Indian ivory statue of a female found in ruins of ancient Pompeii, Italy and mistaken as ‘Goddess Lakshmi Idol‘.
This statuette is estimated to be from pre-mauryan period (before 300 BCE) and during that time, India had trading relations with few european countries.
In 1939, Italian archeologist Prof Maiuri, discovered an artifact in the ruins of ancient Pompeii, that had a very Indian origin. He stimated it to be from 1 CE.
Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples, in the Campania region of Italy, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.
So, this Indian idol must belong to few more years before pompeii got destroyed.
Before 2nd century BCE portable figurines and plaques made of terracotta, bone, and ivory featuring bejewelled female figures were produced and widely distributed throughout India.
They were even exported as a part of trade with europe.
A heavy, multi-chained necklace with a triangular pendant blossom in between her breasts, while two more lotus forms protrude from the necklace immediately below each shoulder.
Those lotuses must have made Prof Maiuri think that this is Goddess Lakshmi.
There are multiple instances in Indian history and puranas where many women wore lotuses.
Draupadi asks for rare Saugandhika lotus flower from himalayas to worship Lord Siva and Bheema fights takes help of Hanuman to with a demon protecting those flowers (Mahabharata – Vana Parva).
There is a letter ‘si’, which is inscribed on the statuette’s base in kharoshthi (a script used in northwest India), but that has nothing to do with Goddess Lakshmi.
Italians used to make similar statues of their love goddess Venus and this could be an Indian version of the same.(see above picture of right)
In terms of iconography and technique, the closest comparisons can be made with ivory figurines recovered from the central and northwestern parts of the sub-continent and datable to the 1st century CE.
Two of these examples were found at the sites of Bhokardan and Ter in central India and third was excavated in Begram, Afghanistan along with a large cache of ivory, bone, glass, and metal objects.
Infact, posture of this figure appears provocative and could have been used as a decorative piece or representation of Kama Sutra in those days.
This ivory statuette found in a residence on the Via della Abbondanza in Pompei had a dye house next to it.
This idol could have been sent to Italy with a shipment of Indigo dyes from India.