Lovers of historical artefacts and archaeology will truly enjoy a visit to Taxila. The famous archaeological site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistan in 1980, the credit for which goes to Sir Alexander Cunningham for discovering the remains of Taxila in the mid-19th century. The city once occupied a prominent seat in the Gandhara Kingdom between 1000 BC and 1000 AD. If you are exploring Taxila and its history, no trip to Taxila is complete without visiting the Taxila Museum. Here is a detailed guide on what awaits you inside the Taxila Museum and how to get there, along with the history of Taxila Museum and Taxila Museum’s timings.
About Taxila Museum
After the discovery of the ruins of Taxila somewhere in the 1800s, the foundation stone for the Taxila Museum was laid in 1918 by the then Viceroy and Governor-General of British India, Lord Chelmsford. The museum’s opening ceremony was held on the 5th of April 1928, nearly ten years later, with the structure comprising a central hall and one gallery containing artefacts on either side.
The Archaeological Museum of Taxila is primarily home to all of the relics, artefacts, and statues found during the excavation in and around the area. Roughly 7,000 artefacts and antiques are on display inside the halls of the museum, reflecting the culture, history, and achievements of people from long-forgotten millennia.
How to Reach the Taxila Museum?
The Archaeological Museum of Taxila is located on the Kalabagh-Nathia Gali Road (N-125) at just a 5 minutes’ walking distance from Bhir Mound, one of the three major cities in the area during ancient times. The road is a commercially populated route, with shops, hotels, petrol pumps, and banks lining the sides opposite the ancient city. This means that if you live in Punjab, you can easily travel to Taxila by road. If that isn’t an option, you can reach the ruins of Bhir Mound, and the Archaeological Museum of Taxila via train as Taxila’s railway station is just 5-minutes’ drive away.
Artefacts on Display at Taxila Museum
Once you’re inside Taxila Museum, you’ll find a range of relics belonging to different eras as Taxila was ruled by different kingdoms throughout its history after its ancient establishment as a city of Gandhara. Here are some of the things you’ll see on display at Taxila Museum:
- Stone Statues and Sculptures
- Terracotta Sculptures
- Inscriptions and Ancient Writings
- Silver and Gold Jewellery
- Ancient Coins
- Grooming Items
- Metallic Cookware
- Decorative Pieces
Let’s discuss each of these displays in detail below.
Stone Statues and Sculptures
Most of the stone sculptures date back to the 1st to 3rd century AD, and these are displayed in the main hall of the museum. The largest collection of statues is of Gautama Buddha—the founder of Buddhism. However, you can also find statues of Greek and Hindu deities among the relics excavated in the area.
Inscriptions and Ancient Writings
Excavations at Taxila revealed writings and inscriptions going as far back as the 3rd to 5th century AD. Aramaic, Brahmi, and Kharoshthi are the three major ancient scripts on display, with Kharoshthi being the official script of Gandhara. Archaeologists also found inkpots made of stones, clay, and copper during their excavations, along with writing tablets, all of which are proudly on display at the museum.
Coinage in ancient times was often made from metals like gold, copper, and silver, along with symbolic references to the ruling kings. The Taxila Museum is home to a large coin collection, with ancient coins going as far back as the Moriyan period in the 4th to 6th century BC. There are also Indo-Greek coins from the 1st to 2ndcentury BC, along with preserved coinage of the Scythian, Parthian, Kushan, Sasanian, Kidara Kushan, and Hephthalites or White Huns dynasties, dating from 90 BC up to the 5th century AD.
Silver and Gold Jewellery
The museum’s jewellery room is home to a range of necklaces, chains, belts, pendants, bracelets, bangles, anklets, and rings, made from both gold and silver. Many of the pieces reflect a Greco-Roman influence on the civilisation that once lived in Taxila.
Cooking pots, goblets, jugs, dishes, cups, pans, spoons, ladles, and a range of other dishware and cookware was made from metal in ancient times to keep it resistant to the open fires on which meals were cooked. Silver, bronze, and copper were the three main metals being used, and many of the recovered artefacts reflect fine workmanship.
Combs made from ivory, mirrors made from copper, along with an array of hairpins and other grooming items, were found among the ruins of Taxila, dating back several millennia.
Small decorative items that serve no real purpose were found within the remains of the old cities, including crystal carved figurines, glass bottles, and children’s toys, as well as delicate items crafted from shells, bones, and ivory.
The excavation of Taxila also brought ancient tools and instruments to light. Tools used by farmers, surgeons, potters, and goldsmiths of bygone times are the most interesting among this collection.
Pottery forms a large part of the museum’s collection, featuring storage jars, flasks, jugs, bowls, cooking pots, goblets, and water containers. Most of these are well preserved considering their age, showing how durable earthen vessels can be.
Taxila changed hands countless times over the centuries, as new rulers conquered it with their armies. With the constant transition, several wars were fought here, and all the invaders left their marks behind on the land. Archaeologists were not only able to find artefacts from every era, but also weapons, including swords, arrowheads, daggers, spearheads, javelins, and armours, which have all been displayed in the museum and reflect Taxila’s turbulent past.
When to Visit the Taxila Museum?
The timings of the Taxila Museum are from 9 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:30 pm to 4 pm daily. Taxila Museum’s ticket prices can be as low as PKR 20 for locals and as high as PKR 500 for foreigners. Guides are also available to make your trip to Taxila Museum more informative.