An Autonomous Institution of the Govt. of West Bengal


22nd National Seminar 2017

Anthropology for Archaeology

Anthropology is the study of humankind. The goals of anthropology are shared by other disciplines within the social, behavioral, and biological sciences. It integrates the findings of many disciplines, including sociology, economics, history, psychology, and biology. Conventionally it includes four branches or sub-disciplines: cultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and physical anthropology (also called biological anthropology). No anthropologist is expected to be an expert in all four branches. However, anthropologists in all four areas and with very different interests should acknowledge the diversity of humankind in all contexts and use research tools and inferences from all branches to get holistic picture of bio-cultural evolution and variation of extinct and extant human populations. Yet, in most of the Indian universities anthropology (cultural + physical), linguistics, and archaeology are taught as separate and independent subjects, having no or very little interaction with each other. 

 Archaeology is the most neglected discipline in anthropological spheres. In   fact archaeology is the study of earlier cultures and life ways by   anthropologists who specialize in the scientific recovery, analysis, and   interpretation of the material remains of past societies. Although   archaeologists are concerned with culture, they don’t study living people.   Instead, they study the artifacts left behind by earlier societies and people.   The surviving evidence of bygone human occupation (e.g. dwellings tools,   potsherds, animal and plant remains, other items of material culture, etc.)   can tell us many things about these and many other important characteristics   of the society that created them. In a way archaeologists are the   anthropologists of the past, in the sense that they seek to reassemble bio-   cultural aspects of the past societies.  Archaeologists also try to decipher the   processes behind past human behaviors, for example, why people lived where   they did, why some people are hunter-gatherers or pastoral-agricultural, why   some societies were simple and others complex, and so on. Patterns of   behavior are reflected in the dispersal of human settlements across a   landscape and in the distribution of cultural remains within them.

 There are several ways in which research tools of anthropology can be used   for decoding the past. Few such issues will be discussed in the Seminar, with   the primary objective of stimulating anthropological research for archaeology needs.  

Anthropological archaeology is a social science concerned with the explanation of human behavior and sociocultural change as well as with the development of laws and general theory. It involves the adoption and redefinition of the culture concept, a synthesis of cultural ecology, structural functionalism, and cultural materialism, the emergence of a new set of assumptions about the proper goals of archaeology.

Human evolution cannot be properly understood unless related biological and cultural evidence is studied collectively. Palaeoanthropology is the combination and a sub-discipline of paleontology and biological anthropology. It is the study of the formation and the development of the specific biological and cultural characteristics of humans over time and the reconstruction of evolutionary kinship lines in the family Hominidae by studying fossils and associated cultural evidence.

Palaeopathology is the study of the evolution and progress of disease through long periods of time. Combining biological and cultural data, it aims to examine how humans adapted to change in their environment. The pattern of disease or injury that affects any group of people is never a matter of chance. It is not only the expression of stresses to which they were exposed but also reflects their genetic inheritance, the climate in which they lived, the soil that gave them sustenance and the animals or plants around. Their daily occupation, dietary habits, their choice of dwellings and clothes, their social structure and even their customs influence their morbidity pattern. 


1.        Theoretical issues in anthropological archaeology 

2.        The conceptual aspects of Human Evolution. 

3.        Demographic and evolutionary of skeletal studies in India.

4.        palaeopathological evidence in Indian protohistoric skeletal series.



Prof. Vinay Srivastava (Director, Anthropological Survey of India), 

Prof. D.K. Bhattacharya (Prof. (Rtd.), Department of Anthropology,  University  of Delhi)

Prof. Subhash R. Walimbe (Prof. (Rtd.) University of Pune)

Dr. Veena Mushrif-Tripathy (Associate Professor, Deccan College Research  Institute, Pune)











National Seminar 2013

Text and Archaeology: Sites and Settlements

Understanding human past is a complex process. Archaeologists have devised methodologies involving different disciplines to formulate strategies for such endeavour. From the time when text becomes available they are used in reconstruction of past. This reconstruction of past on the basis of text is generally known as history. But unlike any other discipline relation between archaeology and history is not always complimentary it can be contradictory also. One is evolved out of material remains and other from text and oral traditions. Within the group of professionals who use this combined method one may distinguish those archaeologists who use text for better interpretation of material culture and historians who use archaeological documents. There is also a group for whom material and text are equally important like those working on epigraphy and iconography.

