Year of Establishment : 1960
History of the department : In his convocation address in 1911, the Vice-Chancellor, Asutosh Mookerjee regretted the absence of any systematic study of our ancient history and culture. Thus the University became a parallel arena for giving people a sense of their past. This may be situated in the developments of early twentieth century when outside the purview of an official archaeology of the Archaeological Survey of India an initiative was being made, as part of the imperial policy, to give more academic space to the Universities. In the tenure of Sir Asutosh Calcutta University established the Chair of Carmichael Professor of Ancient Indian history and Culture and the subject was introduced in the curriculum of post-graduate studies. In 1917 Archaeology and Numismatics were considered as special subjects, which could be taught by persons who did not necessarily have to be engaged in educational endeavours. In 1919 an MA degree was instituted in this subject. In 1932 a separate department of Ancient Indian History was formed. Indian Epigraphy, Numismatics, Fine Arts and Iconography constituted segments of the syllabus. Another segment constituted of the Historical geography of Ancient India. This may be seen as a continuity of the tradition of studying the past with the aid of classical texts. The Asutosh Museum of Indian art was established (under the auspices of University) in 1937, and may be considered as the most significant event in the development of this discipline in Bengal. The museums primary objective was to collect and preserve objects belonging to different phases of Indian art, with special emphasis on Bengal, illustrating how museum-building activities were entwined with the growth of archaeology. Under the auspices of the Museum Calcutta University became the first university in the country to undertake excavations at Bangarh in 1938. The excavations continued till 1941 under K.G. Goswami who was the Excavation Officer of the Museum. However, it was only with the establishment of the Department of Archaeology in 1960 that Archaeology received its due importance in the academic syllabus of the University. One of the founders, Professor Sudhiranjan Das, was an eminent archaeologist in his own right, having been trained by Mortimer Wheeler in the Taxila School. Prof. Niharanjan Ray, the noted historian and a co-founder regretted that to scholars of ancient Indian history, numismatists and epigraphists, archaeology has been a source for their source materials, their dependence being more on the discipline of philology and linguistics. It was to remedy these defects that a necessity was felt for a department solely devoted to archaeological pursuits. Till date this remains the only department in the country, standing singly, and not tagged with Ancient Indian History and Culture as is seen in other universities. Ever since its inception, the department has been conducting regular excavation programs of sites ranging from the prehistoric to the medieval period and thereby imparting field training to students. The prehistoric period is being worked upon systematically within a multi-disciplinary perspective. Excavations conducted in Ayodhya hills, Purulia have yielded the first absolute dates from any prehistoric site in the region. In epigraphic and paleographic studies major Pal inscriptions have been discovered and published. Besides, a complete annotated and classified table of all the 115 copper plate inscriptions of Bengal has been prepared. A major archaeological source book of Bankura, West Bengal has been published. A photographic archive of the sculptural art of Early medieval temples of Karnataka is being prepared. A ceramic analysis of early historical sites on the east coast is being pursued to understand cultural interactions.
Thrust areas in teaching and research of the academic department/ centre :
Prehistory of the Indian subcontinent with special focus on Bengal
Early medieval Archaeology
North Indian Sanskrit epigraphy
Art and architecture
Development of Archaeology as a discipline in the colonial period; vernacular history and archaeology in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Bengal
Archaeological theory with special emphasis on landscape archaeology and hunter-gatherer studies
Early history and archaeology of Vietnam
Major activities :
- Organization of a regular series of special lectures from 2015 for MA/M.SC and Ph.D students.
- Excavation of archaeological sites and exploration using new survey techniques
Campus : Alipore (Shahid Kshudiram Siksha Prangan)
Address for communication : 1 Reformatory Street, 7th Floor, Alipur Kolkata 700027