Taxila in Focus

100 years since Marshall

Durham University’s Oriental Museum is home to nearly 5000 images from the personal archives of Sir John Hubert Marshall CIE, FBA (1876-1958). 

While Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India between 1902 and 1931, Marshall collected photographs and technical drawings of many significant sites and monuments across the modern nation states of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan.

His collection included images of archaeological excavations, as well as artefacts, architectural monuments and sculpture from sites dating from prehistoric times through to the Colonial period.

Click the icons on the map to view images from the sites excavated by Sir John Marshall.

Black and white photograph showing the View of the Alamgiri Gate of Lahore Fort through an archway of the Hazuri Bagh Baradari. A neat garden leads the way to the building entrance
Black and white photograph of the Korzok (Kardzod) Monastery near the Tso Moriri lake. A figure in dark clothes stands outside the white monastery building in the mountains
Black and white photo of a Megalithic Tomb (Dolmen) at Konnur. The stone tomb is on a mound of smaller rocks. A man stands inside the darkness of the tomb.
Black and white photo of a carved rock relief depicting the story of Arjuna’s Penance from the Mahabharata, at Mahabalipuram. Carvings of elephants are particularly prominent.
Black and white photo of a section of the stone railing around the Maha Bodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya. The railing has detailed circular carvings, showing some human figures
Black and white photo of the Shait Gumbad (sixty domes) Mosque, Bagerhat. Many of the mosque's domes are visible; the building is surrounded by trees, bushes and small wall
Black and white of aerial view of areas of Taxila excavated by Sir John Marshall
Black and white of aerial view of areas of Taxila excavated by Sir John Marshall. Walls and the layout of a former monastery are visible
Black and white of aerial view of areas of Taxila excavated by Sir John Marshall. Walls and the layout of a former monastery are visible
A contemporary colour photo of a man in blue clothes at an archaeological site in Taxila
Black and white photograph showing the View of the Alamgiri Gate of Lahore Fort through an archway of the Hazuri Bagh Baradari. A neat garden leads the way to the building entrance
Black and white photograph of the Korzok (Kardzod) Monastery near the Tso Moriri lake. A figure in dark clothes stands outside the white monastery building in the mountains
Black and white photo of a Megalithic Tomb (Dolmen) at Konnur. The stone tomb is on a mound of smaller rocks. A man stands inside the darkness of the tomb.
Black and white photo of a carved rock relief depicting the story of Arjuna’s Penance from the Mahabharata, at Mahabalipuram. Carvings of elephants are particularly prominent.
Black and white photo of a section of the stone railing around the Maha Bodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya. The railing has detailed circular carvings, showing some human figures
Black and white photo of the Shait Gumbad (sixty domes) Mosque, Bagerhat. Many of the mosque's domes are visible; the building is surrounded by trees, bushes and small wall
Black and white of aerial view of areas of Taxila excavated by Sir John Marshall
Black and white of aerial view of areas of Taxila excavated by Sir John Marshall. Walls and the layout of a former monastery are visible
Black and white of aerial view of areas of Taxila excavated by Sir John Marshall. Walls and the layout of a former monastery are visible
A contemporary colour photo of a man in blue clothes at an archaeological site in Taxila

This exhibition focuses on the ancient city of Taxila, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistan, and only 32 kilometres from its federal capital, Islamabad. Taxila, translated by many as ‘City of Cut Stone’, was a cosmopolitan settlement and a major trading hub.  It flourished for centuries, benefitting from the flow of goods, ideas and faiths that travelled eastwards and westwards along the famed Silk Roads.

Marshall began a sustained 21-year campaign of excavations at Taxila in 1913. His excavations were recorded on film, and Taxila in Focus explores what these visual documents can tell us about the site and the practice of archaeology in early 20th century South Asia.

With reference to a new corpus of photography, this exhibition also explores the ways in which Durham’s significant archive of early imagery can today contribute to the protection and management of key sites and monuments in Pakistan and South Asia in the present.

“This…picture…arises from explorations and excavations, but goes beyond them to present, for the first time, a global view of the historic city as it developed in the mingling of men and women from east and west. Taxila exemplifies a panorama of humanity that has been full of life, activity, idealism and the struggle for ultimate goals. The silent remains speak for themselves and bring into view what was once the glory of Taxila.”

