They are game for hard fieldwork in numbing cold weather or under a harsh sun. They are an enthusiastic cosmopolitan lot too. There is Jigme Wangmo from Ladakh, P. Soorya, Mikki S. and Ambily C.S., all from Kerala, Siripuram Rushikesh from Andhra Pradesh, V. Muthukumar from Tamil Nadu, and Disha Ahluwalia from New Delhi. They are all students of the Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi, the academic wing of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), who are taking part in the excavation at the Harappan site of 4MSR. It is a joint exploration that the institute is doing with Excavation Branch-II, ASI, New Delhi.
“The foremost aim of the institute is to provide an opportunity for students to achieve excellence in the field of archaeology,” said Sanjay Kumar Manjul, its Director. The institute, located in Red Fort, offers a two-year postgraduate diploma programme in archaeology.
Mortimer Wheeler, a British archaeologist who was the Director General of the ASI from 1944 to 1948, was the first to conceive the idea of a training school for archaeology in India. Under his guidance, the ASI organised a training school in 1944 at Taxila to offer the basics of technical training in the subject. Later, Amalananda Ghosh led the efforts to establish the School of Archaeology in 1959. Professor B.B. Lal was its first Director.
The curriculum offered is a good blend of theory and practicals. Along with classroom education, importance is given to fieldwork too. “It is a very large curriculum, covering many subjects such as Principles and Methods of Archaeology, Application of Science in Archaeology, Pre-History, Proto-History, Art and Iconography, Epigraphy and Numismatics, Museology, Structural Conservation of Monuments, Chemical Preservation of Monuments, and so on,” said Manjul. Other subjects that are taught include surveying, drawing, exploration and excavation, photography, moulding, antiquarian laws, modelling, and heritage and environmental management, and administration and accounts. Practical training is given in most of these subjects. There are study tours for 30 days for each batch of students, which entail visits to archaeological sites and monuments. The students actively take part in excavations. Manjul is proud that the institute’s students played a major role in the excavation of three major sites—Thaneshwar, near Kurukshetra, Haryana, and the Harappan sites of Dholavira in Gujarat and Rakhigarhi in Haryana.
Fifteen or 16 students are admitted every year. They include students from colleges and universities in India and other SAARC and some ASEAN countries like Myanmar and Thailand and archaeologists from the ASI and State Archaeology departments.
Some of the ASI’s top archaeologists such as B.B. Lal, Amalananda Ghosh, R.S. Bisht, B.M. Pande and Amarendra Nath were Directors of the Institute of Archaeology.