these excavations, we know for sure that Ai Khanum will remain for many years to come the standardsite for Greek Bactria, that Butkarais the best recorded Buddhist site in northwestern India and that Sonkh will in the coming years be the great reference site for Uttar Pradesh. These excavations are not fail- ures. On the contrary,they aretext-book instances of the importance of well-planned and well-conducted excava- tions for our knowledge of the past of CentralAsia and India. This is not the place to review the important data they brought to light. They have been known for years throughmany interim reports'2 and exhibitions; the aca- demic world has no doubts whatever about their impor- tance. Now, when the final reports have been published, or are being published, it would be interesting to com- pare the strategies of excavation and publication adop- ted by the leaders of these huge projects. Although I owe a great debt to Gardin 1979 and agree with most of his conclusions, this will not be a study in theoretical archaeology. I have no taste nor skill for theory. This will be an empirical study, made by a historian who often needs to look into these reports and who is also faced with the necessity of conducting such projects-


local authorities, conduc-

even if they are on a much smaller scale-and ing them in due time.

5 Marshall 1951, xv-xvi.



Wheeler 1955,

See Olivier 1996.


8 Tucci 1958, 284.

9 Hartel1993, 9.

10 Faccenna 1980, I:10.

11 Seeabove, n.3.Onthe import of thediscoveriesinButkara

Iforthe early Buddhistartof Gandhara, seebelow,pp. 254-55.

12 Bibliography of the Ai Khanuminterim reportsby P.Ber-

of Butkarainterim reports in

nard in Guillaume 1983, xi-xii;

Faccenna 1980, 1:1-4 (footnotes); of Sonkh interim reports in Hartel 1993, 471-72.

FUSSMAN:Southern Bactria

and Northern

India before Islam


In its restricted sense, Ai Khanum is a Hellenistic

walled city located in northeastern Afghanistan,

to the borderof current Tajikistan, at the meeting point

Oxus (Amudarya) and Kokca rivers. It consists of

of the


two parts, a natural acropolis, 60 m high, mainly used for defensive purposes, and a lower town which was the inhabited part of the city (1,800 x 1,500 m in all). Part of the acropolis and more than one-third of the lower town were excavated. The main buildings there are a

huge palace or administrative quarters, a large temple, a mausoleum and a heroon, a gymnasium, a theater and an arsenal. Great houses, with built-in courtyards or gardens, were located south of the palace (in the south- western part of the city) and outside the city, nearby its northern wall. There were few such houses: it seems that there were many empty spaces inside the walled town, which was founded and built on virgin soil either c. 329 or 305 B.C.and ceased to exist as a town c. 146

B.C.There is no doubt that Ai Khanumwas one of

main urbancentres of Greek Bactria. North and east of the city lies a small plain, 27 km

long, less than 9 km wide, 220 km2 in all,

scholarscall "la plaine d'Ai Khanum."'3A survey,begun on J.-C1. Gardin'sinitiative in 1974, with P. Bernard's


city, demonstrated that this plain had been irrigated since the bronze age and could even boast a mature Harappan settlement (Gardin 1978, 130; Francfort 1989, 57-58). There were important settlements until the time of the Mongol invasions. The existence of the Greek city of Ai Khanum is thus only one important and, in any case, the most spectacularepisode in the long history of the plain. It should have been studied accordingly, but this did not happen, as can be clearly seen from the scheme of publications adopted, a scheme quite incon- venient both for readers and librarians. Apart from the many interim reports, the results of the digs in Ai Khanum city have been published in the lavish series

agreement, ten years after the first dig in Ai


which French







en Afghanistan, under the responsibility of P. Bernard; the results of the surveys and excavations in the Ai Khanum plain were first published, under the direction of J.-C1.Gardin, in cheaply printed series of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) or ltdi- tions Recherche sur les Civilisations, now in a series

called Memoires de la Mission Archeologique


en Asie Centrale. There is almost no relationship be-

tween the two sets of publications. The puzzled reader

may wonder why one and the same

published in two separate series. I often do.