Ahmad Hasan Dani (1999: xi)

A group of excavators on a site at Taxila. Some are using tools to dig, others carry baskets on their heads

Sir John Marshall at Taxila

“I could not have wished for a steadier or more pleasant crowd of diggers than those who toiled with me at Taxila; and let us not forget that it is to the toil and sweat of the diggers that, first and foremost, we owe the vast majority of our archaeological treasures” 

Marshall, Taxila (1951: xv)

Mentioned in the ancient South Asian epic, the Ramayana, and early Buddhist and Jain traditions, Taxila was one of the ancient capitals of Gandhara, an important territory stretching between the Oxus and Indus Rivers.

Although the Taxila Valley was first surveyed in the 19th century, much of what we know about the site was revealed by intensive excavations directed by Sir John Marshall.  A western Classical scholar by training, he was drawn to Taxila by its rich historical associations with Darius I, Alexander the Great and the Emperor Asoka as well as by the site’s Buddhist sculptures, in which he recognised western Classical influences.

A significant meeting point of trade and exchange on the ancient Silk Roads, Taxila emerged as a major commercial hub and political centre for successive historic states and empires. Its uniqueness, preservation and international significance led to Taxila’s inscription on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1980.

Detailed black and white map with scale and points of navigation.

Early 20th century map of the Taxila Valley published by Sir John Marshall. Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1290

Early 20th century map of the Taxila Valley published by Sir John Marshall. Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1290

Black and white photo shows a large mound in the background with smaller buildings in the foreground

General view of the Great Stupa at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1916/1917. (c.3rd century BCE-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1379

General view of the Great Stupa at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1916/1917. (c.3rd century BCE-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1379

Detailed black and white drawing showing how the monastery would have looked

Conjectural reconstruction of Stupa F12 in the Kalawan Monastery, Taxila. (c.1st-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1629

Conjectural reconstruction of Stupa F12 in the Kalawan Monastery, Taxila. (c.1st-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1629

Black and white photo showing excavated walls in Taxila

View of buildings exposed during excavations within the Bhir Mound, Taxila, taken in 1930/1931. (c.5th century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1335

View of buildings exposed during excavations within the Bhir Mound, Taxila, taken in 1930/1931. (c.5th century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1335

Black and white photo showing close up detail of a stupa wall

Detail of stucco moulding exposed during the excavations of the plinth of Stupa J1 at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1912/1913. (c.2nd-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1417 

Detail of stucco moulding exposed during the excavations of the plinth of Stupa J1 at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1912/1913. (c.2nd-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1417 

Black and white photo shows the site in daytime, with grass and trees in the foreground and hills in the distance

Detail of surviving plinth of Stupa D4 with the remains of Stupa J1 under a conservation shelter behind at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1917/1918. (c.2nd-5th Century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1418

Detail of surviving plinth of Stupa D4 with the remains of Stupa J1 under a conservation shelter behind at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1917/1918. (c.2nd-5th Century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1418

Black and white photo of a man posing for scale in the remains of the monastery

View of Monastic Quadrangle F at Jaulian, Taxila, taken in 1916/1917. (c.2nd-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1599

View of Monastic Quadrangle F at Jaulian, Taxila, taken in 1916/1917. (c.2nd-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1599

Black and white photo showing excavations and surrounding landscape of hills and plains

Aerial view across the excavations of the stupa court and monastic quadrangles at Kalawan, Taxila, taken in 1932/1933. (c.1st-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1608

Aerial view across the excavations of the stupa court and monastic quadrangles at Kalawan, Taxila, taken in 1932/1933. (c.1st-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1608

Black and white photo showing the uncovered site stretching into the distance

Street view of exposed structures on either side of Main Street during excavations in the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila, taken in 1928/1929. (c.2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1762

Street view of exposed structures on either side of Main Street during excavations in the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila, taken in 1928/1929. (c.2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1762

Black and white photo showing excavated temple site in the distance. A man is visible close to the temple steps

View of excavations in progress at the Apsidal Temple (Temple D), taken in 1914/1915 in the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila. (c.2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1765

View of excavations in progress at the Apsidal Temple (Temple D), taken in 1914/1915 in the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila. (c.2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1765

Black and white photo with a man posing near the domed shrine for scale

View of Shrine 1, ‘the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle’ in Block F of the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila, taken in 1912/1913, after conservation. (c.1st century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1770  

View of Shrine 1, ‘the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle’ in Block F of the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila, taken in 1912/1913, after conservation. (c.1st century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1770  

Black and white photo inside Taxila's Museum. Other objects are visible in the background, displayed on shelves

Stone railing and umbrellas from the superstructure of ‘the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle’, Sirkap, Taxila, after removal, conservation and presentation in Taxila’s Museum. (c.1st century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1903 

