India

India > Maldives #worldinterview #6

India > Maldives

Interviewee: Shiura Jaufar

What is the relationship between politics and archaeology in Maldives generally?

Just like the majority of the countries in the world, archaeology is very much politically driven in the Maldives as well. Archaeological work is carried out by the Department of Heritage that runs directly under the Ministry of Education. All permits for any archaeological work or any kind of funding has to be approved by the department and the ministry. Politics play a  major role in what can or cannot be done in this field and all archaeological work is directly influenced by politics in the Maldives.

How do local communities relate to archaeological sites and archaeological investigations conducted at their land and findings found from their land? Do they have any power or right to control archaeological investigation at their land and to own artefacts found from their land?

To conduct any archaeology, we always have to get permission from the relative councils. So for instance, if we wanted to do archaeology on an inhabited island, the department would write to the island council. If the community living on this island does not approve of the work to be done, they can raise this with the council and the council can reject the permission. We always deal with the councils on such issues and this is how the community issues are addressed. There have been instances before where we were not given permission to work since the locals opposed to it. Also, when carrying out archaeology, we give a special focus on engaging locals as much as we can, by hiring locals to work for us as well as organizing community outreach programs for schools, councils as well as the general public. This way they can have a say in what we do and raise any concerns they have. Regarding artefacts, yes! If they wanted items not to be removed from the island, we do all that we can to do so. However, in some cases items need to be taken to elsewhere for further research due to the lack of resources on the island and in this case, an agreement is made with the council to return the items to the island within an agreeable period. So, I guess to answer the question, the local communities have, to a considerable amount of extent, a say in what can be done on their land and they also have a say on finds from their land. Usually, in most islands, the locals are very open and eager for such research since we lack archaeological investigations and histories of many islands and so any thing that can shed to the past of these islands are usually very welcomed and acknowledged.

Where does Maldivian archaeology get its funding from? How do archaeologists strike a balance between funding/funders requirements, and academic/research requirements?

We do not get much funding for archaeological work here and that’s a major problem. State funding is almost impossible to get since archaeology is amongst the least prioritized fields with very limited scope. The only way we get funding for archaeology is through foreign aid (we have received a lot of support from UNESCO and SAARC for conservation and research related activities). Therefore, archaeological work in the Maldives are very limited and very rare. The second part of the question is a difficult one to answer since archaeology is a very new discipline and like I mentioned before we rarely get offers to conduct archaeological investigations here in the Maldives. I guess it would not be entirely wrong to say that at the moment we do not have any set of standards or requirements for funders/research as long as the funders/research complies with our laws and as long as necessary permissions are attained through the department and as long as all parties agree with the department’s conditions (which are usually points of general ethics) as well as export rules of finds i.e. to return back the finds upon completion and proper dissemination of information and updates.

Maldives is seen as a holiday destination, a fun getaway island. Does this impact history/archaeology in any way – either as a hindrance or as a help? Do archaeologists/historians try to reach out to holidayers/travellers/tourists to communicate the country’s heritage?

The tourism sector does not hinder our history/archaeology. If at all it would help us and is a good way to promote our archaeology and create awareness. The new approach to promoting/managing archaeology is through cultural tourism although we are yet only at the very beginning of this. Some very few tourist resorts are now being promoted as cultural heritage resorts and a lots of tourists visiting the Maldives get to visit the archaeological/heritage sites in these resorts as well as in neighboring islands including Male’, the capital. Heritage sites in neighboring islands as well as Male are promoted in resorts and every tourist visiting Male goes to see the key heritage sites in Male.

About Shiura:

Currently I am doing my PhD on Maldivian archaeology (mainly looking at pottery finds after excavations to create a chronology) at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. I also worked as an archaeologist at the Department of Heritage for about 03 years in the Maldives before I came to UK. I also want to let you know that I am the first archaeologist in the Maldives which I am very proud of and at the moment the only one in the Maldives with this title although two more Maldivians are currently doing their undergraduate degree in archaeology.

http://www.sru.uea.ac.uk/study/phd-programme/current-phd-students/shiura-jaufar

 

Questions from Nadika Nadja in India

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Mongolia > India #worldinterview #5

Mongolia > India

Interviewee: Nadika Nadja

What is the relationship between politics and archaeology in India generally?

This is a complex question to unpack. On the one hand, archaeology is not a part of daily/public life till something drastic or remarkable happens to one of the few “recognized” archaeological sites. The central government had passed the Archaeological Sites and Ancient Monuments and Remains Act in 1958, which governs and protects a whole lot of archaeology in the country. The Archaeological Survey of India operates within the act, and does its best to conserve monuments, while also undertaking research, exploration, excavations, and public outreach. But it is limited by budget, and what is available has to be very carefully optimised for various projects.

There has been push from various political parties and various flavours of the government to use archaeology to feed a certain narrative, and that has become enhanced currently with a Right-Wing Hindutva party in power at the centre.

