|Rich find: An excavation at Bangad, North Dinajpur, West Bengal
Do you ever wonder how people in the ancient and medieval ages lived' Does everything old fascinate you' Was history your favourite subject in school' If so, you could consider studying archaeology and making some exciting discoveries.
Archaeology is the scientific study of physical evidence of past human societies recovered through excavation. Archaeologists not only attempt to discover and describe past cultures, but also formulate explanations for the development of cultures. It can be an extremely interesting field of study that quenches your curiosity about the past. It is a multi-disciplinary science involving a great deal of training in subjects like chemistry, anthropology, geology, etc.
Learning about past civilisations involves knowing every aspect ' lifestyle, architecture, socio-economic and cultural influences, etc. This makes archaeology engrossing and fulfilling, as well as one of the most demanding and competitive branches of social sciences.
What do I have to do'
Archaeologists are like detectives, in the sense that they investigate clues to look for answers. Archaeologists work at a dig site in a team to gather data, and then spend the majority of their time in labs analysing that data. They eventually write reports on their findings for other people to read about and learn from.
Most archaeological sites are situated in extreme temperature zones. You will often have to spend hours there, carefully dusting a fragment of a Harappan building with a toothbrush or examining thousands of tiny, nearly identical chipped stone axes.
One of the major aspects of the job is epigraphy. This involves taking ink impressions of ancient inscriptions on copper plates, stupas, rocks, monuments, etc., and deciphering them. Equally important is numismatics, which is the study of old coins, paper money and items such as medals to understand and restructure the past.
What should I study'
First of all, you must be genuinely interested in ancient culture and history. You need to be inquisitive, perceptive, meticulous, patient and willing to work hard. Good physical stamina is extremely important. You can take up archaeology as one of the subjects at the bachelors level. For this, you need to have studied history in Class XII. For an MA, you should have completed your BA in archaeology, history or other related areas like anthropology.
There are ample opportunities in education and research institutes. Most archaeologists work at major universities teaching archaeology, history, or anthropology, as this is one way to earn a living between research grants and excavations. When they are not teaching, many archaeologists are working on digs far from home.
You can also find work at museums, the Archaeological Survey of India or the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa. For an archaeologist, posts involving fieldwork are: director of an archaeological unit, archaeological field officer or inspector of ancient monuments. You could work as an archaeological conservator and investigate, analyse and preserve cultural objects. As a heritage manager, you will have to market, manage and maintain sites of historic interest within local authorities and large private estates; and as a historic buildings inspector or conservation officer, you will inspect and report on buildings of historic or architectural significance and advise statutory bodies on scheduling issues and regulatory positions.
You may also work as a consultant or on a freelance basis. Some other career options in archaeology are: museum or art gallery curator who cares for collections, displays objects, produces catalogues and researches the collection; museum education officer who devises, plans and implements education and learning programmes to engage public interest; museum or gallery exhibitions officer who plans and organises exhibitions.
Dissemination of information about archaeological exploration through the National Geographic and Discovery channels have generated awareness and interest in this field which augurs well for the future of archaeological studies. Your career portfolio can certainly include freelance writing, photography and filming, etc.
Where to study
• Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management, Delhi
• Institute of Archaeology, Delhi
• Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam 530003
• Bangalore University, Bangalore 560056
• Gujarat University, Ahmedabad 380009
• Osmania University, Hyderabad 500 007
• Punjab University, Chandigarh 160014
• University of Calcutta, Calcutta 700 073
• University of Madras, Chennai 600005