Stone railing and umbrellas from the superstructure of ‘the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle’, Sirkap, Taxila, after removal, conservation and presentation in Taxila’s Museum. (c.1st century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1903 

Colour photo shows layers of stones of different sizes, stacked and labelled

Marshall’s reconstruction of the idealised sequence of masonry styles at Taxila from 2nd century BCE to 5th century CE, Taxila Museum, Taxila, Pakistan, Punjab, 1999. (early 20th century CE) Courtesy of Durham UNESCO Chair

Marshall’s reconstruction of the idealised sequence of masonry styles at Taxila from 2nd century BCE to 5th century CE, Taxila Museum, Taxila, Pakistan, Punjab, 1999. (early 20th century CE) Courtesy of Durham UNESCO Chair

Colour photo showing the museum entrance on a sunny day, the large entry doors are open behind a lawn with flowers and trees

Pakistan, Punjab, Taxila, 2021. Front façade of the site museum at Taxila, which was constructed between 1918 and 1928, and extended in 1998. (1918-1928 CE & 1998 CE) Courtesy of Dr Abdul Azeem

Pakistan, Punjab, Taxila, 2021. Front façade of the site museum at Taxila, which was constructed between 1918 and 1928, and extended in 1998. (1918-1928 CE & 1998 CE) Courtesy of Dr Abdul Azeem

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Detailed black and white map with scale and points of navigation.

Early 20th century map of the Taxila Valley published by Sir John Marshall. Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1290

Early 20th century map of the Taxila Valley published by Sir John Marshall. Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1290

Black and white photo shows a large mound in the background with smaller buildings in the foreground

General view of the Great Stupa at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1916/1917. (c.3rd century BCE-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1379

General view of the Great Stupa at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1916/1917. (c.3rd century BCE-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1379

Detailed black and white drawing showing how the monastery would have looked

Conjectural reconstruction of Stupa F12 in the Kalawan Monastery, Taxila. (c.1st-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1629

Conjectural reconstruction of Stupa F12 in the Kalawan Monastery, Taxila. (c.1st-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1629

Black and white photo showing excavated walls in Taxila

View of buildings exposed during excavations within the Bhir Mound, Taxila, taken in 1930/1931. (c.5th century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1335

View of buildings exposed during excavations within the Bhir Mound, Taxila, taken in 1930/1931. (c.5th century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1335

Black and white photo showing close up detail of a stupa wall

Detail of stucco moulding exposed during the excavations of the plinth of Stupa J1 at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1912/1913. (c.2nd-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1417 

Detail of stucco moulding exposed during the excavations of the plinth of Stupa J1 at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1912/1913. (c.2nd-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1417 

Black and white photo shows the site in daytime, with grass and trees in the foreground and hills in the distance

Detail of surviving plinth of Stupa D4 with the remains of Stupa J1 under a conservation shelter behind at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1917/1918. (c.2nd-5th Century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1418

Detail of surviving plinth of Stupa D4 with the remains of Stupa J1 under a conservation shelter behind at Dharmarajika, Taxila, taken in 1917/1918. (c.2nd-5th Century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1418

Black and white photo of a man posing for scale in the remains of the monastery

View of Monastic Quadrangle F at Jaulian, Taxila, taken in 1916/1917. (c.2nd-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1599

View of Monastic Quadrangle F at Jaulian, Taxila, taken in 1916/1917. (c.2nd-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1599

Black and white photo showing excavations and surrounding landscape of hills and plains

Aerial view across the excavations of the stupa court and monastic quadrangles at Kalawan, Taxila, taken in 1932/1933. (c.1st-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1608

Aerial view across the excavations of the stupa court and monastic quadrangles at Kalawan, Taxila, taken in 1932/1933. (c.1st-5th century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1608

Black and white photo showing the uncovered site stretching into the distance

Street view of exposed structures on either side of Main Street during excavations in the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila, taken in 1928/1929. (c.2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1762

Street view of exposed structures on either side of Main Street during excavations in the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila, taken in 1928/1929. (c.2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1762

Black and white photo showing excavated temple site in the distance. A man is visible close to the temple steps

View of excavations in progress at the Apsidal Temple (Temple D), taken in 1914/1915 in the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila. (c.2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1765

View of excavations in progress at the Apsidal Temple (Temple D), taken in 1914/1915 in the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila. (c.2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1765

Black and white photo with a man posing near the domed shrine for scale

View of Shrine 1, ‘the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle’ in Block F of the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila, taken in 1912/1913, after conservation. (c.1st century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1770  

