Hello, I want to introduce you to “Map Indian Archaeology”, a web-based map platform that can enable linking to dynamic and static sources of information on the practice of archaeology in India. Archaeology in Independent India is socially and politically sensitive. This situation impacts the collection and interpretation of archaeological data.

In March 2003, the pages of Times of India carried word that the Archaeological Survey of India—henceforth the Survey, the national department for archaeology and heritage management in India—had begun court-ordered field excavations at the grounds of the demolished Babri Masjid, a medieval mosque in the northern city of Ayodhya. There, on December 6, 1992, kar sevaks (Hindu volunteers) who believed that the remains of an ancient temple lay beneath the standing mosque, tore it down, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the loss of human life in Ayodhya and elsewhere in India.

Public interest in this social issue—reflected in intensified media scrutiny on Indian archaeology—has drawn attention to particular archaeologists, their aims, methods and knowledge claims. Previous research, while fruitful, has focused on colonial archaeologists and those who worked in prominent positions within the national government, overlooking an overall role of archaeology in Indian society. This situation is reflected in sensitive relations between local communities and national institutions, particularly over ownership of cultural heritage. I discuss these concerns in detail in my recent article entitled “Social and Political Factors in Post-Colonial Indian Archaeology: the Case of Sanghol, Punjab” (read here).

The web-based geographic platform aims to provide scholars, local communities and national governments with a tool to understand nuances in Indian archaeology. The project has three main initiatives to encourage discussion and intellectual interest in Indian archaeology. They are:

  1. develop a database of archaeological investigations carried out in India from 1953 to2000;
  2. web map to improve searchability of geographically-referenced information on Indian archaeology AND enable linkages with other sources such as newspapers, journal articles and archaeological reports and archaeological collections (see figure below for overview);
  3. create an interactive project website that non-specialists and specialists alike can use to learn more about Indian archaeology and through which scholars to use available information in new and interesting ways.

ProjectOverview_NG_150902

In my previous research (read here), I developed a GIS database consisting of 4166 field investigations, of which 3829 were survey explorations and 337 were excavations carried out between 1993 and 2000. However, all of this geographically-referenced information remains on my personal computer. Thus it is unavailable to other scholars and does not allow linking with other sources on Indian archaeology. The situation is an unfortunate and unnecessary since a source for my GIS database, Indian Archaeology-a Review, published by the Survey, is available through its website. The periodical documents field collection throughout India for every twelve-month period, including survey and excavation notices and edited summaries of field reports that Indian archaeologists submit each fiscal year.

Over the next eleven months, follow along as I develop this exciting project, discuss challenges, what worked, what didn’t and how to assess geographically-referenced sources in archaeology. I welcome questions, comments, suggestions and encouragement. Post comments or reach me through email or through Twitter.

Neha Gupta
Memorial University
dngupta AT mun DOT ca
@archaeomap