Archaeology is about the functional past of human society ad its cultural surroundings. All that exists today did not occurovernight. It occurred over thousands of years asserts a senior faculty member at the Deccan College postgraduate and Research Studies in Pune, who is currently digging at an excavation site in Orissa. Today we use iron blast furnaces, which is essentially a form of industrial technology, but we also know that thousands of years ago, people were already using this technology. How did it happen? When did it happen? Who came up with it?
The significance of archaeology today, saying, Today archaeology is that much more important with the increasing population. Every day, there is so much important data that is being lost irretrievably. Policies and awareness must come together to make protection mandatory. Expert help is required to explain the significance of a spot before development is allowed. Recently, a Mumbai based firm in collaboration with a foreign company, requested some help in identifying an expert who could assess whether their project in the northeast would be disturbing any archaeological data. Moreover, there are cases where mounds and excavations were seen last year, disappeared. We must not be callous or careless about our heritage.
India has the largest number of archaeological sites in comparison to any other country in the world. Only China is comparable in this regard. With 5000 years of continuous history, and prehistoric human settlements that date back to a million years ago, India is blessed with a repository of cultural treasures. But very swiftly, these are being removed. Vandalism, organized looting, industrialization and development, are major reason-ns for this loss. Unless we get on to a war footing, everything will be gone. This requires a great deal of human resources – people who can understand unique areas, eco settings and varied cultural ethos of the country. These people must be broadminded, untainted by regionalism, and see the country as a whole.
Senior faculty, Ancient History and Archeology department, Central University, Hyderabad, recently made a significant discovery. It is the thrill of discovery that defines this career. Archaeological monuments across the country are a major tourist attraction. Before the IT boom, the tourism industry brought in the highest amount of foreign exchange. It is said that four to five crore people in India are dependent on tourism.
Archaeologists have a major role to play in discovering displaying studying and preserving these structures of heritage.
There are a host of career opportunities for archaeologists. These include stints with the Archaeological Survey of India, which is the largest employer, taking in a close to a hundred new people every year, state archaeological departments, museums (both public and private require curators) NGOs in preservations and expert consultancy positions that could include survey work on sites prior to development of dams or major structures and of course, tourism. The work is travel oriented and can span the globe.
Experts opine that any good archaeologists to learn, study and discover, with some basic knowledge of history a preserving spirit and a scientific bent of mind. This career requires a great deal of physical stamina. You can’t have a delicate constitution with dust allergies. It also requires some degree of fluency in English as all the paper and early accounts are out in English, and one needs to absorb these studies constantly. Science is another strength with areas such as paleo-biology or ancient metallurgy that are part of the study of data. Most importantly, you need to have an adventures streak. There can be no armchair archeologists. You must be inclined to field study.
Elaborating, a student needs to pursue a career in archaeology, must have a bachelor’s degree in any stream—whether it is art, engineering biology or any other science stream can pursue their master’s degree in archaeology. Whether you want to focus on understanding the evolution of food (from when early man actually developed the culture of rice or barley over thousands of years) from wild grasslands or the jungle, to finding steel created 2900 years ago in India, when some parts of the world did not know the uses of iron – archaeology requires a variety of perspectives. It is essential to have more archaeologists who take on diverse studies. For instance, India has the greatest number of ancient inscriptions – more than a lakh, but there is no one left to read them. Most experts alive are either retired, or about to retire. If something is not done about it, soon enough we will never be able to understand ancient writings.
Archaeology is about how the past is relevant today to industry, trade, mercantile systems, technology, even though It is not just the past, but the aptitude of the human mind to analyze the past. Essentially, archaeologists are crusaders, who help preserve the fabric of human memory.