[INDOLOGY] INDOLOGY Digest, Vol 33, Issue 28

Piotr Balcerowicz p.balcerowicz at uw.edu.pl
Thu Nov 5 23:45:16 UTC 2015

Dear Michael,
You are absolutely right that this could be the easiest way to explain the presence of the Yemen-origin copper plate in the area near Peshawar. The only problem with the 19th-century transfer hypothesis howeer is that the plate which I saw and photograhed was brought to a local antique dealer by a villager who explained he had found it in the fields (somewhere between Peshawar and Swat) and these are the same fields where villagers occasionally find Kushan coins etc. And he brought it to the dealer like many other antique items - for sale. It is rather unlikely (but certainly not impossible) that 19th century British citizen brought the plate from Yemen and deposited (or lost) it somewhere in the fields. 
Best wishes,

----- Original Message -----
From: Michael Macdonald <michael.macdonald at orinst.ox.ac.uk>
To: Piotr Balcerowicz <p.balcerowicz at uw.edu.pl>
Cc: Richard Salomon <rsalomon at u.washington.edu>, indology at list.indology.info, mcskin at u.washington.edu, Jason Neelis <jneelis at wlu.ca>, Robin Dushman <r-rdushman at comcast.net>, Norbert Nebes <Norbert.Nebes at uni-jena.de>
Sent: Thu, 05 Nov 2015 18:02:41 +0100 (CET)
Subject: Re: INDOLOGY Digest, Vol 33, Issue 28

Dear All,

This is a very interesting discussion, but I think it might be worth considering another possibility. As we all know, in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century Britain ruled both southern Yemen and India/Pakistan. Now, we also know that there are Ancient South Arabian inscriptions in the Bombay Museum and probably other museums in the Subcontinent (Norbert Nebes will be able to provide the details). Most British ships en route to India stopped at Aden to refuel, and it seems likely that these inscriptions were bought in Yemen by British or other travellers on their way to the Subcontinent where some of them, at least, were left. The antiquities market was already flourishing in Yemen during the 19th century and it is highly likely that finds from the north of Yemen (where there would have been very few commercial outlets) found their way to the international market in Aden. Of course, this is pure speculation but it seems to me a more likely explanation than that the plaque was taken to Pakistan in antiquity.