French project is

13 Moreoften,now,"plaine de Dasht-i Qala."

It is easier though to discern the scientific differences between the two series. The studies published in Mem-


de la De'legation



en Af-


are almost entirely devoted to studies of the Hellenistic

architecture and the decorative art of the Greek city. The keywords of P. Bernard's papers, as listed by him- self (Guillaume 1983, xi), are: Hellenistic, Greek, city, urbanism. History in the modern sense of the term al- most never appears.'4 The scope of the J.-Cl. Gardin's series is much wider-Central Asia. There are often no chronological limitations (Gentelle 1978); the emphasis is mainly on non-Greek periods and never on art.

as well as the interim reports by P. Bernard,

Now there is no epistemological conflict between classical archaeology, with its emphasis on architecture, art, and political history, and the so-called new archae- ology which aims at solving clearly defined historical


both, and each complements the other.One can be inter- ested in history of artandat the same time one may want

to know about the everyday life of the artists and their servants. Although the DAFA did not lack money and although many scholars, with a wide range of interests,

were working underits umbrella, obviously

chaeology could not be reconciled with the new archae-

ology. The two main series of Memoires, the one under

the editorial responsibility of P.Bernardfor the Ai Kha- num volumes, andthe otherunderthe editorship of J.-C1.

Gardin, mirrorthese

As far as I know, there is no preconceived publica- tion plan for the Ai Khanum subseries of final reports

throughspecific and fast procedures. We need

classical ar-

scientific differences.

in Memoires

de la Delegation



en Afghanistan. The volumes follow each other treating building after building in a haphazardway: propylons of the main street, main temple, coins, fortifications,gym- nasium, treasury.-5 Indeed the excavations are published

14 See below,

n. 23, aboutBernard1985.

15 It may be convenient for the readerto reproduce here the list of the Ai Khanumvolumes in this series:


P. Bernard,Fouilles d'Ai Khanoum, I (Campagnes 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968), 1973 (quarto)

XXVI: O.Guillaume,Fouilles d'Ai'Khanoum, II:Les propy- lees de la rue principale, 1983 (folio).


sanctuaire du temple a redans, 2: Les trouvailles, 1984 (folio).


monnaies hors trdsors; Questions d'histoire greco- bactrienne, 1985 (quarto). XXIX: P. Leriche,Fouilles d'Ai Khanoum, V: Les remparts et les monuments associds, 1986 (folio).

H.-P. Francfort, Fouilles d'Ai Khanoum, III: Le

Bernard, Fouilles

d'Ai Khanoum, IV:




of the American





as they were made, mound after mound, without any

systematic plan of studying the grid of streets, the func- tion of the empty spaces, the zoning of the city, the rea- sons for the location of buildings like the gymnasium or the arsenal. It does not seem that a systematic study of town-planning will ever be published.16 The only over-

view of the city-very

comment on the often reproducedmap of the Ai Kha- num excavations (Bernard 1981, 110-14). There is no

detailed study of the aerial views, which now could be


face prospection nor soundings (or very few) made for the specific purpose of ascertaining where the artisans or the servants dwelt.'7 We do not even know whether there was a market, or a bazaar, even less where it was located. We are given no demonstrativereasons about the pur- pose of building such a city in such a location.'8 Nobody will blame the excavator for not being able to give the Greek name of the city, for not having discovered any sure evidence about the exact date of its foundation (al- ready in the time of Alexander or under Seleukos the First), nor for being unable to state whether the palace was a royal residence or only administrative quarters in- habited by a governor and his retinue. The excavations

satellite imagery, and therewas no sur-

good if somewhat brief-is


were conducted with the utmost care, but no decisive in- scription was discovered.The walls hadbeen razedto the

ground, and the buildings had been emptied of theircon- tents. But we could have expected some kind of geopo- litical study. In its place we are only given a very shortset of unsupported statements.The first interim report(Ber- nard 1973) does not even addressthe question. One year

later, an explanation is given: Ai Khanumwas located

a strategicposition and was used as a militaryoutpost to keep in check the inroadsof nomad enemies. It also de- rived some wealth "from direct farming colonization by

(Greek) gentlemen-farmers" (Bernard1974, 102).




