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The Jade Terrapin from Allahabad is a large sculpture of a terrapin carved from a single piece of jade. Dating from the early 17th Century when most of India was ruled by the Mughal dynasty, this luxurious and unique artefect was found in Allahabad in the early nineteenth century.

Jade Terrapin from Allahabad
Jade Terrapin (1) (BM).JPG
The jade terrapin on display at the British Museum
MaterialCarved jade
Size20 cm high, 48.5 cm long and 32 cm wide
Weight41 kg
Created17th century AD
Present locationBritish Museum, London
RegistrationME OA 1830.6-12.1



This massive object of precious stone was carved from one large piece of jade in the 17th century for the court of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The terrapin has been very realistically portrayed, so much so that scientists have proposed that it is modelled on a female of the Kachuga dhongoka species of turtle. Jahangir established a royal court at Allahabad between 1605-1627. The terrapin was probably made during this period as a decorative ornament for one of the landscaped pools in the palace gardens.

Discovery and ownershipEdit

The jade sculpture was accidentally found at the bottom of a well during engineering excavations in Allahabad in 1803. Its artistic skill and value was immediately recognised by its excavators and the object was soon after shipped to England by Lieutenant General Alexander Kyd of the Bengal Engineers. A relative of the Kyd family, Lt Thomas Wilkinson, subsequently bequeathed it to the British Museum in 1830.[1]



Further readingEdit

  • Sax, Margaret; Ambers, Janet; Meeks, Nigel & Canby, Sheila (2007). "The emperor's terrapin" (PDF). The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin. British Museum. 1: 35–41. ISBN 9781904982272.
  • S. Cary Welch, India: art and culture, 1300-1 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985)