Skip to main content

Recovered or excavated from various archaeological sites, these artefacts document both the religious and the everyday life of the peoples living and travelling on the Eastern Silk Roads. One spectacular example is the British Museum’s altar table 1907,1111.85, which is made of beautifully carved wood and comes from Niya. Numerous terracottas from the region of Khotan can now be found at various institutions around the world, including the Musée Guimet in Paris, the National Museum of India in New Delhi and the State Hermitage in St Petersburg. The small figure representing a monkey playing music, 1907,1111.30, is particularly typical of this production. Some scholars have suggested such objects could have been used as amulets. Serving a completely different purpose, the domestic implement consisting of a ring of fibre wrapped with rope and inward-facing pointed sticks, MAS.796, was probably part of an animal trap.

Importantly, many of these artefacts also bear witness to the mixing of cultures. This is the case, for instance, of the Sino-Kharosthi coins of Khotan, like Or.0386, which brought the Kushan and Chinese currency systems together.

Highlights from the collection