Terracotta tile with crouching figures


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

Harwan is one of the earliest archaeological sites in Kashmir to yield important artistic remains. The Buddhist monastery at the site was founded under the Kushans (second century AD), and was enlarged in the period of the Hunas (mid-fifth century AD).

Of the surviving remains at Harwan, a circular chaitya (Buddhist sanctuary) is the most interesting. Terracotta tiles such as this were used to pave the floor of the courtyard. This particular type of tile however, was used at the base of a short wall that surrounded the structure. The stamped decoration on the tile shows crouching ascetics in the central band, with a row of geese below and a railing with figures above.

It was a common sculptural formula to show conversing figures behind or over a railing from the Satvahana period (first century AD) onwards in India. The naturalistic treatment of the faces may be related to Gandharan influence from the north-west. Unusually, the tiles are all inscribed with numerals in the Kharoshthi script (seen in the middle of the tile between the two ascetics) which allow them to be assembled in the correct order. This indicates further ties with the north-west. Even though these tiles are dated as early as the fourth to fifth centuries AD, we can already see two artistic styles feeding the imagery of Kashmir – one from the Gangetic Plain of northern India and the other from the North West Frontier.


  • Title: Terracotta tile with crouching figures
  • Date Created: 400/599
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 53.00cm; Width: 27.80cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: stamped
  • Subject: bird
  • Registration number: 1953,0512.2
  • Place: Found/Acquired Harwan
  • Material: terracotta
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Brooke Sewell, P T

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