relief on stone

A stylized "pisces" astral symbol at the Buddhist sanctuary at Karle, Western India (1st–2nd century CE). Photograph by author.

Project (2024)

Archaeology of the Astral: Mingling of Astrological and Cosmological Ideas between Early Historic India and Roman Egypt

During his fellowship period at the MPIWG, Dr. Gupta is working on a project in conjunction with the "Visualization and Material Cultures of the Heavens in Eurasia and North Africa (4000 BCE–1700 CE)" Working Group. This project emerges from his interests in the early Indian Ocean past, with focus on long distance exchange networks linking the ancient Mediterranean World to India. His project explores astral and cosmological symbols that circulated in early historic South Asia and the wider Indian Ocean World in the BCE–CE transition. Dr. Gupta will especially examine the archaeological record, including “Indo-Roman” transmissions expressed in omphalos–mandala symbolisms and zodiac signs on ancient artifacts and artworks. The astral expressions, inextricably associated with other auspicious and dedicatory icons, were part of a shared worldview, which gave strength and meaning, alleviating the uncertainties of caravan leaders coming down high passes to the coastlands and of mariners out at sea, their ships carrying precious cargo through treacherous waters. These trans cultural imageries, still visible on ancient amulets, ring stones, coins, and carvings exemplify a new cosmopolitanism which emerged in the harbors and market towns along the sea route from Egypt to India during the BCE–CE transition.