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Pia Brancaccio
Pia Brancaccio, PhD
Professor, Art History



Academic Building, 115A

Pia Brancaccio is Professor in the Department of Art and Art History where she teaches courses in the arts of South Asia and is responsible for the Asian Art Curriculum. Her research focuses on early Buddhist art and cross-cultural exchange in South Asia with a regional emphasis on the visual cultures of ancient Gandhara (Pakistan) and the Deccan Plateau (India). She has published extensively on the Buddhist caves in Western Deccan, including a monograph on The Buddhist Caves at Aurangabad (2010) and the edited volume Living Rock (2013), and has recently expanded her interests to ancient Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean exchange networks. She has been also a longstanding collaborator of the ISMEO-Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan and has written on architecture, visual narratives, artistic workshops and the multicultural fabric of Buddhism in Gandhara, and co-edited the book Gandharan Buddhism: Art, Archaeology (2006). Her research is published internationally, she serves on editorial boards of academic journals based in Europe and Asia, and is frequently invited as a speaker, panelist and collaborator by institutions across the globe.

Prior to joining Drexel University, she was Research Associate at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and was a Whitney Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her research, publications and extensive field work carried out in South Asia have been supported by a variety of national and international grants.

PhD, Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli (Italy)
MA, Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli (Italy)

Selected publications are available for downloading @

Books and Edited Volumes:

The Buddhist Caves at Aurangabad: Transformation in Art and Religion. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2010.

Living Rock. Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Cave Temples in the Western Deccan. Mumbai: Marg Publications, 2013.

Gandharan Buddhism: Archaeology, Art and Texts, co-edited with Kurt Behrendt. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006.

Articles and Book Chapters:

“Monumental Rock-cut Images from Sri Lanka: New Perspectives.” In Bridging Heaven and Earth: Art and Architecture in South Asia, ed. A. Hardy and L. Greaves. New Delhi, Dev Publishers: 2020.

“The Making of a Life: Re-reading Bharhut Sculpture.” Translated and republished in Japanese in Asian Buddhist Art Anthology (『アジア仏教美術論集』) ed. by A. Miyaji. Tokyo, Japan: Chuo Koron Bijutsu Shuppan Publishers: 2020.

“Classical Elements in the Decoration of Gandharan Stupas: New Interpretations” in Indology’s Pulse: Art in Context, edited by K. and G. Mevissen. Delhi: Aryan Book Publications, 2019.

with Olivieri, L.M. “Regional Workshops and Votive Stupas in the Swat Valley: An Analysis of the Evidence from the sites of Gumbat, Saidu Sharif and Panṛ”. In The Geography of Gandharan Art, edited by W. Rienjang and P. Stewart, pp.121-143. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2019.

“Monumentality, Nature and World Heritage Monuments: The rock-cut sites of Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta in Maharashtra.” In Decolonising Heritage in South Asia: The Global, the National and the Transnational, edited by H. P. Ray, pp. 111-127. New Delhi: Routledge, 2019.

“The Collection of Gandharan Art in the Residence of the Malakand Political Agent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan.” In Buddhism and Gandhara: Archaeology of Museum Collections, edited by H. P. Ray, pp. 154-172. New Delhi: Routledge, 2018.

“The Buddhist Caves in Western Deccan between the Fifth and the Sixth Centuries.” Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies, 1.2 (2018): 1–13.

“The Silk Road and the Cotton Road: Buddhist Art and Practice between Central Asia and the Deccan.” In Vie della Seta: Percorsi, Immagini e Cultura Materiale, edited by B. Genito and L. Caterina, vol. 2, pp. 59-77. Roma: Scienza e Letttera Editore, 2018

“La Via della Seta e la Via del Cotone.” In Uomini e Religioni sulla Via della Seta, edited by E. Giunipero, pp. 49- 60. Milano: Guerini 2017.

“Seeing the Buddha: Early Buddhist Images from the Indian Subcontinent.” Misuljyarjaryo. National Museum of Korea Journal for the Arts 89 (2016): 54-77. Published in Korean and English.

“Representations of Indasalaguha, rock-cut monasteries and the shifting attitudes towards Buddhist asceticism” in South Asian Archaeology and Art 2012. South Asian Religions and Visual Forms in their Archaeological Context, edited by V. Lefevre, A. Didier and B. Mutin, vol. 2, pp.427-441. Tunhout: Brepols, 2015.

“Catalogue of Gandharan Sculpture in the Political House at Malakand, Swat.” In M. A. Stein and the ‘Lords of Marches’: Early Archaeological Research in Swat from the Documents of the Political House in Malakand, Swat (NWFP, Pakistan), edited by L. M. Olivieri, pp. 285-306. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publishers, 2015.

“Looking to the West: Stone Molds and Foreign Visual Models in Satavahana Material Culture” in Archives of Asian Art 64 (2015): 33-40.