View of Shrine 1, ‘the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle’ in Block F of the lower city, Sirkap, Taxila, taken in 1912/1913, after conservation. (c.1st century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1770  

Black and white photo inside Taxila's Museum. Other objects are visible in the background, displayed on shelves

Stone railing and umbrellas from the superstructure of ‘the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle’, Sirkap, Taxila, after removal, conservation and presentation in Taxila’s Museum. (c.1st century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1903 

Stone railing and umbrellas from the superstructure of ‘the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle’, Sirkap, Taxila, after removal, conservation and presentation in Taxila’s Museum. (c.1st century BCE-1st century CE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.1903 

Colour photo shows layers of stones of different sizes, stacked and labelled

Marshall’s reconstruction of the idealised sequence of masonry styles at Taxila from 2nd century BCE to 5th century CE, Taxila Museum, Taxila, Pakistan, Punjab, 1999. (early 20th century CE) Courtesy of Durham UNESCO Chair

Marshall’s reconstruction of the idealised sequence of masonry styles at Taxila from 2nd century BCE to 5th century CE, Taxila Museum, Taxila, Pakistan, Punjab, 1999. (early 20th century CE) Courtesy of Durham UNESCO Chair

Colour photo showing the museum entrance on a sunny day, the large entry doors are open behind a lawn with flowers and trees

Pakistan, Punjab, Taxila, 2021. Front façade of the site museum at Taxila, which was constructed between 1918 and 1928, and extended in 1998. (1918-1928 CE & 1998 CE) Courtesy of Dr Abdul Azeem

Pakistan, Punjab, Taxila, 2021. Front façade of the site museum at Taxila, which was constructed between 1918 and 1928, and extended in 1998. (1918-1928 CE & 1998 CE) Courtesy of Dr Abdul Azeem

Excavating every year between 1913 and 1934, Marshall’s teams exposed hectares of streets and buildings across three successive cities: the Bhir Mound, Sirkap and Sirsukh, as well as many of the temples and Buddhist monasteries across the Valley.

Struck by evidence of external styles, Marshall constructed a site sequence, which relied heavily on western Classical narratives for Taxila’s genesis and development. 

Conserved in situ, visitors were able to walk through and explore the ancient settlements and sites. The excavations also uncovered a vast number of artefacts, objects and sculptures.  These finds provided glimpses into the daily lives of the site’s ancient inhabitants, and Marshall established one of South Asia’s first site museums at Taxila to house these archaeological discoveries in 1918.

A small section of a plan showing walls and columns

Redrawn illustration of Marshall’s plan of areas excavated at Sirsukh

Redrawn illustration of Marshall’s plan of areas excavated at Sirsukh

Black and white drawn plan of the site showing paths and buildings

Redrawn illustration of Marshall’s plan of areas excavated at the Bhir Mound. Courtesy of Durham UNESCO Chair

Redrawn illustration of Marshall’s plan of areas excavated at the Bhir Mound. Courtesy of Durham UNESCO Chair

Marshall was also one of the first archaeologists in South Asia to systematically record their discoveries through photography.  While a comprehensive official archive of photographs was deposited with the Archaeological Survey of India, and subsequently divided with Pakistan, Marshall also amassed his own personal collection of images to assist his research.

A detailed black and white plan showing many paths, buildings and sites of interest

Redrawn illustration of Marshall’s plan of areas excavated at Sirkap. Courtesy of Durham UNESCO Chair

Redrawn illustration of Marshall’s plan of areas excavated at Sirkap. Courtesy of Durham UNESCO Chair

New Light on Marshall

The ‘moment of the discovery’ of the so-called ‘Priest-King’ during excavations within Mohenjo-daro’s lower town, one of the major settlements of the Indus Valley Civilisation. (c.2700-1900 BCE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.781

The ‘moment of the discovery’ of the so-called ‘Priest-King’ during excavations within Mohenjo-daro’s lower town, one of the major settlements of the Indus Valley Civilisation. (c.2700-1900 BCE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.781

Unlike many Colonial scholars in the service of the British Empire in South Asia, few personal recollections of Marshall’s time as Director-General remain.

He did however understand the importance of promoting wider public and international interest in the archaeology of the region and published the ‘discovery’ of the Chalcolithic Era Indus Valley Civilisation in the London Illustrated News in 1924.