S. Veuve, Fouilles d'Ai'Khanoum, VI: Le gymnase; Architecture,ceramique,sculpture, 1987 (folio).

Rougeulle, Fouilles dAt'


Khanoum, VII:Les petits objets, 1987 (folio)

dAi' Khanoum, VIII: La

Guillaume et





tresorerie du palais hellenistique d'Ai Khanoum, 1992 (big quarto). (Vol. XXXII is the second volume of the SurkhKotalfinal report

[1990] which has been ready for publication for years.) 16 A study of the way Ai Khanumwas provided with water

is nevertheless announced in a note


Gentelle 1978, 142.

17 Nevertheless see Bernard 1978b, 42. 18 See the motivations behind the survey of the plain of Ai

Khanumas related in Gardin 1976, 60.

When the first surveys of the plain of Ai Khanum by Gardin'steam demonstratedthat the land was irrigated long before the advent of the Greeks, anotherset of ex- planations was given, the final one as far as I know: the city was established because it could use the produce of a rich territory, well irrigated, well farmed, and in- habited by large numbers of skilled peasants. It could also derive some profit from the mineral wealth of the high valley of the Kok6a river (or Badaxsan). Lastly, located in a strategic position against both hill tribes and steppe nomads, it was an indispensable fortified support area against them.19 Ai Khanumwas indeed a fortified city, but all Greek cities were walled. I am not a general or a strategist, but I find it hardto believe that Ai Khanumwas mainly

a military outpost or fortress against the nomads. A partly empty city with a wall too long to be effectively manned is not a fortress. And if it had been a fortress, why, as it seems, was it vacated even before the advent of the nomads it was supposed to hold in check? The mineral wealth of the hilly country could be tapped anywhere in the plain, even north of the Hindukush(as

in modern times). It probably added to the resources of

the city, but it does not explain its location. The ex- ploitation of farming possibilities on a well-irrigated countryside, associated with the possibility of building a large fortified town on a convenient site (two rivers, an acropolis), is thus the best explanation. Trade could also have played a role.20But these explanations will remain undemonstratedas long as the relationship be- tween the countryside and the city is not explored. Who were the farmers? Were they affluent? Did they use the same kind of pottery as the citizens? Were there artisans and tradersin the city? These questions cannot be answered because they were never addressed. No use was made of Gardin's surveys for initiating a study of this kind. In confirma- tion I can adduce two facts. The maps published in the



la Delegation



en Afghanistan, even in their latest issue (Rapin 1992), never show Ai Khanum within its territory (either the

19 un pointd'appui militaireessentiel pour la d6fense

des marches orientales de la Bactriane" (Bernard 1981, 109-

10); "a military outpost

20 The discovery

to control the eastern marches of "


Bactria and block a potential invasion route 1982, 148).

of the Harappanoutpost of Shortughai and

of Sogdian inscriptions on the banks of the Indus river show that there existed* a direct link between Central Asia and northernIndia through the Kok6a valley and Chitral. But we have no evidence that it was used in Greek times.

FUSSMAN:Southern Bactria and Northern India before Islam


plain of Ai Khanum or a larger part of northeastern Bactria). They are either large maps of Bactria, or a plan of the city which stops at the northernmost ex- cavated buildings, i.e., 300 m north of the northern wall. Moreover, very few people know that two km north of the northernwall of the city lies a walled cir- cular establishment, large enough to be called "circular town," and which, to my knowledge, is almost never mentioned by P. Bernard,21although sherds ranging from Achaemenid to Islamic times were collected from

