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Past perfect

education Updated: Jun 25, 2013 18:59 IST


The lowdown

Archaeology is about studying and understanding the past so that we can fathom our present better. It’s a study of ancient human societies and behaviour through material ruins such as fossils, foodgrains, texts, utensils, tools, weapons, ornaments, terracotta art, etc acquired systematically through excavation of ancient sites and analysis. In this discipline, you can learn about museology, epigraphy, numismatics (study of coins), archives, inscriptions, and manuscripts as well. There are numerous career options for archaeologists in India and abroad. You can work as archaeologists, heritage conservators, numismatists, archivists, epigraphists, site guides, curators or lecturers. A field archaeologist spends as much as 90% of his time in the field collecting what is called material culture which includes artefacts, ecofacts (biological remains), etc. Ten to 15% of his time goes in the lab, library, interpreting the data and writing reports and papers

The typical day of archaeologists is as follows:
For those not on site
9am: Reach office
10am: Finish administrative or teaching work
11am: Visit designated sites
1.30pm: Lunch
2pm: In the laboratory, analyse data. Go to the library for research. Write report on site visit
4pm: Meetings and review of work
6pm: Leave for home
For those doing fieldwork
8am: Reach site; start work; supervise digging by labourers; take photographs of the excavation; carefully pick and pack excavated material (fossil, utensils, coins, clothes, etc) and transport them to the lab
1pm: Review work
1.30pm: Lunch in the camp
5pm: Take a round of the site
6pm: Wind up for the day

The ­payoff
The basic pay scale of an assistant archaeologist employed with the Archaeological Survey of India is Rs. 9,000 to Rs. 15,000 a month. A doctoral degree in this field means a higher pay scale. A doctorate is a must if one wants recognition as an archaeologist. An assistant professor in a Central university draws about Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 45,000 a month

* A deep interest in and knowledge of history
* You should be a voracious reader, with a perceptive and probing mind

Getting there
Graduates in any discipline can pursue a postgraduate diploma or degree in archaeology. Preference is given to graduates in history, and other social sciences like sociology and anthropology. Anyone interested in research must have a postgraduate degree in history. Some universities in the country (such as the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda) also offer archaeology as a subject at the undergraduate level. Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi; Patna University, and the University of Ajmer also offer BA courses in archival science

Institutes and URLs
* Deccan College (deemed ­university for postgraduate teaching and research), Pune
* Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
* Patna University
* Panjab University, Chandigarh
* Maharaji Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara

Pros and cons
* This is a dream career for those who love exploring ruins, monuments and relics
* Too much travel, work in open air, remote, dangerous areas

It is a dynamic area to work in since it provides a link between the past and the present and also deals with the contemporary and changing times --- Sharada Srinivasan, professor, ­National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science campus