Accusations of influencing findings (to present a Hindu Brahmanical past, or a less diverse population…) have attached itself to various excavations in India over the years, and this will probably get worse.

The central government also proposed an amendment to the ASAMR act which would allow “development projects” near protected monuments, often within the “buffer” zone of highly vulnerable archaeological sites. And a large number of historians and archaeologists believe this will be used mainly for Islamic monuments in Delhi and North India.

The state government of Tamil Nadu – where I live – also has a TN State Department of Archaeology that works independent of the ASI, and is funded out of the state government’s budget. The department also excavates, conserves, and manages the state and city museums, and on the whole, is less influenced by religious fundamentalism but that could be mainly due to its overall lowkey presence (meaning no big political aims to be achieved).

How does archaeological administration contribute to academic archaeology, and vice versa?

The ASI has a series of publications that are both prescribed texts and updates on current research and knowledge banks. Similarly, Museums – at least the Government Egmore Museum in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, has publications and journals on its collections which help in academic archaeological research, with the museums and the State Dept. of Archaeology in Tamil Nadu absorbing some studies/findings into their work.

However, I am not aware of a larger push from academia into public archaeology, or vice-versa. The Universities and colleges that do provide courses – Bachelors or Masters – in Archaeology will likely operate/be governed by some of the ASAMR/ASI rules and regulations that govern excavations in India, with graduates going on to be employed by ASI. However, this is something I am not fully conversant with, given that my interest in archaeology is outside of the mainstream.

What about gender and archaeology in India? Are there many women archaeologists in India?

Yes, there are women archaeologists in India, and in fact, the former Circle Head (Superintending Archaeologist) of the Chennai Circle of the ASI was a woman, who now has a charge of a larger south Indian region. Similarly with the TN State Dept. of Archaeology, which one time was headed by a woman. There are also a lot of independent women archaeologists and researchers – both who actively excavate/research, and those that teach at the universities.

One of the most important recent findings in south Indian/Tamil archaeology – that of the discovery of stone tools belonging to an Acheulian industry, and which pushed the date of human colonisations of the Peninsula/east coast of south India – was by a team of archaeologist led by a woman – Shanti Pappu.

( Pappu, Shanti, Yanni Gunnell,Kumar Akhilesh, Régis Braucher, Maurice Taieb, François Demory, Nicolas Thouveny, 2011, Early Pleistocene Presence of Acheulian Hominins in South India, Science,  March 25th, 331(6024):1596-1599.)

But the larger question of Gender is – as always – slightly difficult to impact. On the whole, archaeology seems to be the story of men – kings, royalties, soldiers, etc. It is still (around the world) dominated by men, and the specific research is painting a very masculine story – at least in India.

And yes, the number of men archaeologists outnumber the women. There are also workplace issues and questions of gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment of women archaeologist that will need to be addressed.

How do local communities relate to archaeological sites and archaeological investigations conducted at their land and findings found from their land? Do they have any power or right to control archaeological investigation at their land and to own artefacts found from their land?

This is something I am not sure what happens, at all. For one, unlike say in the UK, there isn’t an active exploration/survey of archaeology that happens consistently. Most excavations happen in “known” sites. Sometimes, accidentally people may find archaeology in their land, and depending on where this happens, the State Dept or ASI may be notified and then the government will probably attempt to acquire the land (if the findings are deemed important enough) or a preliminary research is done and then it’s closed.  Sometimes universities/colleges may be invited to help identify accidental discoveries by civilians.

Under the ASI rule and ASAMR, all archaeological discoveries, artefacts, will need to be “owned” by the ASI or the State Dept of Archaeology where applicable. So individual people may not own/display artefacts found in their property.

About Nadika:

I am Nadika, and I am a writer and researcher. I am currently part of a research that’s looking at ideas and expressions of culture in religious sites across India, and one on caste, culture, and caste based discriminations, in temples of Tamil Nadu.

I also write about cinema, media, history (mainly urban history)

Twitter: @nadjanadika

 

Questions from Erdene Myagmar in Mongolia

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WACSC’s Day of Archaeology: a visual snapshot of our committee

Hello everyone!

We are members of the World Archaeological Congress’ Student Committee joining together for this quick post from Crete, Australia, India, Iran and the United States of America. We’re representing ourselves and our respective ‘days’ of archaeology through this collage to highlight some of the diversity of who we are and what we do. Today we are working in the field, writing our theses, teaching our students and even helping out with the organisation of the DoA! While we’re are all very different archaeologists and are spread across the world, what unites us is a passion for supporting and advocating for our fellow archaeology students through our work within WAC.

Have a fantastic DoA,
Marta, Jacq, Aadil, Sepideh, Courtney and Kate! (on behalf of the entire WACSC)

WACSC Day of Archaeology

WACSC’s Day of Archaeology 2015

Natasha Powers and Charlotte Bossick (MOLA): A visit from the Archaeological Survey of India

This week we are really excited to have met archaeological and museum colleagues from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), India’s foremost organisation for archaeological research and protection of cultural heritage. Dr B. R. Mani and his party are spending a few days in London on a trip coordinated by the British Museum and were accompanied on their visit to MOLA’s offices at Mortimer Wheeler House by Professor Michael Willis and Rachel Brown. The visit involved a tour of MOLA’s London office and our neighbours the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive, whose status as the largest archaeological archive in the world definitely impressed.

