Digging up the past

The Centre for Archaeological Studies and Training, Eastern India or CASTEI, in Kolkata has a formidable set of objectives. In addition to preparing a comprehensive computerized and annotated bibliography for the archaeology of eastern India, they carry out systematic multidisciplinary archaeological research work, conduct courses in areas not adequately covered in the university curriculum and support young research workers and senior scholars for specific work on eastern India.

Clearly, they fill a large gap in the academic curriculum.

The Centre was created in 1995, "to form a common meeting ground in Eastern India for interested researchers from different disciplines belonging to government organizations, academic institutes, local bodies and non-government organizations to discuss and debate our ideas in order to understand our past in a systematic manner."

One of their important activities has to do with research dissemination, and as a consequence they have a vigorous publication programme, bringing out books and monographs with some regularity, and with a wide appeal. A recent title that was reviewed in The Hindu is ARCHAEOLOGY IN INDIA: Individuals, Ideas and Institutions: Edited by Gautam Sengupta and Kaushik Gangopadhyay, the book is a record of the national seminar held in Kolkata in 2005. The 20 essays "provide glimpses of the methods and means adopted by the pioneers in archaeology to unravel India’s past, with the focus on the efforts made during the 19th and 20th centuries. "

From Munshiram Manoharlal, Rs. 1495, 416 pages, ISBN: 9788121512022

Other titles that are of wide interest include Archaeology Of Early Historic South Asia published last year, edited by Gautam Sengupta and Sharmi Chakraborty. "The book focuses on the present state of our understanding of archaeology of the early historic period. It explores archaeological methods-aims, objectives and practices. It addresses key issues that are traditionally associated with early historic archaeology. It tries to understand the changes that have taken place in the past decades due to the emergence of new issues, theories, and methods. Through thirty essays arranged in five sections the book charts through the various issues of early historic archaeology of the subcontinent."

From Pragati Publications, Rs 2195, 604 pages, ISBN: 9788173071218

The Archaeology of Eastern India: New Perspectives "attempts to deal with some of the questions and problems in the archaeology of the region and highlights empirical work currently in progress in diverse areas of Eastern India. Archaeology in Eastern India is fraught with numerous problems. There have been very few systematic field surveys or excavations alongwith a complete lack of multidisciplinary work in this area. We are yet to gain any comprehensive insight into the culture-history of the region. Moreover scholars have rarely critically questioned many concepts, ideas and assumptions which are basic to the understanding of the discipline itself. This book deals with a few of such theoretical problems, the notion of a "site", the debate on style and chronology as well as the importance of tools like ethnoarchaeology and the use of natural sciences in archaeological understanding alongwith a review of current research. This book is a beginning to a more critical and holistic archaeology."

Published by CASTEI, 631 pages, Rs 795. ISBN: 9788190149907

And finally, Eloquent Earth, their most imaginative title. A study of Early Terracottas in the State Archaeological Museum, West Bengal, this book is about "Terracotta plaques and figurines are known from the later part of the 19 century from a number of archaeological sites of West Bengal. Sites like Pandu Rajar Dhibi, Chandraketugarh, Tamluk, Harinarayanpur, or Panna evoke memories of a vibrant artistic tradition that goes back to the Second Millennium B.C. and remained active till the 6 Century A.D.

The State Archaeological Museum, West Bengal is one of the most important repositories of early Bengal Terracottas. Though largely unknown to the connoisseurs of Indian Art, the collection is accessible to the small community of museum professionals.

This volume brings together for the first time all the available information with sensitive black and white illustration of these early Bengal Terracottas."

Also published by CASTEI, 406 pages, Rs. 4000. ISBN: 9788190149983

All the above titles are listed in our Archaeology section.