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Want to be an archaeologist? Here's what you need

Going back: Archaeologists live in the past, searching for, discovering and retelling stories of lost people, civilisations and cities

education Updated: May 06, 2015 18:12 IST
Rozelle Laha
Rozelle Laha
Hindustan Times
Archaeology,Research Institute,Fatehpur Sikri

Without archaeologists, the history and traditions of the world’s civilisations would have always remained a mysytery. Their work entails meticulous surveying and documenting of remains from the past and maintaining heritage sites.

Pratap Bhanu Singh Sengar, the former director (monuments) of the Archaeological Survey of India was introduced to archaeology by his college principal. His contribution towards maintaining the Taj Mahal as a tourist friendly monument fetched him the National Award of Excellence by the ministry of tourism in the nineties.
“The biggest challenge was to ensure that the monument was taken care of without inconveniencing the visitors. Visitors have high expectations when they come to visit a popular heritage site and we had to make sure, we live up to them,” says Sengar.

Several measures were taken by his team to ensure better maintenance and visitor facilities at the Taj Mahal. Some of these included the shifting of car and scooter parking from the Taj premises and closing the monument one day in a week for special maintenance.

Sengar also carried out excavations at Mehtab Bagh, situated opposite to the Taj Mahal across the river Yamuna. He has an interesting story to recount about the ‘Black Taj’ myth associated with the Taj Mahal. According to the French traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan intended to build his own tomb, in black, to contrast with the white Taj at Mehtab Bagh. The construction work was interrupted by his son Aurangzeb, who dethroned Shah Jahan and imprisoned him. The entire site was abandoned and later there was thick silting everywhere. Without any authorisation, the local farmers were also cultivating crops on half of the monument area while the other half had an overgrowth of wild grass and bushes. “The site was taken up for excavation by ASI under my direction. The excavation brought to light the most significant remains of a chahar or char bagh consisting of pavilions, corner towers, a gateway, and an octagonal and central water pool with fountains. This finding provided a basic idea of the original layout design and also suggested that the garden was a part of the Taj Mahal complex, since its alignment and dimensions tallied with the Taj,” says Sengar. A garden was developed by the ASI’s Horticulture Branch based on the evidences obtained from the excavations of the site as a part of a ‘green belt’ to guard the Taj Mahal from pollution.

Sengar has also conducted excavation activities at Fatehpur Sikri to expose the patterns of medieval town planning. Extensive research was done on the settlements of the Kushan period and the town planning patterns of the early medieval period. He had also led a team at a conference in Seoul, Korea to discuss the impact of tourism on historic villages.

Sengar has graduated in science from Government Science College, Gwalior, and pursued a master’s in archaeology from Jiwaji University, Gwalior. He has also done a postgraduate diploma in archaeology from School of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India in 1976.

All you need to know about a career in Archaeology

Archaeology is the scientific study of the history of past activities. An archaeologist often makes important discoveries through explorations and excavations to generate new information and unfolds myths associated with historical places. They also maintain and manage archaeological sites, ancient and historical monuments and museums throughout the country.

* Institute of Archaeology, Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi,
* Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Pune,
* Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management, New Delhi,

Those with history as a subject in class 12 can opt for a BA in archaeology in their respective state universities. To be eligible for a postgraduate degree in the field, one needs to pursue a BA/BSc in subjects like ancient Indian history, culture and archaeology, anthropology , geography, fine arts, geology, botany, architecture or languages like Sanskrit, Prakrit or Pali

Skills and traits
* You excavate archaeological or ancient or historical sites, inspect monuments and draft conservation notes, prepare conservation plans, pursue all legal cases in courts of law relating to monuments and prepare periodical reports for world heritage monuments
* Work hours depend on projects.
* The pay is usually low for a starter

Dig & discover
* Dedication with analytical and inquisitive mindset.
* Capability to organise research work

Salary package
Rs. 20,000- Rs. 55,000 a month

I love my job because
New discoveries can be made through excavation. Opportunity to travel

Expert gyan
India is an ancient civilisation and more archaeologists are needed to unearth the secrets of its past. There is a big demand for trained professionals

First Published: May 06, 2015 12:21 IST