Archaeology (also spelt archeology and archæogy ) is the science of studying human cultures through the recovery, analysis and documentation of material remains and environmental data, like architecture, artefacts, features, landscapes and biofacts. The term is derived from the Greek words 'archaios' meaning ancient and 'logos' meaning knowledge.
Archaeology is often a multidisciplinary subject, integrating the knowledge of history, geography and anthropology with geology, chemistry, art and literature. Archaeologists try to learn about previous generations especially those in the distant past stretching from those as far back in time as the Indus valley civilisation to more recent historical periods like the Middle Ages in Europe. An archaeologist tries to study historical periods in their time and find out about the lives of its people and the characteristics of its cultures. Archaeologists are driven by a passion for history and the cultures of the past. Archaeologists try to rediscover history and reinterpret history. It can be an exciting career choice.
Nature of Work
The work involves spending a lot of time at the site of excavation. One has to camp at the site and stay there for months at a time while working on the project. The work involves carefully excavating the artefacts, then cleaning them, preserving them and studying them. One therefore has to have some knowledge about the historical conditions of the time and place, the geographical conditions of the area both in the past and at present, anthropological matter, a bit of chemistry for safely excavating and preserving the artefacts. Study of the artefacts often requires the knowledge of other languages, some even dead languages as well as knowledge of the culture of that period including some knowledge of its artistic forms. Some different archaeological sciences are as follows:Archaeometry, Dendrochronology, Isotope analysis, Palynology, Radiocarbon dating, Zooarchaeology, Geoarchaeology, Bioarchaeology, Archaeogenetics and Computational Archaeology. The nature of work thus involves a lot of scientific work as well.
Archaeologists need to be of a tenacious personality. They need to be patient enough to work very slowly and carefully at the excavation sites. Sometimes, entire buildings are cleaned with small brushes. Therefore, it can take years on one project. Archaeologists need to have that tenacity to stay focussed on a project in spite of its length. The excavations are funded by other organisations. Sometimes, the funding may stop for a while. Archaeologists also need to have the special personality to not be completely crushed under the suspension of a long project but rather have the mental strength to resume work as and when possible.
The eligibility for the master's courses is a bachelor's degree in Archaeology, History, Anthropology, Sociology, Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Botany or zoology. Contact the colleges and universities to find out if any other subject at the bachelor's level is acceptable or not at that particular college or university.
Colleges, Institutions and Universities
Archaeology is offered at the Bachelor's level by some colleges and universities. Some of them are as follows. The list is not exhaustive.
- Under Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam:
The full list of colleges offering degree courses in Archaeology can be had from the Public Relations Officer, Mahatma Gandhi University, Priyadarshini Hills PO, Kottayam - 686 560 (Phone: 0481- 2731020).
- U.C. College, Aluva;
- Assumption College, Chandganacherry ;
- St. Thomas College, Pala.
- Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi;
- M.S. University Baroda;
- Barakatulla Vishwa Vidhyalaya, Bhopal;
- Marathwada University, Aurangabad
A lot of institutes offer archaeology at the master's level. Some of them are as follows:
- Allahabad University, Allahabad - 211 002
- Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam - 530 003
- AP Singh University, Rewa - 486 003
- Bangalore University, Bangalore - 560 056
- BHU, Varanasi - 221 005
- Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj University, Kanpur - 208 024
- Deccan College of Post Graduate and Research Institute, Yervada, Pune - 411 006
- Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur - 9
- Dr.Harisingh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar - 470 003, MP
- Dr.B.S.Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad
- Gujarat University, Ahmedabad - 380 009
- HN Bahuguna Garhwal University, Srinagar - 246 174
- Kurushetra University, Kurukshetra - 136 119
- Mangalore University, Mangalagangothri - 574 199
- MS University of Baroda, Vadodara - 390 002
- Nagpur University, Nagpur - 440 001
- North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon - 425 002
- Osmania University, Hyderabad - 500 007
- Patna University, Patna - 800 005
- Punjab University, Chandigarh - 160 014
- Purvanchal University, Jaunpur - 222 002
- Rani Durgavati Vishva Vidyalaya, Jabalpur - 482 001
- University of Calcutta, Calcutta - 700 073
- University of Madras, Chennai - 600 005
- University of Mysore, Nagarjuna Nagar - 522 510
- University of Pune, Pune - 411 007
- Visva Bharati, Santiniketan -731 235
Contact these colleges and universities to find out whether they offer archaeology at the bachelor's level. The bachelor's courses are of three years in duration and the master's courses of two years.
