The exhibition focuses on the ancient site of Taxila, around 32 kilometres from Pakistan’s federal capital, Islamabad. Taxila, translated by many as ‘city of cut stone’, was a cosmopolitan settlement and a major trading hub. Mentioned in the ancient South Asian epic, the Ramayana, and early Buddhist and Jain traditions, Taxila was one of the ancient capitals of Gandhara, an important territory stretching between the Oxus and Indus Rivers. A revered place of education, it flourished for centuries, benefitting from the flow of goods, ideas and faiths that travelled along the famed Silk Roads.
This significance drew archaeologists to the site, including Sir John Hubert Marshall CIE, FBA (1876-1958) and the Oriental Museum is now home to nearly 5000 images from his personal archives. While Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India for almost 30 years from 1902 Marshall collected photographs and technical drawings of many significant sites and monuments across the modern states of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan. These include photographs from the excavations he directed at Taxila.
These records can tell us much about the archaeological remains of Taxila, but also about the practice of archaeology in early 20th century South Asia. Taxila in Focus compares this historic imagery with contemporary photographs to document the site’s development since Marshall, as well as new discoveries. It also highlights how Marshall’s archive can contribute to the management and protection of these important historic sites in the present and the future.