A look at History + Archaeology as a career option

Ranjit Kumar Warre has been away from phones and the Internet for a year now. Neither has he met any of his family members and friends in that period. However, he does not feel he is missing out on anything. That is because the excitement in his job is unparalleled. A student of archaeology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, he is working on a research project on an excavation site in Kondapur, Sangareddy district, Andhra Pradesh, near Bidar.

“For me, all the excitement in the world is here,” he said. “Every minute we are finding, exploring new worlds. Each stone tells a story. Pieces of pottery and vessels dug up from below the ground reveal new ways of understanding the world.”

After his M.A. in history and archaeology from Andhra University, he joined the JNU. Work in Kondapur is part of his Ph.D. research. Though he says he was interested in archaeology from the beginning, it was only after coming to the Kondapur site that he realised how exciting it could be. “I am sure I would not be as happy if I had chosen other professions,” he said.

“Most people would think archaeology is the exclusive domain of men. But that is no longer true,” says K. Murtheshwari, deputy superintending archaeologist at Kondapur. She points out to superintending archaeologist G. Maheshwari who is supervising the excavations. Ms. Maheshwari has been living on the site for over two years now. Along with other excavators and staff she lives in makeshift tents around the site a few kilometres from Kondapur village. Earlier, only men were expected to survive in such conditions. However, several women archaeologists have proved they can do as well, by living in remote places without the comforts of an urban life, said Ms. Murtheshwari. The postgraduate of Bharathiar University lives in Kondapur and manages the museum there.

“Most parents are obsessed with medicine or engineering as career choices for their children. This should change. The world is a bigger place and each career is exciting and rewarding,” Ms. Maheshwari said.

Job opportunities

In the public sector, Archaeological Survey of India is one of the biggest employers. State governments employ several archaeologists too. They explore places of historical interest, carry out excavations, peruse documents and interpret them. Such documentation, usually done by government officials along with university professors or researchers, is satisfying and rewarding. In recent decades, research has become a full-time career. Earlier, research was an extension of education. Students would complete their postgraduate degrees and do research for 2-3 years only to supplement their education and get a job.

However, this is changing, says history professor H.R.L. Rao. Now, there are several government and private institutions that hire full-time researchers for on-going projects.

The saying “teaching is a noble profession” may sound clichéd, but it is still very true, says retired professor B.R. Konda. This is truer with a teacher of history and archaeology. These subjects are enriching and satisfying. “My obsession with learning and teaching these subjects has not ceased at all. I have probably trained as many people in history and allied subjects after my retirement as I did while in service,” he said.

“Excavators can be the best town planners and architects,'' says Sanjay Shridhar, a member of ABIDe Bangalore taskforce. “When you begin to study heritage structures and archaeological monuments, you are humbled. You realise that the engineers and planners of ancient times were very modern in their approach. This inspires you to work hard and produce better plans and designs.”

Education

Most of the conventional Universities across India offer courses in history and archaeology. “However, the Post-Graduate Diploma in Archaeology (PGDA) offered by the Archaeological Survey of India's Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi, is considered among the best,” said Prof. N.T. Gangamma. Postgraduates in history or archaeology are eligible. Selection is based on an all India written test and interview.

The research-based course offered by Vishwa Bharati University of Shantiniketan is popular. The Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management established by the government of Delhi offers courses in Master in Conservation, Preservation and Heritage Management and Master in Archaeology and Heritage Management.

Allahabad University, Bangalore University, Benaras Hindu University in Varanasi, Deccan College of Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Pune, Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Marathwada University, Gujarat University, H.N. Bahuguna Garhwal University, Srinagar, Mangalore University, Osmania University, Hyderabad, University of Calcutta, University of Madras, University of Mysore and University of Pune offer courses in archaeology and related fields.

The course material includes subjects such as iconography, museum studies, epigraphy, numismatics and history of Indian art and architecture.

As many as nine Universities in Karnataka offer courses in archaeology.

RELATED NEWS

Pathways to a good careerMay 17, 2011