A rendezvous with the past

Lessons from the past: A close study of archaeological materials comes as an interesting experience for students

Lessons from the past: A close study of archaeological materials comes as an interesting experience for students   | Photo Credit: Photo: T. Singaravelou


Archaeology study has been made popular, thanks to the consistent efforts of the Government of India.

It is the study of the past, an in-depth look at human civilisations across the ages and an attempt to understand historical perspectives through scientific means. For students keen on pursuing a study of man’s past, archaeology comes as a promising arena, with enriching field experience and expanding career opportunities.

Offered at the post-graduate level at a number of universities across the country, archaeology mainly comprises practical-based experiences, which includes field trips. In fact, the scope of archaeology has been expanding in recent times, thanks to consistent efforts of the Government of India, say experts.

“Archaeology is the study of the past to understand our heritage and social process through scientific measures. When people study history, it is mostly theory-based. In archaeology, the emphasis is on practicals-based information in the form of sculptures, iconography, epigraphy and numismatics to understand the theoretical issues in a better historical perspective,” says K. Rajan, Professor of Archaeology, Department of History at Pondicherry University .

The university offers a post-graduate programme in History, of which archaeology was a part throughout the academic programme. A number of universities offer archaeology as part of History, Ancient History and Archaeology, Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology courses.

Through this study, students get an opportunity to get closer to ancient artefacts, monuments, epigraphy and numismatics. Elaborating on archaeology, Prof. Rajan said, “Archaeological material is the main source to reconstruct history before third century BC. The material comes out of intensive excavation and exploration. The main duty of the archaeologist is to discover documents, decipher them and disseminate the data.”

Advanced institutes in the country are now opening the gates for all students in various disciplines such as history, geography, anthropology, chemistry, physics and botany to an extent as works for reconstructing the agricultural settlement pattern is on. In fact, the Government of India has initiated a programme — a national mission for monuments and antiquities and will be documenting all archaeological and historical evidences available in India, he says.

The Pondicherry University has obtained permission to excavate an archaeological site called Purandhal near Palani.

“This will be a student training-cum-educational programme. We organise study tours for students. The subject is mainly field-based including teaching of landscape archaeology, role of geology in determining human settlement pattern and much more,” he says.

However, it is the field experience that is important for the students.

“The first hand information in the form of study tour is to provide field-based education, while the heritage tour helps in enhancing the knowledge of heritage.”

P. Ravichandran, lecturer in History at Tagore Arts College, says, “Archaeology is not only looking at the past but there is a method, a scientific approach to collect material. There is no separate course in archaeology in Puducherry but there is a lot of scope here.”

“Some of the institutions that offer archaeology are the University of Madras, Deccan College, Pune, and Tanjore Tamil University,” he pointed out.

The Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi, run by the Archaeological Survey of India, offers a PG Diploma in Archaeology. “There is no fixed faculty for this one-year course. The course has fellowships and all India tour. Intensive field work sponsored by the ASI is an advantage,” Prof. Rajan said.

With plenty of opportunities, academicians say students could take up teaching in archaeology. “Sacred archaeology is taking good shape. They can work in the tourism department as heritage archaeological trips, sacred archaeology and industrial archaeology are expanding. The ASI takes 50-60 archaeologists every year. They can work on specific projects too,” he says.

Recommended for you