Post-excavation detail of the ‘Priest-King’ of Mohenjo-daro. A rare sculptural fragment, it was interpreted by some archaeologists as the representation of a deity or a priest. (c.2700-1900 BCE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.782

Black and white photo showing an object depicting the head and torso of a human like figure. The object appears to be missing the arms and lower torso, which have seemingly broken off

Post-excavation detail of the ‘Priest-King’ of Mohenjo-daro. A rare sculptural fragment, it was interpreted by some archaeologists as the representation of a deity or a priest. (c.2700-1900 BCE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.782

Post-excavation detail of the ‘Priest-King’ of Mohenjo-daro. A rare sculptural fragment, it was interpreted by some archaeologists as the representation of a deity or a priest. (c.2700-1900 BCE) Sir John Marshall Collection, given by Dr and Mrs Spalding. DUROM.1957.1.782

Born in Chester in 1876, Marshall studied at Dulwich College in London and King’s College, Cambridge, from where he graduated in 1900.  Following a western Classical path, he then went to work on excavations conducted by the British School in Athens, and was awarded the Craven Studentship in 1901.

Contemporary correspondence reveals insights into his time in Greece and Crete, recording that he was once injured falling off a horse, and that one of his excavations was deemed unauthorised, described by David Hogarth, then Director of the British School at Athens as “a piece of piracy of Marshall’s”. This did not hold Marshall’s career back, and he was appointed Director-General of the newly reformed Archaeological Survey of India in 1902.

The scientific rigour of Marshall’s work in South Asia was challenged by one of his successors, Sir Mortimer Wheeler. Promoting his own systematic approach, Wheeler stated that archaeology in South Asia had been a "parody of scientific method" prior to his arrival.  In spite of such criticisms, Marshall has been credited with initiating comprehensive frameworks for monument conservation and heritage protection across South Asia.

“Meanwhile I have not forgotten the photographs for Durham, and have been making a great effort to classify and arrange and title them. The task is bigger than I thought; for I had quite forgotten how many and how diversified they were...”

Extract of a letter from Marshall to H.N. Spalding dated to June 1st 1953

Black and white photo of the Oriental Museum, Durham University in the 1960s. Many display cases are filled with objects and large portraits line the walls

Marshall and Durham University

Although Mortimer Wheeler complained that Marshall’s “clearance did not conform with modern technical standards”, the photographs and excavation records from Taxila provide one of the best documented archaeological investigations in the history of South Asian archaeology.

Marshall may have refrained from discussing his personal experiences as an archaeologist in the popular media, but he remained acutely aware of the importance of his work to wider public appreciation of South Asian art, architecture and archaeology.

Before Marshall’s death in 1958, at the age of 82, Dr and Mrs H.N. Spalding, important benefactors of the fledgling Oriental Museum, encouraged him to donate nearly 5000 images from his personal collection to Durham University. The Museum was delighted to accept the collection and its founder-curator, Professor Thomas Thacker, proclaimed that “The collection of photographs seems a most remarkable one, and one which we shall be lucky to possess”.

The Marshall Collection today represents an important research and teaching resource that attracts scholars from across the globe to Durham University.  It has been central to a number of international collaborative projects and images from the collection have also been used extensively in publications and exhibitions focusing on both South Asian archaeology and the early history of Buddhism.

The Egyptian Gallery at the Oriental Museum, Durham University, showing many objects including burial objects from Ancient Egypt
Colour photo of Japanese gallery and main entrance to the Oriental Museum. Many objects are displayed within showcases including ceramics and tapestries
Photo of plaster sculpture showing a male figure

The ‘Priest-King’ | Modern Plaster of Paris cast of the so-called ‘Priest-King’. The original was sculpted from steatite and was discovered in the DK Area of Mohenjo-daro’s lower town. It depicts a bearded figure who wears a headband and has a cloak with trefoil design over the left shoulder.  It is one of the most famous objects found at Mohenjo-daro and is thus a popular subject of tourist souvenirs from the site. Modern replica made in 1990s. Pakistan, plaster of Paris. Gift from Prof R Coningham

The ‘Priest-King’ | Modern Plaster of Paris cast of the so-called ‘Priest-King’. The original was sculpted from steatite and was discovered in the DK Area of Mohenjo-daro’s lower town. It depicts a bearded figure who wears a headband and has a cloak with trefoil design over the left shoulder.  It is one of the most famous objects found at Mohenjo-daro and is thus a popular subject of tourist souvenirs from the site. Modern replica made in 1990s. Pakistan, plaster of Paris. Gift from Prof R Coningham