“Architectural Elements of the First Stairway.” In The Last Phases of the Urban Site at Bir-kot-ghwandai (Barikot). The Buddhist Sites at Gumbat and Amluk Dara, edited by L.M. Olivieri, pp. 379-384. Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publishers, 2014.

“Aṣṭamahābhaya Avalokiteśvara in the Western Deccan: Buddhist Patronage and trade between the 5th-6th c. CE.” In South Asian Archaeology and Art. Changing Forms and Cultural Identity: Religious and Secular Iconographies, edited by. D. Klimburg Salter and L. Lojda, vol. 1, pp. 91-98. Tunhout: Brepols, 2014.

“Buddhist Caves of the Deccan Plateau: Art, Religion and Long-Distance Exchange in the 5th and 6th centuries.” In Living Rock: Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Cave Temples in the Western Deccan, edited by P. Brancaccio, pp. 108-115. Mumbai: Marg, 2013.

“The Pottery of Bajaur: A Window into the late Gandharan Tradition.” In Coins, Art and Chronology II, edited by M. Alram and D. Klimburg Salter, pp. 329-340. Wien: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010.

“Cave 2 at Aurangabad: Continuity and Change in Buddhist art at the Threshold of the 7th Century.” In South Asian Archaeology 2007, edited by P. Callieri, L. Colliva and M. Tosi, vol.2, pp. 7-25. Cambridge: British Archaeological Review, 2010.

with Liu X., “Dionysian Tradition and Drama in Gandharan Art.” Journal of Global History 4/2 (2009): 219-244.

“Repositioning the caityagrha: a fresh look into the early Buddhist rock-cut tradition of the Western Deccan.” In Exploring Buddhist Cave Temples, edited by J. Rhi, pp. 52-73. Seoul National University, Korea: Choong-choo Society, 2008. Published in Korean and English.

“Close Encounters: Multicultural Systems in Ancient India.” In On the Cusp of an Era: Art in the Pre-Kusana World, edited by D. Srinivasan, pp. 385-397. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2007.

“Satavahana Terracottas: Proposed Connections with the Mediterranean Tradition.” East and West 55 (2006): 55-70.

“Gateways to the Buddha: Figure under Arches in Early Gandharan Art.” In Gandharan Buddhism: Archaeology, Art and Texts, edited by P. Brancaccio and K. Behrendt, pp. 210-224.Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006.

“Abstract Realities.” Introduction to the catalogue Reverse-Depth. New York: Tamarind Art Gallery, 2006.

“The making of a life: Re-Reading Bharhut Sculptures.” South Asian Studies 21 (2006): 7-52.

“Perceptions of the ‘West’ and ‘Westerners’ in Satavahana Times: The Archaeological Evidence.” South Asian Archaeology 2001, edited by C. Jarrige and V. Lefevre, vol. II, pp. 401-406. Paris: 2005.

“The Buddhist Caves at Aurangabad: The Impact of the Laity,” Ars Orientalis, Supplement 1 (2000): 41-50.

“Angulimala, or the Taming of the Forest,” East and West 48 (1999): 105-118.

“More on the Buddha and the Naked Ascetics.” East and West 44 (1994): 447-452.

“Note on the Buddhist Caves at Aurangabad.” Annali dell'Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli 53 (1993): 41-50.

“The Buddha and the Naked Ascetics.” East and West 41 (1991): 121-132.

Encyclopedia Entries and Reviews:

“Aurangabad” and “Ellora.” Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Wiley Online Library, 2021.

“Cave Architecture in India” Springer on-line Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in Non-Western Culture, 2015.

Review of Aspects of the Maritime Silk Road: From the Persian Gulf to the East China Sea edited by Ralph Kauz. Journal of Islamic Studies, 2012.

Review of Thus I Have Heard. Visualizing Faith in Early Indian Buddhism by Andy Rotman. CAA Reviews, 2011.

“Kondapur,” “Samalaji” and “Fonti Scritte per lo Studio dell’Archeologia Indiana.” Enciclopedia Archeologica. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, 2008.

Entries for Repertorio Terminologico per la Schedatura delle Sculture dell’Arte Gandharica sulla base dei Materiali Provenienti dagli Scavi della Missione Archeologica Italiana dell’IsIAO nello Swat, Pakistan/Repertory of Terms for Cataloguing Gandharan Sculptures, with Domenico Faccenna and Anna Filigenzi. Rome: IsIAO, 2006.

“Elephanta” and “Ellora.” Encyclopedia of India. New York: Macmillan, 2005.

Review of Ajanta by Walter M. Spink. Ars Orientalis 26 (1996).

Review of Unfolding a Mandala by Geri Malandra. East and West 46 (1996).

Review of Oxus. I Tesori dell'Asia Centrale. Catalogo della Mostra, Roma, Palazzo Venezia, ottobre 1993 - gennaio 1994. Annali dell'Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli 55 (1995).