Proto-Historic Objects from Balochistan

Today an unusual and spectacular exhibition opens at the National Museum of Oriental Art (MNAO) 'Giuseppe Tucci' in Rome, Italy. Living Symbols presents a group of painted protohistoric objects from the 4th and 3rd millennium BCE, illegally excavated in Balochistan and seized in 2005 by the Italian police. Although much about their provenance is lost, they are apparently from the little know Nal Buthi and Kulli cultures that preceded (Nal) and accompanied (Kulli) the height of Indus culture. They use of the zebu bull, pipal tree, tiger and other major motifs familiar to us from Harappa and Mohenjo-daro.

These are among the most splendid objects ever found from the area, and show how vibrant the use of color was. They convey the sophistication of symbolism and art in the 4th and 3rd millenniums (4000-2000 BCE). The exhibition, organized by MNAO in collaboration with the Pakistan Embassy and with the support of Eural Gnutti s.p.a., represents a precious opportunity for a first encounter with the cultures that succeeded in Pakistan. Curated by Giovanni Lombardo (MNAO) and contributor Massimo Vidale (University of Padua, Italy). More at

[Image 2] The archaeologist Ute-Franke-Vogt wrote of the Kulli culture from which the second image may stem "This late Kulli occupation to which the largest number of sites in southern Balochistan belong, co-existed with the Indus Civilization (Kanri Buthi).The presence of quite a number of town-like settlements added a new and unexpected dimension to this cultural complex and to an area which so far had remained in the shadow of the Indus Civilization. These new and exciting findings require a rethinking of models of interaction and center-periphery relations between these two areas." Additional information can be found in Franke-Vogt's slide show The Archaeology of Southeastern Balochistan.