In Indian context use of text begins at early historic period roughly dated to 600 bce onwards. Before that phase many scholars would prefer to call a period of uncertainty and germination of history as Proto-history. Indus Valley has many inscribed sealings yet to be deciphered to everyone’s satisfaction. Many early texts have their origin much before early historic phase. The Rig Veda and the core of Mahabharata might have originated before 1000 bce. The relationship between archaeology and text starts in these years and flows through time through early medieval, medieval and early modern periods.

Using text in interpretation of Indian archaeology is not new. It started in the days of Alexander Cunningham. His exploration in North India and use of Fa Hien and Huien Tsang is well known. From then onward a lot of archaeological work has been done using different kinds of text. Western Classical text, Indian religious texts and secular texts, Chinese text, travelers accounts, biographies, dynastic chronicals or vamsavalis or colonial accounts have been referred to mostly to support archaeological data. In this seminar we wish to evaluate the process critically. Scholars doing historical archaeology are aware that using text is not a simple process. While at the same time to ignore a potential source of evidence could have an adverse impact on the quality of research.

Therefore there is a need for reflection on the process of our research. To strike a balance between uncritical handling of valuable source and distancing oneself from sheer suspicion. It is also accepted that method could be specific to particular problem. Nature of text through time as well as space is endowed with its own characteristics that archaeologists must address. However we are specialized in material culture and mostly depend on experts on that field for our understanding and interpretation of the record. It may be even more dangerous when one use an uncritical reading of text whether done by self or another author. This is a potentially fluid area as we sometime fail to recognize that like archaeological material the analysis of text is also continuing and evolving.

This Seminar would like to become such a platform where we may discuss these issues. This may be through generalized approach to methodological issues or through more specific case studies. For want of time, since the scope of the topic is vast, we are confining our focus on site and settlement. We do not want to restrict the theme to a period because we want to bring out the complex relationship archaeology has with text.



1.      Methodological issues in Text and Archaeology: This session will deal with more generalized questions on use of text its problems and prospects, history of such issues etc.

2.      The formative period of text and archaeology: this session aims to mark the transition from protohistoric phase to the early historic, problems and prospects of using Vedas and other pre 600 bc text.

3.      Complimentary past: This concerns issues which are addressed properly when archaeology and text are used together

4.      Supplementary past: There are times when either archaeology or text plays the most important role and the other is used to fill up few gaps or to emphasize the point further

Contradicting past: Within the historic phase whether early or late it is not always that text and archaeology confirms each other.


Participants: Dr. Sudeshna Guha (University of Cambridge), Dr. Jaya Menon (Shiv Nader University), Varada Khaladkar (University of Calcutta), Rajat Sanyal(University of Calcutta), Prof. Y. Subbarayalu, Dr. B.K. Choudhury (K.P. Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna), Dr. S. K. Aruni (then ICHR presently University of Hyderabad), Prof. A. P. Jamkhedkar (University of Bombay), Dr. Sunil Gupta (University of Allahabad), Dr. Kurush Dalal (University of Bombay)




National Seminar 2012

The Enduring Landscapes

A landscape can be termed as those environmental qualities which define patchiness for terrestrial organism and include landform (geomorphology, and geological parent material), soils, vegetation physiognomy, and micro or local climate. Archaeological research adopting a ‘landscape approach’ attempts to study sites not in isolation but in reference to landscapes that becomes the context of those sites. A landscape approach, in the opinion of many archaeologists, in the first place, reflects more accurately the totality of human activities and provides a more representative basis for the reconstruction of past human behaviour. Second, it allows for more accurate definition of artefact clusters that may represent intensive areas, traditionally known as site. And third, this approach gives full meaning to the hitherto neglected ‘off-site’ cultural residues and paleoenvironmental data. It has also been suggested that landscape archaeology had its foundation in archaeological fieldwork whereas it was advanced by historians and geographers.

