A most exciting discovery, possibly the discovery of the century, was uncovered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in December, 2006. The present owner of the rare icon has now authorized release of information regarding the remarkable discovery to the public.
The exact location of the site, where excavation is ongoing, is not being released to the public, to protect the area from being overrun by treasure-hunters.
The piece was uncovered by a collector digging for Depression-era glass flagons in the curb area of an unidentified residential street in Verdun (Montreal), Quebec, Canada, in mid-December, 2006. At first dismissing the find as a piece of junk, the finder later turned the piece over to an historian friend as a "christmas present" joke.
The wooden icon, since identified as an extremely rare "scarred warrior" from the Kushan Empire (c. 2nd century BCE - 3rd century CE), is all the more remarkable for having survived, and in such fine condition. Wooden artifacts very rarely survive 2000 years, and then only under specific conditions, such as in the dry desert climate away from the Nile River in Egypt, where several carved wooden items have been excavated. In addition, much of the original decorative paint detail remains visible on the warrior.
Experts are split on whether the warrior's missing left arm was lost during the 2000 years since it was first carved in the "clothespin" style associated with the Kushan city of Begram, or whether the arm was deliberately left off, in the "scarred warrior" tradition.
Under the rule of the Kushans, northwest India and adjoining regions participated both in seagoing trade and in commerce along the Silk Road to China. The name Kushan derives from the Chinese term Guishang, used in historical writings to describe one branch of the Yuezhi—a loose confederation of Indo-European people who had been living in northwestern China until they were driven west by another group, the Xiongnu, in 176–160 BCE. The Yuezhi reached Bactria (northwest Afghanistan and Tajikistan) around 135 BCE. Kujula Kadphises united the disparate tribes in the first century BCE. Gradually wresting control of the area from the Scytho-Parthians [Persians], the Yuezhi moved south into the northwest Indian region traditionally known as Gandhara (now parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan) and established a capital near Kabul. They had learned to use a form of the Greek alphabet, and Kujula's son was the first Indian ruler to strike gold coins in imitation of the Roman aureus exchanged along the caravan routes.
Some historians have speculated that the "clothespin" style of carved icons were actually board game pieces, possibly pawns in the Persian game of chatrang, a direct ancestor of modern chess. This hypothesis has not, however, been accepted by board games scholars, primarily for two reasons; first, no two or more icons have ever been discovered in close proximity to each other, thereby preventing their positive identification as board game pieces; second, the age of the few recovered "scarred warrior" and "clothespin" style carvings would push back the game of chess some 400-500 years earliers than most experts date its invention.
The remarkable icon, now in the possession of conservators of an internationally renowned museum in the midwestern United States, has been carbon-dated to c. 67 CE (+/- 50). The piece has been "stabilized" and there are no plans by the owner to offer it for exhibit.
What is not known is how the icon traveled half a world away, from the Hindu Kush area of its origins 2000 years ago to modern-day Montreal. The piece was discovered near the property that formerly housed the Togo Embassy, leading some to speculate that the piece may have arrived in Montreal through nefarious methods.