The Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, 1956-1986. (Conference delivered in Islamabad on the 26th of October 1986)


  • Alice Casalini PhD candidate in Buddhist Art, University of Chicago


Swat, Proto-History, History, Gandhara Art


The present manuscript was recently retrieved in the archives of the Mission House in Saidu Sharif by Prof. Luca M. Olivieri, Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission, who asked me to edit the manuscript and update the references. The manuscript is the text of a public lecture given by Domenico Faccenna in 1986. The lecture was delivered on October 27, at a conference in Islamabad, which was jointly organized by the International Islamic University and IsMEO, and promoted by the Italian Embassy. In the lecture, Faccenna gives an overview of the activities carried out by the Mission over the thirty years of uninterrupted presence in Pakistan—from the beginning of the work in 1955 to 1985-1986—and highlights the three main areas of inquiry: pre- and proto-historic period, pre-Islamic historic period, and Islamic period. fig. While it may seem that they come late, it is still important to publish Faccenna’s words even now, more than 35 years after this lecture. This piece in fact lays out in a quick but incisive sketch many of the ideas that Faccenna would later develop in other work, such as his masterpiece, Il fregio figurato dello stupa principale nell’area sacra buddhista di Saidu Sharif I [The figured frieze of the main stupa in the Buddhist sacred area of Saidu Sharif I], published in 2001, still one of the foundational text for the study of Gandhāran art.2 It is fascinating to trace historically the first instances of many of the ideas we read about in his later work: we are seeing here Faccenna thinking in sweeping strokes through the archaeological objects and through the territory to give his audience a summary of thirty years of accomplishments by the men and women of the Italian Archaeological Mission. It is a grand overview that takes into consideration not only the materiality of the things themselves, but also their relationships with their archaeological context—which is historical and cultural, but also human and environmental. The present manuscript, therefore, offers a great counterpart to Faccenna’s more specialized academic work while at the same time, it also clearly recaps thirty years of archaeological work in the Swat Valley and connects it to other work carried out in the neighboring regions by both Pakistani and other European archaeological excavations. In an effort to remain as close to the script of the lecture as possible, I have tried to preserve the semi-formal nature of the text, and I edited it minimally for the sake of consistency and clarity. This operation included moving some paragraphs to group together similar content so that it could be put under headings, and changing some language to make it more legible. I have also added footnotes with references to the works of other scholars mentioned in the talk, as well as to recent fundamental work by scholars who have developed some intuitions and ideas Faccenna is advancing in this conference. Although my edits cannot in any way improve on the clarity of Faccenna’s ideas, I hope that my editorial intervention (albeit minimal) will make the content of the talk widely accessible to all.




How to Cite

Casalini, A. . (2023). The Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, 1956-1986. (Conference delivered in Islamabad on the 26th of October 1986). Journal of Asian Civilizations, 45(2), 1–38. Retrieved from