Peshawar is now officially recognized as being one of the Oldest Living Cities in Asia. Its history and culture has continued uninterrupted since severalcenturies. This fact was confirmed by the discovery of silver punch-marked coins from the Government House in 1906–07 and the ongoing excavation at Gor Khatri which is the deepest and widest in the world.Being among the most ancient cities of the region between Central, South, and West Asia, Peshawar has for centuries been a centre of trade between Afghanistan, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. As an ancient centre of learning, the 2nd century BCE. Bakhshali Manuscript used in the Bakhshali approximation was found nearby.
Peshawar was a major centre of Buddhist learning until the 10th century.As an indication of its importance, Peshawar was also the site of Kanishka's Great Stupa which housed relics of Gautama Buddha, and was widely considered to be the tallest building in the world at the time of its construction.Ancient Chinese manuscripts tell of Buddhist pilgrims such as Faxian, Sung Yun, and Xuanzangreporting that the 7th century stupa, which was rediscovered in the south east of the city at a site called Shahji-ki-Dheri in 1907–08, had a height of 591–689 feet.
Peshawar emerged as a centre of both Hindko and Pashtun intellectuals. Its dominant culture for much of British rule was that of the Hindko speakers, also referred to as "Khaarian" ('city dwellers' in Pashto).Its unique culture, distinct from the surrounding Pashtun areas, led to the city being romanticised by Pashto singers, with songs like larsha Pekhwar tha (go to Peshawar) and more recentlyPekhawar kho pekhawar dhay kana (Peshawar is Peshawar after all). This unique culture has gradually disappeared with the massive influx of Afghan refugees and the increasing migration of Pashtuns into the city. The demographics has changed quite dramatically and Pashto is now the dominant language of the city.
Peshawar is located in an area that was dominated by various tribes of Indo-Iranian origin. The region was affiliated with the ancient kingdom of Gandhara and had links to the Harappan civilization of the Indus River Valley and to Bactria and other ancient kingdoms based in Afghanistan. According to the historian Tertius Chandler, Peshawar had a population of 120,000 in the year 100 BCE, making it the seventh most populous city in the world.
Vedic mythology refers to an ancient settlement called Pushkalavati in the area, after Pushkal, the son of King Bharata in the epic Ramayana,but this settlement's existence remains speculative and unverifiable.In recorded history, the earliest major city established in the general area of Peshawar was called Purushapura (Sanskrit for City of Men) and was founded by the Kushans, a Central Asian tribe of Tocharian origin, over 2,000 years ago.Prior to this period the region was affiliated with Gandhara, an ancient Indo-Iranian kingdom, and was annexed first by the Persian Achaemenid empire and then by the Hellenic empire of Alexander the Great. The city passed into the rule of Alexander's successor, Seleucus I Nicator who ceded it to Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire in 305 BCE. Buddhism was introduced into the region at this time and may have claimed the majority of Peshawar's inhabitants before the coming of Islam.