its surface.22If this town was a provincial headquarters before the advent of the Greeks, the historical and geo- political problem of the location andfunctionof Ai Kha- num city should be addressed in a very different way. This long discussion is not intended to deny the value of the Ai Khanum excavations. They were well done and they produced outstanding results. Without them, what would we know of Greco-Bactrian planning, ar- chitecture, sculpture, pottery, etc.? Without them, Gar- din's surveys would not have been as successful as they were. These excavations brought to light a new world which the French archaeologists had relentlessly sought after for forty years. One cannot complain that the emphasis was on art history and traditional historio- graphy.23 This is what I do myself most of the time and


is necessary. It is indeed often a prerequisite. But it is


be regrettedthat, although there was no lack of fund-

ing or manpower, the excavations in Ai Khanum city were not planned in a way which perhaps (i.e., with

21 Referredto

in Bernard 1978b, 15: "L'organisation ad-

ministrativeet la s6curit66taientassur6s par uneautorit6dont

le siege 6taitune place forte importante

remparts circulaires qui entourentla citadelle proprement dite

a pu 6galement s'abriterune petite agglomerationurbaine, lieu d'6changepour les produits de la terreet ceux d'unarti- sanatlocal."

Entreles deux

22 Gardin 1976, 78-79,

pl. xix-xxiii,

who, using the evi-

dence from these surfacecollectionsof ceramics, surmises

that"in Persian times, the circulartownwas the mainsettle- mentin the Ai Khanum plain." Also Gentelle 1978, 12-13,

and 31(c) for a

map; Gentelle1989, 144 andfrontandback

coversfor a satellite image(commented on in Gentelle 1978,

28). The same satellite image in color in Francfort 1989, opposite the title-page.

The historical questions addressedin Bernard 1985


(Questions d'histoire greco-bactrienne) are: Greek Arachosia

andthe Mauryas(aproblem solvedin themainsinceFoucher's times); theeraof Eucratides; theBranchidesin Central Asia; thecausesof therevoltof theGreekmercenariesin 323;Bac- triaandMenander's Samian;Euthydemos I and Magnesia on theMeander.

some amount of luck) would have also allowed us to

questions which are at the heart of contemporary

historiography, such as demographic history, economic

history, social history, agrarian history, etc. The Ai Khanum excavations demonstrate the truth of the old adage: you only find what you search for. The final reports published in the Ai Khanum sub-

series, Memoires de

raise en Afghanistan, are of a very high scholarly

standard, with a wealth of maps, plans, drawings and photographs. But there is a bewildering lack of con- sistency, even in the format.24I have already noted the


ume, no historicalaccount of the excavations, no volume

on town-planning proper and, worst of all, no overall chronology. So most authors feel compelled to give their own chronology, either in a few lines (Francfort 1984, 2-3; Veuve 1987, 100-101) or in a long chapter (Rapin 1992, 281-94). This would be of no conse- quence if therewere no discrepancies. But this is not so. It is generally agreed that the town was vacated by the Greeks c. 145 B.c. under pressure from the nomads, although no incontrovertible evidence that it was at- tacked, burnt, or sacked by these nomads was ever found.25P. Bernard only made the noncommittal state- ment: "the Greeks of Ai Khanum were driven from their city by nomad invaders" (Bernard 1982, 148).26 After a while the deserted city was pillaged by later inhabitants who settled in some of the ruined build- ings (Bernard 1982, 110; Francfort 1984, 2), but Ai Khanumno longer existed as a town. So one is puzzled

to learn that the town was probably vacated after an at-

tack (Leriche 1986, 57); that it was destroyedby Yuezhi nomads (Rapin 1992, 291) and that there was a Kushan


la Delegation Archeologique Fran-

of an overall plan. There is no introductory vol-

occupation (Leriche 1986, 99-101). Whatis P.Bernard's own opinion? Is there any evidence of these facts in other excavated buildings? And why are we not given the possibility of judging whether the arrowheadsdis- covered against the northern wall belonged to Greek troops (who could have enlisted CentralAsiatic archers) or to nomadic tribes?27Can we not know from the

24 See n. 15.

25 The only evidenceof anattackwouldbe fivearrowheads andtwo lance-headsfound against the northernwall (Leriche 1986,56-57). See belown. 27.

