History of Archaeology – 6

Post-Independence era

  • The Indian archaeology reached its present form of high level academic maturity after passing through various theoretical approaches and scientific discourses. The initiatives undertaken by the Asiatic Society led to the basic understanding of India and also paved a way for creation of colonial conceptions.
  • The colonial conception were countered by nationalistic trends in which glorification of India received much attention in pre- Independence era. The dynastic based political history of India was well-established till the early 1970s. Then, the study of social and economic history took a centre stage and Indian history was re-written through the spectrum of Marxist theory. This trend led to focus on subaltern studies and presently there is a little deviation towards environmental history.
  • Thus, the study of primary sources and the way the archaeological materials are interpreted depends upon the prevailing perception about history and archaeology. For instance, the archaeological deposits are labeled as Kushan period, Gupta period, Satavahana period, etc., by taking the dynastic route. Irrespective of these distinctive or detective approaches, the accumulation of material evidences through intensive explorations excavations and collection of primary sources, particularly literary work, inscriptions, copper plate and coins continued to pour in Indian. These new evidences felicitated to strengthen the earlier views or forced to modify the hitherto held views on Indian history and archaeology. The individuals and institutions played a major role in the reconstruction of the Indian past.
  • It is the time to remember several Indian archaeologist, historians, epigraphists, numismatists, art historians, linguistics and literary critics who contributed substantially in shaping Indian’s past. The archaeologists such as H.D. Sankalia, R.D. Banerji, Bhagwan Lal Inderji , Daya Ram Sahni , B.Subbarao, M.H. Krishna , A. Ghosh , R. Subrahamanyam , B.B. Lal , S.R. Rao , K. Paddayya, M.K. Dhavalikar , S. P. Gupta , H. Krishanasatri , M.S. Nagaraja Rao, M. Sashadri , V.S, Wakankar , R. S. Bisht , Rakesh Tewari , historians like K.A. Nikakantan Sastri ,  C. Majamdar , T.V. Mahalingam, Romila Thapar  , D.D. Kosambi , Irfan Habib , R.S. Sharma, R. Champakalakshmi, Upinder Singh , D.N. Jha , Dilip K. Chakrabarti ; Epigraphists D.C. Sircar,   Iravatham Mahadevan , K.G. Krishnan , K.V. Ramesh , Y. Subbarayalu , S.H. Ritti ; Numismatics like I.K. Sharawa , Ajay Mistra Sastri ; art historians like T.A. Gopinath Rao , K.R. Srinivasan , H. Sarkar , K.V.Soundara Rajan , B.Krishna Deva , M.N. Deshpande ; R. Nagasamy ;Linguistics such as D.R. Bhandarkar and many other outstanding scholars played a significant role in the reconstruction of the Indian past
  • The growing responsibilities of Archaeological Survey of India began to be shared by several other institutions. All the states established or enlarged their own archaeological Departments and engaged the services of several archaeologists, epigraphists, numismaticsts and art historians. Another notable feature is that some of the Universities also introduced archaeology as an academic discipline and trained students to undertake field works. The institutions like Deccan College (Pune) and several others are notable academic institutions have been doing yeomen service to the nation. The various activities of the Archaeological Survey of Indian, state Archaeology Department, University Department, Museums and Deccan College in the field of exploration, excavation, conservation and documentation produce enormous wealth of data. Compared to the pre-1947 scenario, some of the works of these institution have been spectacular. The coordinated efforts of the scholars drawn from different disciplines cleared many dark age of Indian history
  • The school of Archaeology established in the line of institute of Archaeology, London provide training to the student who are aspiring to become archaeologists. The scientific department like TATA Fundamental Research Institute, Bombay, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, Birbal Sahini Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad, National Geophysical Laboratory, Hyderabad and other sister Institutions made inroad into the archaeological research. The first Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) laboratory was established at Inter-University Accelerator center (an autonomous research center of UGC). This laboratory is planning to set-up a dedicated radiocarbon AMS facility soon to cater the needs of archaeologists along with a graphitization laboratory to prepare the samples prior to 14C AMS measurement.
  • Recently, Archaeological Sciences Centre is established in Indian Institute of Sciences at Gandhi agar, Gujarat. This trend shows that the academic community started to recognize that archaeology as a science. They provide significant data in field of pollen analysis, radio carbon dating, archaeo-magentism, thermoluminiscence , paleontology, metallurgy and other related fields. The developments in the sister departments, particularly in Anthropological Survey of India and Geological Survey of India also helped enormously in shaping the archaeological studies. Thus, archaeology made a notable progress since Independence by integrating the various scientific inputs received from different disciplines of science.
  • Besides all these emerging trends, it is the mind and matter, which played a predominant role in the interpretation of archaeological material irrespective of the scientific inputs. Science is being used or misused to prove or disprove one’s own perception. A few of the so called scientific studies are leading to dangerous proportion. The publication of digitally deformed bull into a horse of the Indus seal and the identification of the “third eye” in Adichchanallur skull are some of the trends that we need to dealt with carefully, in the interest of archaeology.
  • Thus, the focus differs from time to time and the goal posts are also being shifted as per the demands of these growing trends, one may witness the general trend in archaeological investigations. Till the 1970s, the culture-history dominates the scene in Indian archaeology. The advent of new archaeology or the procession archaeology forced the archaeologists to see the archaeological material as a result of human behavior. The general system theory, behavioral archaeology, site formation theory, catchment analysis, functional analysis and many other related issues played a significant years, the study of human mind contextual archaeology or interpretative archaeology. Many more such studies may emerge in future too. Irrespective of all these theoretical approaches, the total dedication and faithful documentation and preservation of the archaeological material and the quest for understanding the past for the better future must be the basic goal of every archaeologist