Blue cover of a hard back book

The Indus Civilization, by Sir Mortimer Wheeler | The ‘Priest-King’ features on the cover of this volume by Sir Mortimer Wheeler.  The rarity of sculpture, and the suggestion that Indus society was controlled by a priestly elite, led Sir Mortimer Wheeler to state that:“The analogues from Egypt and Mesopotamia at least combine to suggest a religious and in particular an astral connotation for the [trefoil] motif, and support the conjecture that the Mohenjo-daro bust may portray a deity or perhaps a priest-king” (Wheeler, The Indus Civilization, 1968, page 87). 1968. United Kingdom. On loan from Durham UNESCO Chair   

The Indus Civilization, by Sir Mortimer Wheeler | The ‘Priest-King’ features on the cover of this volume by Sir Mortimer Wheeler.  The rarity of sculpture, and the suggestion that Indus society was controlled by a priestly elite, led Sir Mortimer Wheeler to state that:“The analogues from Egypt and Mesopotamia at least combine to suggest a religious and in particular an astral connotation for the [trefoil] motif, and support the conjecture that the Mohenjo-daro bust may portray a deity or perhaps a priest-king” (Wheeler, The Indus Civilization, 1968, page 87). 1968. United Kingdom. On loan from Durham UNESCO Chair   

Handwritten notes in blue ink

Notes on the Back of A Photograph in the Marshall Collection | Before Sir John Marshall gave his photographic collection to Durham University, he added handwritten notes to the back of each print. This example is a photograph of the Bhir Mound at Taxila. Marshall has overwritten his original notes with details written in pen. The information recorded by Marshall on each print has been vital for modern researchers. Two stamps were added along with a hand written number identifying each image in the collection when the photographs were added to the Oriental Museum’s collections. 1933/34Pakistan, photographic print. DUROM.1957.1.1348

Notes on the Back of A Photograph in the Marshall Collection | Before Sir John Marshall gave his photographic collection to Durham University, he added handwritten notes to the back of each print. This example is a photograph of the Bhir Mound at Taxila. Marshall has overwritten his original notes with details written in pen. The information recorded by Marshall on each print has been vital for modern researchers. Two stamps were added along with a hand written number identifying each image in the collection when the photographs were added to the Oriental Museum’s collections. 1933/34Pakistan, photographic print. DUROM.1957.1.1348

Typed letter in black ink on faded paper

Extract of a letter from Sir John Marshall to Dr and Mrs Spalding, enclosed in correspondence between them and the founder-curator of the Oriental Museum, Professor Thomas Thacker, regarding Marshall’s collection of photographs. 1953

Extract of a letter from Sir John Marshall to Dr and Mrs Spalding, enclosed in correspondence between them and the founder-curator of the Oriental Museum, Professor Thomas Thacker, regarding Marshall’s collection of photographs. 1953

Handwritten letter in black ink. The header of the letter reads: 'University of Durham, School of Oriental Studies'

Letter from Professor Thomas Thacker to the Warden of Durham University regarding Marshall’s collection of photographs. 1953

Letter from Professor Thomas Thacker to the Warden of Durham University regarding Marshall’s collection of photographs. 1953

Photo stuck into a photo album with a typed note beneath it

Original Prints Mounted in Albums | When the Marshall Collection arrived in Durham in the 1950s, a set of 60 bespoke albums were created to hold all the images. Each photograph or drawing was mounted on a page and Marshall’s annotations on the back of the image transcribed onto a label beneath the image. The images were grouped geographically. This album focuses on sites and monuments of Gaya District in what was known as the Province of Bihar in India, now Bihar State.

Original Prints Mounted in Albums | When the Marshall Collection arrived in Durham in the 1950s, a set of 60 bespoke albums were created to hold all the images. Each photograph or drawing was mounted on a page and Marshall’s annotations on the back of the image transcribed onto a label beneath the image. The images were grouped geographically. This album focuses on sites and monuments of Gaya District in what was known as the Province of Bihar in India, now Bihar State.

Photo stuck into a photo album with a typed note beneath it

Original Prints Mounted in Albums | The paper in these 1950s albums is acidic and over time will damage the fragile prints. A project is currently underway to move all of the prints to acid-free museum storage for long term preservation. Each print is also being scanned so that it can be accessed digitally and fully catalogued in the museum’s online database. Around half of the collection has been digitised to date.

Original Prints Mounted in Albums | The paper in these 1950s albums is acidic and over time will damage the fragile prints. A project is currently underway to move all of the prints to acid-free museum storage for long term preservation. Each print is also being scanned so that it can be accessed digitally and fully catalogued in the museum’s online database. Around half of the collection has been digitised to date.

Book cover with illustration of a moustachioed man overseeing an archaeological excavation

Still Digging | The 1958 cover illustration of this Pan Books edition of Still Digging places Sir Mortimer Wheeler in front of a depiction of an archaeological excavation somewhere in South Asia. Similar to the vibrant paperback cover art of the time, the scene portrays Wheeler as described on the back cover - “Archaeologist and Man of Action”. Also describing Wheeler as “Acclaimed Television Personality of the Year”, the publication of Still Digging by Pan Books, a popular paperback publisher, ensured that Wheeler’s views and ideas, as well as discoveries, reached a mass audience. 1958. United Kingdom

Still Digging | The 1958 cover illustration of this Pan Books edition of Still Digging places Sir Mortimer Wheeler in front of a depiction of an archaeological excavation somewhere in South Asia. Similar to the vibrant paperback cover art of the time, the scene portrays Wheeler as described on the back cover - “Archaeologist and Man of Action”. Also describing Wheeler as “Acclaimed Television Personality of the Year”, the publication of Still Digging by Pan Books, a popular paperback publisher, ensured that Wheeler’s views and ideas, as well as discoveries, reached a mass audience. 1958. United Kingdom

Book cover with golden text and emblem with two lions

Indian Archaeological Policy 1915 | 1916, India

Indian Archaeological Policy 1915 | 1916, India

Two pages from the policy book describing archaeological processes

Indian Archaeological Policy 1915 | This Government policy document contains a lengthy note by Sir John Marshall on the history of Archaeology within British controlled India, how it was developing and how it was organised. Within it, Marshall outlined the major categories of sites and monuments as well as principles of conservation and future conservation needs. 1916, India

Indian Archaeological Policy 1915 | This Government policy document contains a lengthy note by Sir John Marshall on the history of Archaeology within British controlled India, how it was developing and how it was organised. Within it, Marshall outlined the major categories of sites and monuments as well as principles of conservation and future conservation needs. 1916, India

Colour illustrated small cigarette card

Churchman’s Cigarettes ‘The treasures of Ancient Taxila’ Cigarette Card | Number 37 of 50 in the W.A. & A. Churchman cigarette card collection ‘Treasure Trove’. | Part of the description on the reverse states “In recent years Sir John Marshall has done invaluable work there, and we illustrate the excavations on the Bhir Mound, showing a narrow and winding by-lane and the remains of houses dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries”. The inset illustrates a bracelet of gold inlaid with garnets and turquoise excavated from the site. The presence of Taxila within this set of cards indicates the level of publicity the excavations at Taxila achieved for a wider audience. 1937. United Kingdom

Churchman’s Cigarettes ‘The treasures of Ancient Taxila’ Cigarette Card | Number 37 of 50 in the W.A. & A. Churchman cigarette card collection ‘Treasure Trove’. | Part of the description on the reverse states “In recent years Sir John Marshall has done invaluable work there, and we illustrate the excavations on the Bhir Mound, showing a narrow and winding by-lane and the remains of houses dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries”. The inset illustrates a bracelet of gold inlaid with garnets and turquoise excavated from the site. The presence of Taxila within this set of cards indicates the level of publicity the excavations at Taxila achieved for a wider audience. 1937. United Kingdom

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Photo of plaster sculpture showing a male figure

The ‘Priest-King’ | Modern Plaster of Paris cast of the so-called ‘Priest-King’. The original was sculpted from steatite and was discovered in the DK Area of Mohenjo-daro’s lower town. It depicts a bearded figure who wears a headband and has a cloak with trefoil design over the left shoulder.  It is one of the most famous objects found at Mohenjo-daro and is thus a popular subject of tourist souvenirs from the site. Modern replica made in 1990s. Pakistan, plaster of Paris. Gift from Prof R Coningham

The ‘Priest-King’ | Modern Plaster of Paris cast of the so-called ‘Priest-King’. The original was sculpted from steatite and was discovered in the DK Area of Mohenjo-daro’s lower town. It depicts a bearded figure who wears a headband and has a cloak with trefoil design over the left shoulder.  It is one of the most famous objects found at Mohenjo-daro and is thus a popular subject of tourist souvenirs from the site. Modern replica made in 1990s. Pakistan, plaster of Paris. Gift from Prof R Coningham