These landscapes are more than mere physical or ecological entities. Landscapes, as real world phenomenon allows individuals to project culture into nature. Thus, study of landscape is not purely scientific but also humanistic. In geography, this idea transpires as phenomenology that is, people’s ‘lived world’ of experience. The humanistic approach emphasizes the study of meanings, values, goals and purposes. Here, space is converted to place, defined as a centre of meaning or a focus of human emotional attachments. The ‘phenomenology of landscape’ is difficult to explore through archaeology alone. For this, one needs to rely on history, social theory, etc.

Surpris ingly, there has been little discussion in Indian archaeology on the landscape approaches. This is despite the fact that India is home to immense ecological diversities and diversities in communities and ethnic groups. Secondly, one comes across meanings which people continuously attach to the landscape they inhabit. These are documented in ethnography but seldom explored in archaeology. Is there a scope to bridge this gap?

Ancient Tamil poems also known as Sangam poems landscapes are part of daily human existence. The unknown poets depict landscapes and human emotions through vivid imageries, and give us a glimpse of the ancient cognition of landscapes.

Archaeological research makes a foray into these ancient landscapes through textual sources, architectural remains, ancient settlements patterns.  The megaliths or ancient burials dotting the landscapes throughout major part of peninsular India, evoke a sense of a landscape that has the impinged upon by humans. How we interpret them is a matter of concern. In his latest article, K. Paddayya, states that importance of the landscape approach in studying of ancient agro-pastoral communities in India. There is very good scope of applying this approach to real archaeological research designs.

Landscapes are also part of modern literature, giving us insights into the past. One may recall the famous Bengali novel ‘Aranayak’ by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay where a tribal king is depicted as one with the landscape around him that it becomes part of his existence. The ancestral burial of the tribal king reminds us of the megaliths that one finds in archaeological contexts. The tribal concept of kingship and territoriality is in stark contrast to the landlord in the novel who sees the land only as units of a commodity.

One can see the close parallel between this novel and transition from chiefdoms of the Iron Age to the kingdoms or states of early historic or early medieval India. In the later scenario land grants make explicit provision for marking boundaries or territorialities especially with the expansion of agriculture and trade, in the earlier societies with lesser dependence on agriculture, the landscape could have been more permeable and concepts of territory could have been more fluid. In medieval period the landscapes are even more altered under feudal land tenures and ultimately converging and colluding with colonial period where managing landscapes became means of exploitation.

Another ideological aspect to landscape studies is study of the sacred landscapes in India. Dominant religious ideologies have also appropriated landscapes through texts and built structures like temples. For example during the early historic period, Buddhists carved out caves and made places of worship and residence for the monks in the mountains and along trade routes joining towns along great river valleys of India. There is a scope to have a discussion on religious landscapes of India at different time period.

Keeping the above factors in mind, the Centre proposes to host a Seminar on the above theme. The following broad themes may be included in the Seminar:


·                     Landscapes and Archaeology: Theoretical overviews.

·                     Ancient Settlement patterns and landscapes.

·                     Landscape studies and cognitive approaches in archaeology.

·                     Landscapes and religious ideologies in India.

·                     Ethnography of landscapes.

These broad sessions can be farther subdivided into sub-sections.


Participants: Eminent scholars like Prof. K. Paddayya, Deccan College, Pune,  Prof. Jullian Thomas, University of Manchester, Manchester, Dr Roland D’ Silva, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, Prof. Kathleen Morrison, University of Chicago, Dr A. P. Jamkhedkar, former Director, Department of Archaeology, Maharashtra, Prof. Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay, Jadavpur University, Prof. K. Rajan, Pondicherry University, Dr Swadhin Sen, Jahangir Nagar University, Dacca, Dr V. Selvakumar, Tamil Nadu University, Dr Suraj Pandit, Sathaye College, Mumbai, Prof. Nalini Thakur, Delhi, Sri Sujit Dasgupta, former DDG, GSI, Prof. Shanta Dutta, Presidency College, Kolkata, Prof. Sunando Bandyopadhyay, Dr Bishnupriya Basak, Dr Sharmishta Chatterjee, Ms. Varada Khaladkar, University of Calcutta, and Ms Oishi Roy, M.S. University, Vadodara presented papers and discussed about different aspects like textual sources, architectural remains etc. of landscape archaeology. It proved to be a great opportunity for young scholars to present their work and benefited from the advice of experienced scholars.