With best wishes,


> On 4 Nov 2015, at 23:38, Piotr Balcerowicz <p.balcerowicz at uw.edu.pl> wrote:
> Dear Rich,
> What is trully puzzling is indeed, as you’ve pointed out, how that plated reached the area of Peshawar in pre-modern times. One possibility is that it was indeed brought to the Gandhara region by a trader from Yemen, but that being the case, the plate should have been considered of some material value by both the trader and a potential buyer. 
> As we learn, "it is a votive text probably dedicated by a female person" ... "from the early centuries AD", so it is a religious item, probably of little practical or religious value for anyone in an area where Buddhism dominated. Perhaps the contents of the plate could reveal some more details. A possibility is that, if being a votive plate, perhaps it played some protective role for a traveller / trader from Yemen venturing to India? Alternatively, it could have been transported perhaps with some household goods or dowry of a bride from Yemen moving to India? Or perhaps it was once offered by a Yemeni person to an Indian trader who spend some time in Yemen and on his way back he took all his belongings along with him back to India? These are sheer speculations on my part because I don’t have any idea what function such votive copper plates fulfilled in Yemen, how they were used and circulated etc. If such votive plates were placed in a temple somewhere in Yemen "for ever" and offered to a local deity, then it is quite difficult to expain how the plate found its way to India. However, if such plates were meant to be given to someone as a kind of protective amulet, then it makes it much easier to explain. We would require some additional help from a specialist who would explain the role of such votive plates. 
> All the best,
> Piotr Balcerowicz
> --------------------------------
> www.orient.uw.edu.pl/balcerowicz
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Richard Salomon <rsalomon at u.washington.edu>
> To: Piotr Balcerowicz <p.balcerowicz at uw.edu.pl>, indology at list.indology.info, Michael Macdonald <michael.macdonald at orinst.ox.ac.uk>, mcskin at u.washington.edu, Jason Neelis <jneelis at wlu.ca>, Robin Dushman <r-rdushman at comcast.net>, Norbert Nebes <Norbert.Nebes at uni-jena.de>
> Sent: Wed, 04 Nov 2015 00:15:11 +0100 (CET)
> Subject: Re: INDOLOGY Digest, Vol 33, Issue 28
> Dear Piotr,
> Thanks for the clarification; and also to Jonathan Silk and his 
> colleagues for further confirmation and information. So now it seems 
> probable that this object did somehow make its way to Pakistan in 
> pre-modern times. This is surprising but not impossible. I am thinking 
> of Ingo Strauch's work (Foreign Sailors on Socotra, Bremen 2012) 
> documenting extensive presence of Indians on the island of Socotra.
> Of course there are differences: (a) Socotra is an island off the coast 
> of Yemen, while the copper plate comes from the mainland of Yemen; (b) 
> the Socotra inscriptions are mostly from later centuries than the plate; 
> and (c) the Socotra inscriptions are clearly and explicitly connected 
> with the west coast of India (modern Gujarat), not with the 
> northwestern/Gandhara area.
> Despite these differences, it still seems to me that the best 
> explanation is that the copper plate somehow made its way to India via 
> the trade routes with the west, which were at the peak around the time 
> in question. Could it, for example, have been brought to India by a 
> trader from Yemen?
> Rich Salomon
> On 10/31/2015 9:23 AM, Piotr Balcerowicz wrote:
>> Dear Colleagues,
>> Thank you so much for your feedback.
>> I should provide some additional explanation concerning the copper plate:
>> A few days back I happened to be a witness to a transaction when a villager from the vicinity of Peshawar contacted a local antique dealer and sold him the copper plate (for approx. 20 USD). The villager did not reveal where he found the copper plate but from what I understood the place is somewhere between Peshawar and Swat.
>> Being a witness and knowing that the copper plate will sooner or later circulate in the black market and may never be available to researcher, I asked them to provide me with a photograph of it. All the means that the plate couldn’t have been published anywhere before because it seems to be the new found (discovered about a month ago or so) as a result of rampant illegal excavations in the Af-Pak region. I cannot say where the copper plate is now. It is indeed quite surprising to learn that the copper plate originated from Yemen and reached the areas near Peshawar. Knowing that the villager brought the plate to the dealer, it is unlikely that it transpired in Pakistan as a result of modern illegal antique trade.
>> My intention to circulate the photo via Indology List was to make it available to researchers: since we cannot have the material object any more, at least there is the photograph of it.
>> Best regards,
>> Piotr Balcerowicz
>> --------------------------------
>> www.orient.uw.edu.pl/balcerowicz
>> From : 	Richard Salomon <rsalomon at u.washington.edu>
>> Subject : 	[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Re: copper plate
>> To : 	indology at list.indology.info, Michael Macdonald <michael.macdonald at orinst.ox.ac.uk>, mcskin at u.washington.edu, Jason Neelis <jneelis at wlu.ca>, Robin Dushman <r-rdushman at comcast.net>, Norbert Nebes <Norbert.Nebes at uni-jena.de>
>> Fri, 30 Oct, 2015 20:01
>> Here is some authoritative information about the copper plate (reportedly) from Peshawar, provided by Professor Dr Norbert Nebes of the University of Jena, forwarded by M. Macdonald of Oxford:
>> "As far as I am aware  the fragment of the bronze plaque is unknown and has not been published yet. It comes from the sanctuary  QDMN of Ta'lab Riyam  which is  situated in Damhan, the ancient name of the present day al-Huqqa in the northern highlands of Yemen (about 20 km in the north of Sanaa).  Without any doubt,  it is a votive text probably dedicated by a female person. The text (Middle Sabaic, from the early centuries AD) also contains two or three interesting words."
>> [Prof. Nebes wishes it to be noted that "the information is not intended for the art market resp. for persons who are involved in this metier (in any way)."]
>> So my previous guess about the dating was way off -- please disregard it. The correct date proposed by Prof. Nebes, i.e. "the early centuries AD," makes a little more sense, in that this is the period when Peshawar (ancient Purusapura) was something of a metropolis. But it is still very surprising that this object from such a remote location should be found there. Of course it is possible that it was brought to Pakistan in modern times, but this seems hardly likely. If this really is what it seems, it might be somehow be a by-product of the widespread international sea and land trade between India and the west in the period concerned.
>> Rich Salomon
>>     -------- Forwarded Message --------
>>     Subject: 	[INDOLOGY] copper plate
>>     Date: 	Thu, 29 Oct 2015 13:48:45 +0100 (CET)
>>     From: 	Piotr Balcerowicz <p.balcerowicz at uw.edu.pl>
>>     To: 	indology at list.indology.info
>>     Dear Colleagues,
>>     Attached is a photograph of a copper plate found near Peshawar. Exact location of the fund is unknown. I thought this might be of some interested to some of you. If anyone can say more about the contents of the copper plate and its possible date, it’ll be appreciated.
>>     Regards,
>>     Piotr Balcerowicz
>>     --------------------------------
>>     www.orient.uw.edu.pl/balcerowicz
> -- 
> ----------------------
> Richard Salomon
> Department of Asian Languages and Literature
> University of Washington, Box 353521
> Seattle WA 98195-3521

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