Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday Tidbits . . .

Title: "Colonial Archaeology in South Asia -- The Legacy of Sir Mortimer Wheeler"
Author: Himanshu Prabha Ray
OUP, 2008

Author has detailed, in the 9 chapters , the birth and growth leading to the establishment of Archaeology as a discipline of study in colonial and post-independent India set in the backdrop of Sir Mortimer Wheeler taking over as Director-General of ASI, his contributions to Indian Archaeology.

Now, let us move to the tidbits.

1. First scientific excavation was done in 1784 Thomas Jefferson, the third President of United States.

2. Earlier name of Rajpath-Janpath is Kingsway-Queensway (carfax).

3. A zoological museum was setup in Madras Christian College, Madras in 1838.

4. Rudyard Kipling's source of information about Buddhist sculpture came from his father Lockwood Kipling who has been a curator of Lahore Museum.

5. Efforts to develop a museum in Madras began in 1819 but did not materialize until 1834 until Madras Literary Society 'requested the government to setup a museum of economic geology'. In 1851, the museum was started in the College of Fort St.George, later shifted to the present site (Egmore) in 1854.

6. First museum collection initiated by the Asiatic Society in 1796.

7. Wheeler, while talking about Indians who had worked with him in various excavations, has special mention for A.Aiyappan, the Superintendent of Madras Museum. 'as a colleague'. Aiyappan, an ethnologist and a student of Malinowski, had accompanied Wheeler to the finds of Arikamedu.

8. The chapter on conservation policy has some interesting details about the policies followed, rifts between CPWD and ASI over who should undertake conservation of the Taj Mahal, memos exchanged between the concerned departmental officers about the legality / illegality of wearing shoes or overshoes by visitors to Taj Mahal, twisting of history by 'guides' and the excessive rates they charged the visiting American officers from USA Air Depot.

9. Snippet of correspondence between ASI Superintendent and the Collector of Chingelput over the protection and conservation of Megaliths in chapter 6 is quite disturbing to read. This extract is part of exchange dated 15 March 1945 and sites the indifferent attitude of governing authorities in allowing quarrying to be done in localities where 'the monuments of the character specified here are particularly found'. Examples of these localities are, Nanmangalam, Guduvancheri.

10. Appendix has two tables A6.1 and A6.2. Former lists 05 sites in the Sriperumbudur taluk for the protection of Megalithic cists and cairns under section 3 of AMP Act of 1904 dated 13 September 1946 and the latter 13 sites in Ponneri and Tiruvallur taluks for the protection of Megalithic cists and cairns with bounding stone circles under section 3 of AMP Act of 1904 dated23 January 1947. All these sites were part of Chingelput district.

If this was the situation 60 years ago, nobody knows what happened to all the finds / excavations in these sites ? How they could have survived the quarrying ?

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