National Seminar 2011

Archaeological Excavations in India: New Perspectives

This Seminar will attempt at exploring the different perspectives of archaeologists towards excavation as a tool and method of understanding the past in India. Therefore, the fundamental issue of this seminar is to highlight the aims and objectives of excavations adopted by different archaeologists and why these were adopted in the first place. Excavation reports per se form a part of the discourse but the emphasis is given on the following points. Firstly, the choice of the site/sites to be excavated is subjective to the questions being asked by the investigator. It is important that excavations are never conducted based on purely arbitrary grounds but after careful study of the surface of the site including surface artefacts and local geomorphology. Excavations may range from large scale horizontal operations to smaller vertical trial trenches.  These, too, are depended on the variables that are to be recorded by the investigators and the level of knowledge that we may decide to gain of the past. ‘Wheelarian’ method is followed by most of the archaeologists in India whereas the western archaeologists generally follow a method known as ‘Harris Matrix’ introduced by Edward Harris to deal with complex sites. The theoretical goals differ as much as the methods followed by archaeologists adopting these different ‘excavation strategies’. Generally, there are two major theoretical schools of archaeology, processualists with their emphasis on ecology and environment, and the post processualists with their emphasis on ideational trends, and the ‘interpretive’ approach. It will be an anachronistic statement to make that archaeologist in India does need to orient themselves to these theoretical problems and the evidence could be attributed to ‘çommon sense’ or by explaining the phenomenon of pottery change only through diffusion or migration. The formation process research is an important part of an excavation that is never adequately addressed by competent field archaeologists in India. The equally important strategy of ‘middle range research’ espoused by Louis Binford, could be utilized by the Indian excavators as a heuristic devise to interpret past cultures. The domain of ethnoarchaeology has remained marginal to the mainstream programme of most explorations and excavations being employed in a rather restricted fashion.  Ethnoarchaeological research should try and bridge the gap between the data and theory strengthening our ‘interpretation’ or ‘testing of hypotheses’ with regard to past cultures exhumed through excavations.

Excavations may suffer from, and it is true for almost all cases, funds constrain. Lastly and not the least, the methods and interpretations from excavations are depended on the Institutions that undertake the task. Official archaeological bodies such as the Archaeological Survey of India, for instance, at times follow Government orders to suit the need of the nation. Smaller Institutions and University Departments focus on much restricted areas but at times are more focused.

In this seminar, our main emphasis will be on papers that focus on the above issues. The papers report not only findings but also address certain broader issues related to problems in archaeology.


Participants: Prof. K. Paddayya (Deccan College Pune), Prof. Vasant Shinde(Deccan College Pune), Dr. V. Selvakumar (University of Tanjavur), Dr. Prabodh Shirvalkar (Deccan College Pune), Dr. Ravindra N. Singh (Banaras Hindu University) Prof. R. K. Mohanty (Deccan College Pune), Prof. K. P. Rao (Birla Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Studies), Prof. K. Rajan(University of Pondicherry), Dr. Anup Ranjan Mishra (University of Bareilly), Dr. G. Maheshwari (Archaeological Survey of India), Dr. A. S. Gaur (Institute of Marine Archaeology Goa), Dr Suchira Roychoudhury (then of CASTEI presently in Visva Bharati), Prof. Supriya Varma (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Dr. Rakesh Tewari (then of Directorate of Archaeology Uttarakhand presently in ASI), and Dr. S. K. Mitra(Archaeological Survey of India).