26 Formore details, see Bernard 1973, 110-11 andGardin 1976, 61.


These arrowheadswill be published later (when?)by

F Grenet (Leriche1986, 117). According to Francfort1984,

54, I, who quotesGrenet,the five arrowheadsfoundin the temple couldbe Saka.butthesameFrancfort rightly addsthat


Journal of the American Oriental Society 116.2 (1996)

ceramic finds whether the city was inhabited in Kushan times or not?28 This is only one instance of the inconsistencies be- tween the series. Apparently no guidelines were given to the authors, so that some reports are quite matter-of-fact (Guillaume 1983, Guillaume 1987, Veuve 1987), others look like a demonstration of classical erudition (Franc-

fort 1984). The classification of finds in Guillaume 1987

is not the same as in Francfort 1984. Some volumes are Ph.D. theses (Bernard 1985, Rapin 1992)-which is a

nice way of publishing archaeological reports, if the Ph.D. dissertation is shortened before publication. But this was not the case. In a series of final reports, it would have been more useful to reprint the coin hoards rather than to annex long disquisitions which are understand- able in a Ph.D. thesis but have no connection whatever with the Ai Khanum excavations.29


this series, well after D. Schlumberger and P. Bernard, his own history of the Hellenization of Bactria, pro-

pounding little that is new30 and encumbering it with a







arrowheadsof the same shape were found in the Ai Khanum

arsenal and even in Greece proper. 28 A first study of the ceramics was published by Gardinin

Bernard 1973, 121-88.

At that time, apparently, no Kushan

pottery had been discovered. A refined chronology of ceram-

ics was

never published, but was used as a working hypothesis by

most of the scholars involved in the publication of the Ai

Khanumvolumes. According to that document, the bulk of

Khanum ceramics should be dated between 330 and 125 B.C. (Leriche 1986, 105-6). There were also some Bronze Age ce- ramics, discovered in early burials, but there is no evidence

whatever of Kushan pottery as far as I know. Indeed, it is a

pity that the Greek and post-Greek ceramics of Ai Khanum have not yet been published in full, no more than the Kushan ceramics from Surkh Kotal and the Kushano-Sasanianceram-

ics from Kohna-Masjid (of which there is a manuscript by

S. Veuve). This pottery was on display in the Kabul Museum

depot, which J.-C1. Gardin and his colleagues organized from 1978 to 1982, and this depot was worth more than any publi- cation: to study pottery, you need to handle it. But the Kabul Museum has burnt down, and as the Soviets are not respon-

sible, nobody cares. See now Lyonnet 1996 (below, p. 250).

made by B. Lyonnet and J.-C1. Gardinin 1978: it was



Bernard 1985. See n. 23.

30 The only thing new is the "discovery,"quite unsubstanti- ated in my opinion, of evidence of two invasions by nomads

(Rapin 1992, 287-94),

B. Lyonnet (see now Lyonnet 1996). See above, p. 247, and

below, p. 251.

which actually comes from a hint by

profusion of useless over-eruditefootnotes.31He should have shortened-among others-his Sakuntala story (pp. 192-97), found in all histories of Indian literature, and I would have expected him to have been much more cautious in discovering a depiction of this same Sakun- tala story in the so-called "plaque indienne."32Greater concision would have made this excellent volume much better and less expensive. One can also wonder what logic explains that the ex- cavations of some buildings are published with their as- sociated finds (Rapin 1992), some without them (Veuve 1987, Leriche 1986), some with only a few associated finds (Guillaume 1983, 41-42). One also wonders why some finds were published long before the publication of a detailed description of the dig (Francfort 1984), a situation that makes it difficult to check the impor- tant-and indeed very useful-references to the stra- tigraphy, and why other, quite similar artifacts were published with minimal indications of their provenance (Guillaume 1987, 84). Will these last finds be pub- lished anew when the building they came from is pub- lished? And will these buildings ever be published? Seventeen years after the end of the excavations, we are still awaiting a full publication of the palace, the two temples, the houses, the arsenal, the theater, the cemetery




