Dr. Elisa Iori

Dr. Elisa Iori

Zur Person

Curriculum Vitae

  • Since 2019 Junior Fellow at the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies
  • 2018 PhD in Indian and Central Asian Archaeology and Art History at the Department of Cultural Heritage, Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna (Italy)
  • Since 2018 member of the ISMEO Italian Archaeological Mission in Afghanistan
  • Since 2014 member of the ISMEO Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan
  • 2013-2014 International Post-degree Scholarship: Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge (UK)/Department of Classics, Sapienza - University of Rome (Italy)
  • 2013 MA in Indian and Central Asian Archaeology and Art History at the Department of Classics, Sapienza - University of Rome (Italy)


  • Pakistan (on-going): Barikot, Swat valley. ISMEO-Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan (ISMEO-IAMP); ACT-Archaeology Community Tourism Field School Project (Pakistan-Italian Debt-Swap Agreement; Ministero degli Affari Esteri/Economic Affairs Division, Pakistan).
  • Afghanistan: Mes Aynak, Logar province. Unesco Project: “Mes Aynak, Consultancy Services in GIS/Topographic and Archaeological Survey”
  • Iran: Persepolis, Fars. Project: “From Palace to Town”. Iranian Centre for Archeological Research (ICAR), Parsa-Pasargadae Research Foundation (PPRF), Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna (Unibo), Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO)


The main aim of my research is to investigate, within a long-term perspective, patterns of transformation in the religious and urban landscape of the north-western regions of South Asia (Gandhāra), having the Swat valley/Uḍḍiyāna as a case-study in order to benefit from the detailed archaeological documentation yielded by the ISMEO-IAMP excavations.
The role played by Buddhism as socially active agent between 3rd century BCE and 10th century CE in Swat is particularly remarkable, as it was theoretically inclusive towards the new-born multi-ethnic urban society. Introduced in the north-west territories with the Mauryas in the 3rd century BCE (beginning of the so-called “second urbanization phase”), during the following centuries Buddhism witnessed a progressive religious dominancy, marked by the foundation of hundreds of sacred areas and monasteries promoted by local princes or clientes of foreign kings. After the crisis of the urban system followed the collapse of the Kushan empire and the consequent socio-economic shift in focus from town to countryside, Buddhist foundations managed to overcome the decadence of ‘classical’ Buddhism by embracing, around the 7th-8th century, Tantrayāna and Vajrayāna practices which coexisted with the revival of Brahmanism.
In order to producing an integrated model of the religious and urban patterns and to analyze the socio-economic logics of religious changes within the wider political scenario, this research will combine the study of available archaeological evidence (from the mid-1st millennium BCE till the end of the 1st millennium CE) with textual and epigraphic sources, paying a special attention to the transformation of religious spaces/practices, within and outside urban contexts. That will be improved by question-oriented researches on the field involving both targeted excavations and surveys, seeking to fill some of the most important gaps in the historical reconstruction.