International Seminar 2011

The Ports of the Indian Ocean, from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Bengal

Centre organized an International Seminar on ‘The Ports of the Indian Ocean, from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Bengal’ in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India, Indian Museum, Kolkata, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Kolkata, Maison de l’Orient et de la Mediterranee Jean Pouilloux, and ANR Medlan from 23 to 27 February 2011.

His Excellency, the Ambassador of France in India, Mr Jerome Bonnafont, Guest of Honour delivered a speech. Mr Jean-Louis Rysto, Consul General of France graced the occasion. Professor Barun De, former Chairman, Heritage Commission of West Bengal and former Vice-Chairman of the Centre presided over the function.

There were eight major sessions of the seminar: (a) Sources and Maps up to Portuguese Period, (b) Archaeology and History of Ports in India, (c) Ports of the Red Sea in Antiquity, (d) Arabia, Africa and India: Written Sources and Settlements, (e) Ports of the Red Sea and India in Medieval Times, (f) Ports of the Persian Gulf and the Bay of Bengal, (g) Ancient Ports of Sri Lanka, and (h) Ancients Ports of Southern India. Twenty-six participants from abroad including eminent scholars and young researchers and ten participants from India presented papers on the conference theme. They also visited the erstwhile French town at Chandannagar, Hugli district.

Dr Gautam Sengupta, Director General, Archaeological Survey of India, delivered the Valedictory address.


National Seminar 2010

Prehistory of South Asia

The foundation day oration was delivered by Professor Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, formerly of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) on ‘The Concept of Indian Civilization: Approaches in History and Other Social Sciences’. Professor Barun De, former Vice-Chairman of the Centre was the Chairperson. Justice Chittatosh Mookerjee was the Guest-in-Chief. This function was held on 8 November 2010 in collaboration with Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), Kolkata.

Fifteenth Annual Seminar of the Centre on Prehistory of South Asia was organized from 26 to 28 November 2010 in collaboration with the Indian Museum, Kolkata. On this occasion the Centre felicitated Professor S. N. Rajaguru, renowned geoarchaeologist and former Joint Director of the Deccan College Post Graduate & Research Institute, Pune and Sri Buddhadev Bhattacharya who is a leading editor and has worked for renowned publishing houses such as McMillan. He was the executive advisor of ICPR and also the editorial advisor of IIAS, Shimla. The journal Pratna Samiksha, New Series 1, was released by Professor K. Paddayya, former Emirates Professor of Archaeology, Deccan College Post Graduate & Research Institute, Pune.  

The theme of the seminar was chosen to commemorate a hundred and fifty years of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. There were five major sessions of the seminar: (a) Environmental issues in prehistory of South Asia, (b) Testing new grounds: Recent theoretical advances and possibilities of their application in South Asia, (c) Breaking new grounds: Recent advances in methodology, (d) Perceptions of the Past, and (e) Recent explorations and excavations.

Participants:Eminent Scholars and young researchers like Prof. S. N. Rajaguru, Prof. K. Paddayya, Prof. G. L. Badam, Prof. Sheila Mishra, Dr Sushama Deo, Prof. R. Dennell, Prof. M. L. K Murty, Prof. Vidula Jayaswal, Dr V. Selvakumar, Prof. J. N. Pal, Dr Shanti Pappu, Dr Parth Chauhan, Dr Neetu Agarwal, Dr Sukanya Sharma, Dr Bishnupriya Basak, Prof. Anura Manatunga, Dr Kumar Akhilesh, Dr Tia Toshi Jamir, and Prof. Syed Mohammad Kamrul Ahsan had participated and presented their papers.


Prehistory of South Asia
Seminar 2010

This was the 15th Annual Seminar of the Centre. The theme was ‘Prehistory of South Asia’. The main aim was to highlight explorations and excavations in different parts of South Asia. There was a need to highlight areas which have been the subject of substantial research for further development.
Bhatpara Takarnath Balika Vidyalaya

CASTEI will be organizing a series of outreach programs at different schools and colleges to create awareness for heritage and archaeology. The first of the awareness programme was held at Bhatpara Takarnath Balika Vidyalaya on 7/1/2013-8/1/2013.