Post Graduate Diploma in Archaeology (PGDA), a course in two years is offered by
the Archaeological Survey of India, Institute of Archaeology, 24-Tilak Marg,
New Delhi - 110 001. Those who have completed an M.A. in Ancient/Medieval
Indian History or an M.A./M.Sc in Archaeology with 55% marks are eligible for the course. (50% for SC/ST/OBC) The upper age limit is 27 years. Candidates have to appear for a written test and an interview. Applications are invited in June and the academic session starts in October.
Then there are two special programmes in Archaeology are offered by the Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management, 18-A, Satsang Vihar, Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi - 67. The courses are called:
- Master in Conservation, Preservation and Heritage Management, and
- Master in Archaeology and Heritage Management
These courses are of two years in length. The courses begin in July.
Those who have a Bachelor's degree in Archaeology, History, Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Museology, Geology, Anthropology/B.E, B.Arch, B.Town Planning are eligible for this course. The candidates are admitted after passing a competitive written test.
Like most other subjects, archaeology too has a large number of sub-disciplines. One can specialise in a particular field after doing the basics of an archaeology course. Some of these specialisation areas are characterised by a specific type of material (like archaeobotany, lithic analysis, music), chronological or geographical focus (like Medieval archaeology, Near Eastern archaeology), other thematic areas (like maritime archaeology, battlefield archaeology, landscape archaeology) or a specific archaeological culture or civilisation (like Indology, Egyptology).
Some other specialisations of archaeology are as follows. Historical archaeology is the study of cultures with some form of writing. Ethnoarchaeology is archaeological study of living people. Experimental archaeology is the application of experimental methods to develop highly controlled observations of processes to create and impact archaeological records. Archaeometry aims to systematise archaeological measurement by emphasising application of analytical techniques from engineering, physics and chemistry.
Career Growth and Prospects
Since Archaeology is a specialised branch of study, the career prospects are very good. In India, archaeologists have a very rich field for work as Indian civilisation goes back thousands of years.
The remuneration is around Rs 8,000 for JRFs. For lecturers, the remuneration varies between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000. Readers and Professors are paid even more. For archaeologists within the Archaeological Survey of India and the state archaeology departments, the remuneration is equal to that of civil servants. In addition there are a lot of perks. For museum curators, the remuneration is very high. Most archaeologists find jobs in governmental organisations. Such government jobs are not only well paid but also come with a lot of perks. Also, government jobs are seen as prestigious jobs.
Archaeologists are often required to travel to other countries to work on overseas projects. Archaeologists working in private museums and galleries are also granted a high remuneration in comparison to most other jobs.
How to find a Job?
One can find jobs in the state Archaeological departments by appearing for the State Public Service Commission examinations. Similarly, one can find a job with the Archaeological Survey of India by successfully clearing the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examinations. The National Museum in New Delhi, the state Museums and the National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage also employ archaeologists. Research and training is also possible at the Indian Council of Historical Research. One can also teach in various colleges and universities. Those who have got an M.A. degree in archaeology with at least 55 per cent marks can appear for the University Grants Commission (UGC)'s National Eligibility Test (NET)/ Junior Research Fellow (JRF)-Lectureship examination. Those who also qualify for Junior Research Fellowship can study for a doctorate degree with a paid fellowship. Alternatively, one can appear for the State Level Eligibility Test (SLET) which allows successful candidates the opportunity to teach in colleges and universities within that state. Initially, one is appointed to the post of a lecturer after successfully clearing the SLET or NET.