History of Archaeology – 2

Sir William Jones;

  • In September 1783, Sir William Jones (1746-94), one of the brilliant men of the18th century, came to Calcutta as Judge of the Supreme Court under the Governor-Generalship of Warren Hastings Jones was a linguistic genius who learnt all the European languages as well as Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and Turkish before coming to India.

Establishment of Asiatic Society;

  • At Jones’ initiative, the Asiatic Society of Bengal was established on 15th January 1784. It was under the auspices of the Society that Indology was formalized as an academic discipline and its study institutionalized.

James Prinsep;

  • James Prinsep, an Assay-master of the East India Company Mint in Calcutta and secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, played an important role in the initiation of field-based research. By the decipherment of two ancient scripts of India – the Brahmi and Kharoshthi- he emerged as a legendary figure in Indological studies. In the early part of the 19th century, the surveyors of the East India Company brought back voluminous information on temples, cave, coins and copies of the inscriptions written in unknown scripts. Among the unknown scripts, the Brahmi was first cracked by James Princep in 1837. This helped to read the edicts of King Asoka and pushed the date of Indian history back to 3rd century BCE. Subsequent to this decipherment, rapid progress was made in the fields of epigraphically and numismatics studies. This decipherment led to a proper understanding of the chronology. For instance, the identification of piyadasi found in Brahmi inscriptions with Asoka helped to establish importance of Sri Lankan chronicles – the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa.