Head of a Bodhisattva with hair falling over the shoulders (IsIAO archive inv. no. TS 1259)
The great fire that ended the Early Period at Tapa Sardar probably happened in the 7th century, when 'Ubaid Allah led the Muslim armies to the conquest of the whole area up to Kabul, in 671-72 CE. Since the sanctuary rested on a hill that rises over the road from Kandahar to Ghazni and Kabul, it had a strategic military value. Such value did not fade with the centuries, because the Tapa Sardar hill was again used as a military post in recent years, incurring again great damage to its main structures (like the Main Stupa). On the other hand, the same fire accidentally burnt many of the clay sculpture thus better preserving them in the archaeological records. Commenting on the results and finds of the first excavation campaigns, the Italian archaeologists described the sculptures from Tapa Sardar as originally made in terracotta; only later, with the prosecution of the archaeological investigations, they ascertained that in this area the only materials used for sculptures were stucco and, mostly, unbaked clay. The fire put to an end the “Gandharan” phase at Tapa Sardar, as we can see from the sculptures made after the sanctuary's reconstruction, dated to the very end of the 7th/start of 8th century. The iconography and the workmanship of the findings show a dramatic change in taste and technique as does the whole appearance of the site: Tapa Sardar was rebuilt as a sort of fortress, in accordance with new architectural concepts, and incorporated older structures where possible. The Hellenistic features are replaced by a different aesthetics based on Central-Asiatic models, especially of Eastern origin; this is clearly shown in this sculpture's plastic treatment (and dressing) of the hair, in the elongated eyes and the linear eyebrows.