This paper focuses on an extraordinary discovery from Pompeii in 1938: an exquisitely carved ivory statuette, presumed to have been imported from India during the height of Roman–Indian trade in the first century CE. Archaeological excavations have revealed numerous Roman exports to India. However, this paper attempts to rectify the misperception that lack of artefacts in the West signifies lack of activity, creating a fuller picture of this unusual object, a fascinating testament to ancient transregional exchange and rare only by default.

Perhaps because until recently most scholars have been expert in either Indian or Greco-Roman art, the statuette has been under-studied and under-published. This in-depth paper, based on first-hand research at Pompeii and in India, attempts to reconstruct the path from creator to recipient in a cosmopolitan world, updates iconography and function debates, clarifies the find spot, and points to various avenues of research, including transcultural, worthy of pursuit.