Blue cover of a hard back book

The Indus Civilization, by Sir Mortimer Wheeler | The ‘Priest-King’ features on the cover of this volume by Sir Mortimer Wheeler.  The rarity of sculpture, and the suggestion that Indus society was controlled by a priestly elite, led Sir Mortimer Wheeler to state that:“The analogues from Egypt and Mesopotamia at least combine to suggest a religious and in particular an astral connotation for the [trefoil] motif, and support the conjecture that the Mohenjo-daro bust may portray a deity or perhaps a priest-king” (Wheeler, The Indus Civilization, 1968, page 87). 1968. United Kingdom. On loan from Durham UNESCO Chair   

The Indus Civilization, by Sir Mortimer Wheeler | The ‘Priest-King’ features on the cover of this volume by Sir Mortimer Wheeler.  The rarity of sculpture, and the suggestion that Indus society was controlled by a priestly elite, led Sir Mortimer Wheeler to state that:“The analogues from Egypt and Mesopotamia at least combine to suggest a religious and in particular an astral connotation for the [trefoil] motif, and support the conjecture that the Mohenjo-daro bust may portray a deity or perhaps a priest-king” (Wheeler, The Indus Civilization, 1968, page 87). 1968. United Kingdom. On loan from Durham UNESCO Chair   

Handwritten notes in blue ink

Notes on the Back of A Photograph in the Marshall Collection | Before Sir John Marshall gave his photographic collection to Durham University, he added handwritten notes to the back of each print. This example is a photograph of the Bhir Mound at Taxila. Marshall has overwritten his original notes with details written in pen. The information recorded by Marshall on each print has been vital for modern researchers. Two stamps were added along with a hand written number identifying each image in the collection when the photographs were added to the Oriental Museum’s collections. 1933/34Pakistan, photographic print. DUROM.1957.1.1348

Notes on the Back of A Photograph in the Marshall Collection | Before Sir John Marshall gave his photographic collection to Durham University, he added handwritten notes to the back of each print. This example is a photograph of the Bhir Mound at Taxila. Marshall has overwritten his original notes with details written in pen. The information recorded by Marshall on each print has been vital for modern researchers. Two stamps were added along with a hand written number identifying each image in the collection when the photographs were added to the Oriental Museum’s collections. 1933/34Pakistan, photographic print. DUROM.1957.1.1348

Typed letter in black ink on faded paper

Extract of a letter from Sir John Marshall to Dr and Mrs Spalding, enclosed in correspondence between them and the founder-curator of the Oriental Museum, Professor Thomas Thacker, regarding Marshall’s collection of photographs. 1953

Extract of a letter from Sir John Marshall to Dr and Mrs Spalding, enclosed in correspondence between them and the founder-curator of the Oriental Museum, Professor Thomas Thacker, regarding Marshall’s collection of photographs. 1953

Handwritten letter in black ink. The header of the letter reads: 'University of Durham, School of Oriental Studies'

Letter from Professor Thomas Thacker to the Warden of Durham University regarding Marshall’s collection of photographs. 1953

Letter from Professor Thomas Thacker to the Warden of Durham University regarding Marshall’s collection of photographs. 1953

Photo stuck into a photo album with a typed note beneath it

Original Prints Mounted in Albums | When the Marshall Collection arrived in Durham in the 1950s, a set of 60 bespoke albums were created to hold all the images. Each photograph or drawing was mounted on a page and Marshall’s annotations on the back of the image transcribed onto a label beneath the image. The images were grouped geographically. This album focuses on sites and monuments of Gaya District in what was known as the Province of Bihar in India, now Bihar State.

Original Prints Mounted in Albums | When the Marshall Collection arrived in Durham in the 1950s, a set of 60 bespoke albums were created to hold all the images. Each photograph or drawing was mounted on a page and Marshall’s annotations on the back of the image transcribed onto a label beneath the image. The images were grouped geographically. This album focuses on sites and monuments of Gaya District in what was known as the Province of Bihar in India, now Bihar State.

Photo stuck into a photo album with a typed note beneath it

Original Prints Mounted in Albums | The paper in these 1950s albums is acidic and over time will damage the fragile prints. A project is currently underway to move all of the prints to acid-free museum storage for long term preservation. Each print is also being scanned so that it can be accessed digitally and fully catalogued in the museum’s online database. Around half of the collection has been digitised to date.

Original Prints Mounted in Albums | The paper in these 1950s albums is acidic and over time will damage the fragile prints. A project is currently underway to move all of the prints to acid-free museum storage for long term preservation. Each print is also being scanned so that it can be accessed digitally and fully catalogued in the museum’s online database. Around half of the collection has been digitised to date.