Archaeology basically is the analysis and understanding of history by studying excavated remains, e.g. utensils, weaponry, skeletons or fossils. To a trained archaeologist, a small bone or the fragment of a clay pot can speak volumes. It can be hard, dusty work on field or hard, tiring work in the lab. But the rewards can be huge, if not in terms of money then at least in fame. Some of the most exciting discoveries ever have been made by archaeologists, making them heroes for the entire planet. One such find was the gold-filled tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun aka King Tut, discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings
What do they do?
In his student days, says KK Muhammed, superintending archaeologist (Delhi circle), ASI, he read Nehru’s Glimpses of World History and Balakrishna Pillai’s Through the Heart, both in Malayalam. That, he says, led to his fascination for temples.
Coincidentally for Muhammed, Pillai’s book was about Buddhism and Bihar, and the Bihar Circle was where he found himself later as an archaeologist, working amongst all those monuments he had read about and been inspired by.
Dr Alok Tripathi, superintending archaeologist, Underwater Archaeology Wing, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), describes this profession as a multidisciplinary activity that includes search, study and preservation of human history.
“Archaeologists”, adds Dr Tripathi, “irrespective of their specialisation or branch, are expected to conduct explorations of archaeological sites and remains. For the study of buried remains, these sites are excavated by field archaeologists.
“Experts from various branches collect and study remains pertaining to their specialised areas. For example, archaeo-zoologists study unearthed bones to understand fauna (animals) domestication, hunting practices, food, etc. in different periods; archaeo-botanists study the remains of flora (plants) to find out about agriculture, food habits, environment, etc; geo-archaeologists study rock and soil samples to study environment conditions and geological changes; physical anthropologists study human remains (skeletons); archaeologists would study different material assemblages to understand contemporary society, technological development, their contacts with other contemporary cultures, etc.”
To become an archaeologist, you have to spend years in training, writing exams, term papers and theses. Visits to excavation sites are mandatory for study of monuments and relics.
Qualified archaeologists can find work with ASI-run museums, cultural centres and the historical division of the ministry of external affairs. The option of research and/or teaching is open to students who have got a doctoral degree or have cleared SLET (State Level Eligibility Test) or NET (National Eligibility Test).
There is room for the government to do more, feels Muhammed. Apart from making today’s youth aware of India’s heritage, trained archaeologists need to be paid better, he says.
Things are improving, though. As science advances rapidly, archaeology has also benefited enormously. New-age technology — from satellite remote sensing to genetic studies — has been utilised in studying and understanding the past better. With the development of underwater engineering, archaeologists are now engaged in retrieval of historical remains from ocean floors.
Marine archaeologists can now study shipwrecks, graves, buildings, tools and pottery from past cultures engulfed by the sea, using the knowledge of archaeology and anthropology.
Source: HT Horizons
- Knowledge of history
- Sportsman-like stamina, as one would be required to work long and gruelling hours on field, exposed to the elements
- A voracious reading habit, with a perceptive and probing mind
How do I get there?
Graduates in any discipline can pursue a PG diploma or degree in archaeology. Preference is given to graduates in history, social sciences like sociology and anthropology. Anyone interested in research must have a postgraduation degree in history. Some universities (like the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda) also offer archaeology as a subject at the graduation level. Benares Hindu University, Varanasi, Patna University and the University of Ajmer also offer a BA in archival science. Candidates for these courses are required to have history as a subject in 10+2
Pros & Cons about this career
In the business of discovering new things Adventurous Travelling to new places
Excessive travelling can drain you out mentally and physically Sacrifice of personal time Frequent relocation due to nature of work