Gandhara culture

Gandhara grave culture

The Gandhara grave (or Swāt) culture emerges from ca. 1600 BC, and flourishes in Gandhara, Pakistan ca. 1500 BC to 500 BC (i.e. possibly up to the time of Pāṇini).

Relevant finds, artifacts found primarily in graves, were distributed along the banks of the Swat and Dir rivers in the north, Taxila in the southeast, along the Gomal River to the south. The pottery finds show clear links with contemporary finds from southern Central Asia (BMAC) and the Iranian Plateau.

Simply made terracotta figurines were buried with the pottery, and other items are decorated with simple dot designs. Horse remains were found in at least one burial.

The Gandhara grave people have been associated by some scholars with early Indo-Aryan speakers, and the Indo-Aryan migration into India, that, fused with indigenous elements of the remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization (OCP, Cemetery H), gave rise to the Vedic civilization.

The Ghandara Grave culture people shared biological affinities with the population of Neolithic Mehrgarh, which suggests a "biological continuum" between the ancient populations of Timargarha and Mehrgarh.

Asko Parpola (1993: 54), argues that the Gandhara grave culture is "by no means identical with the Bronze Age Culture of Bactria and Margiana". Tulsa (1977: 690-692) argues that this culture and its "new contributions" are "nevertheless in line with the cultural traditions of the previous period", and remarks that "to attribute a historical value to ... the slender links with northwestern Iran and northern Afghanistan ... is a mistake", since "it could well be the spread of particular objects and, as such, objects that could circulate more easily quite apart from any real contacts." Antonini (1973), Stacul and other scholars argue that this culture is not related with the Beshkent and Vakhsh cultures of Tajikistan (Bryant 2001).

In the centuries preceding the Gandhara culture, during the Early Harappan period (roughly 3200–2600 BCE), similarities in pottery, seals, figurines, ornaments etc. document intensive caravan trade between South Asia and Central Asia and the Iranian plateau.


  • Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513777-9.
  • Parpola, Asko: Margiana and the Aryan Problem. 1993. International Association for the Study of the Cultures of Central Asia Information Bulletin 19:41-62.
  • Tulsa, Sebastiano: 1977. The Swat Valley in the 2nd and 1st Millennia BC: A Question of Marginality. South Asian Archaeology 6:675-695.

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