The surveys and excavations made by J.-C1. Gardin and his team in eastern Bactria during the very short period (1974-78) when it was still possible to travel in Afghanistan are published in a new series called Mem- oires de la Mission Archeologique Francaise en Asie Centrale. As far as I know, the reasons for creating a new series are never given. Apart from the obvious fact that the field work was financed by specific grants, not by the main budget of the DAFA, the substitutionof the

31 E.g., Rapin 1992, 186, n. 655.

32 The identificationrestson the fact thatthis muchdam-

aged object depicted a king, standing on a chariot with two standing attendants (probably the charioteer and a woman), entering a forest or a pleasure grove, and that a terra-cotta medallion from Bhita depicts perhaps the Sakuntala story. But what is to be seen in the poor remains of the Ai Khanum plaque (now well fitted and otherwise perfectly studied) is

consistent with so many stories we read in the Jatakas, in the

Epics, the

ries relating how a king went hunting or went into an adrama

or a pleasure grove.

narratives, etc.: Indian literatureis replete with sto-

FUSSMAN:Southern Bactria and Northern India before Islam


words Delegation and Afghanistan by Mission andAsie Centrale has some significance. The disappearance of the word Delegation obviously implies a breakwith the French tradition of the DAFA, i.e., a permanent estab- lishment with a permanent staff (it was founded in 1922, when the journey from Franceto Kabultook about three months), having a special relationship with the Afghan government, and smacking of imperial times. Asie Centrale implies a shift in scholarly interests. It denotes a temporary break with the Indian tradition of the DAFA, and an emphasis on a geographic, cultural, and geopolitical entity (Central Asia) whose existence is longer and historically more significant than that of recent states like Uzbekistan or Afghanistan. It implies also that the same problematics could be used in other parts of CentralAsia. Indeed, the same French research team was and is still conducting explorations and digs in Tajikistan, Kazaxstanand Chinese Turkestan (or Xin- jiang). For its Afghan irrigation surveys, it follows a trend first set by Soviet archaeologists.33

differences with former

DAFA practices. The surveys were meant to be rela- tively cheap. They were made by a restrictedteam (four French scholars,34 three to four Afghan assistants), act- ing on a written agreement with the Afghan government. This agreement stipulated the scientific objectives, the methodology, the relatively short duration (four years) of the project and insisted on early publication of the results.

The scientific objectives, the methodology, and the epistemological hypotheses are clearly stated in the first pages of the interim and final reports.35 The purpose of

There are other obvious

the surveys, and of the consecutive dig

clearly historical. The concern is not with art history, nor political history; it is not a search for the footsteps of Cyrus or Alexander. The historical questions J.-C1. Gardin and his team address are the same as those which the Annales school tries to answer, along with more contemporaryprehistorians. When did people settle in eastern Bactria? Why, i.e., for which ecological, geo- graphical, economic reasons, did they settle there? How and to what extent did they modify the landscape? How did the population increase or decrease, and why? No time limit is set; that is to say, each so-called historical period is as valuable as any other for the historian,

of Shortughai, is

33 E.g., Lisitsina1969and Zejmal' 1969.

34 B. Lyonnet(ceramologist), J.-C1.GardinandH.-P.Franc- fort (archaeologists), P.Gentelle (geographer). 35Gardin 1976,59-63; Gentelle 1978,3-7; Gardin 1978,99- 108;Gardinin Gentelle 1989,11-15; Francfort 1989,13-14.

whether times of "barbarity" or times belonging to the "Greek miracle."To solve such problems, no artifact is more "noble" than any other: a sherd may tell us more than a long inscription. The means used for solving these problems owe much to contemporaryprehistory: surveys backed by a good knowledge of local geography, paleogeography, and even geology; collection of surface artifacts; limited soundings; the use of modern technology (satellite im- agery,36physical and chemical analyses, paleontology or paleozoology, etc.). The working hypotheses were

the following.

in the climate since neolithic times. Accordingly, in an- cient times (as in modern ones) agriculture was only possible with the help of channel irrigation.Tracing and dating old channels is therefore equivalent to tracing and dating old agricultural settlements. Tracing old and dry channels depends on the ability

and the eye of the surveyor, who should be also skilled in reading maps and aerial photographs. The method, experimented with in 1974 and 1975 during the surveys of the plain of Ai Khanum (Gardin 1976; Gentelle 1978), was developed to enable a very fast survey of the majorpart of eastern Bactria (Gardin 1978; Lyonnet

1995). It is specific to northern Afghanistan, which was still thinly populated and where wide tracts of arable

land were

when the rains were good (lalmi, dry cultivation). As for the dating of the channels, it should be consistent

with the date of the sherds collected on the ground of settlements whose economic activity was dependent on the functioning of these same channels. The validity

There had been no substantial change

no longer cultivatedor only sporadically sown


this postulate was demonstrated by a limited number


small digs and by the Shortughai excavations.

The results of these well-planned surveys are impres- sive. They demonstrated that, as postulated, the climate

had not changed much during the past 5,000

agriculturists had been settled in Bactria at least since the early third millennium B.c.; that channel irrigation was practiced on a large scale, and sometimes under very difficulttechnical conditions, long before the Greek

conquest; that Ai

densely populated territory; that some changes in

lation could be inferred from the distribution of chan-

nels and sherds, and possibly correlatedwith

known historicaldata.37 They were also a very successful

years; that

Khanum was built on an already



36 SPOT satellite imagery, which did not exist in 1974, would have helped much, but at a much greater cost. 37 See below, p. 251.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 116.2 (1996)

exercise in new archaeology,showing how a well-devised plan of surveys and excavations could solve historical problems at a cheaper cost, if these problems were pre- cisely worked out beforehand.38 Early publication was an importantpart of Gardin's "new archaeology"challenge. Two main interim reports were published quickly, before the forced cessation of

the surveys (Gardin 1976 and 1978). Four final reports have now been printed (Gentelle 1978, Francfort 1989, Gentelle 1989, Lyonnet 1996). A fifth and last is prom- ised for the not too distant future.39These publications are also a challenge for J.-C1. Gardin and his team, insofar as they have been advocating for years a more formal (logicist) argumentation in drawing historical conclusions from archaeological data and changes in

publication practices.40 As there are

edged discrepancies in the historical conclusions of the interim and final reports,41 I shall only review these. The survey of the plain of Ai Khanum (1974-76) was published quite fast (Gentelle 1978).42 It is a clas- sical and matter-of-fact study. Starting from the as-

sumption that there had been no major changes in climate, P. Gentelle first made a study of the geography

some acknowl-

38 The surveys weremadeunder especially favorablecondi- tions:J.-C.Gardinhadtraveledin Afghanistan for twenty-five years; he spoke fluentPersian; he had verygood localconnec-

tions; he

makeuseof detailed (1:10.000 and 1:50.000)maps andhe was working in a sparselypopulatedcountry where large tractsof arableland lay littlecultivated.Butthe formerDAFAalmost nevertook advantage of theseconditionsfor makingsurveys and previoussurveysby otherscholarsweremuchless suc- cessful (Gardin, in Gentelle1989, 12-13). Nor are luck or

favorableconditions responsible forthechoiceand training of the scholarswho participated in this research, the methodol- ogy elaboratedfor tracing and dating the channels, andthe way thefielddatawereworkedoutfor publication.

wasthebest specialist in Afghan ceramics; he could


Now announcedas Gardin (forthcoming)(with a slightly

differenttitlein Gentelle1989, 12).


Gardin1992, 100.Full bibliography on p. 103.

41 See,e.g.,below, n. 54. Such discrepancies area necessary consequence of scientificresearch:if we could publish fast resultsof surveys or digs withoutfurtherresearchanddetailed

studies, ther<