Dan Nesbit of the LAARC

Dan Nesbit of the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive explains how the collections have been acquired and displays a few special objects

MOLA Roman pottery

Fiona Seeley, MOLA Head of Finds and Conservation, shows Dr B R Mani and colleagues how MOLA record and analyse Roman pottery.

There was a great deal of practical discussion: how we plan archaeological features, what pro-formas we use, how we digitise our data and how we store objects efficiently.

Admiring the loading bay

Admiring the stone from St Mary Spital priory – and the expanding racking system which enables us to load pallets using a forklift.

This was all followed by a Q&A session with MOLA Chief Executive Taryn Nixon and Professor Willis from the British Museum which focused particularly on comparing the planning process and way in which projects are funded and sites protected in Britain and India. We also heard how objects from Britain’s colonial past turn up on Indian archaeological sites and are looking forward to helping to identify some recently uncovered ceramics and glass manufactured in London. And of course enjoyed some goodies!

CAKE!

East meets West – Brick Lane’s finest Indian sweet selection and British cream buns!


British Museum International Training Programme : Facebook Group

The British Museum International training Programe  (ITP) , is a six week course arranged with several UK museums, in museology, art galleries. for experts, archaeologist and all students around the world.

Most Participants come from different parts of the world From :Afghanistan, Brazil China , Egypt, Ghana, India ,Iran , Iraq, Kenya, ,Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Palestine , South Africa ,Sudan, Turkey, UAE and Uganda.

However, during the ICTP 2009, a facebook group (ICTP) has been launched to keep communication between ICTP participants, BM staff, and collegeus from other participant Museums. The group gives its members the chance to share their news through posting on group wall, and uploading their photos on the group. The ICTP facebook group has an international environment, with its 84  members from more than 16 countries, sharing different cultures and languages, but all has same interests in Museum Studies, Archaeology, and history…etc. Moreover, the group celebrated all kinds of events social and professional.

The group has been developed well over the past months, and it starts to become an excellent communication link between participants and a gathering point to all members. It also started a self introduction of itself towards further participants. For the first time, the group had sent welcoming PowerPoint slides before the beginning of the programme to both ICTP  participants of 2010, and 2011 and plan to send it Annually .

The group also developed and now has an offical e-mail: BMITP@groups.facebook.com

where you can e-mail the group, and all of your comments will be automatically posted on the group wall.

We will be very happy, to see you on our group, to participate and share with us your experience in Archaeology, Museology, Galleries, and any related subject. : This is our link on facebook : https://www.facebook.com/groups/BMITP/

 

Its our pleasure to have you in our goup 🙂 Your Always welcome !!!

Regards,

Haytham Dieck

BM-ICTP facebook Administrator

networks, administration, garden centres, maternity…

I’m currently on maternity leave, looking after our five-week old son, so my archaeological brain is somewhat disconnected at present. However, before the arrival of the boy, my job(s) entailed many things.

My mornings were spent working at the Ancient India and Iran Trust in Cambridge, a small, independent library of 25,000 volumes dedicated to the archaeology, history, linguistics and cultures of India, Iran, and Central Asia. As the Administrator of the institution, my job involves anything from organising a plumber to fix the leaky tap, to writing, editing and designing our newsletter, Indiran (download a copy here), to thinking about potential donors and contacts for fundraising.

Afternoons I was generally working on turning my PhD into a book – I work on the spread of religious innovations in the Roman world. My research uses network analysis to plot epigraphic finds (gravestones, altars, dedications of any sort – usually containing information about the person who died, dedicated etc, sometimes containing information about a deity, sometimes having a date too) onto the map to try and think about how ideas expressed in these finds were transmitted. By using networks to link these epigraphic findspots together, we bypass the rather static ‘dots on a map’ created by simply mapping the findspots themselves and turn the catalogue into an altogether more dynamic set of data, revealing potential flows of information and innovation. Inscriptions are wonderful – physical, archaeological material, found, excavated, and located in definite places (though mobile to a degree), and offering us the actual words that the long-dead chose to use. There’s nothing like the feeling of finding a new inscription somewhere on a hillside in eastern Turkey, and trying to decipher the chipped, eroded letters.

Now that my maternal brain is the one that’s in the forefront, I spend my days mainly feeding, burping, changing and cooing over our baby, and that’s just lovely. But the archaeological brain never switches off – this afternoon my mum, me and the boy went out to a garden centre – and on the way drove through the landscape of south Cambridge. You can’t help but slide surreptitiously through the veneer of modern life, with the tarmac and the cars, the newbuilds and the enormous hospital, to find yourself in the layers of pre-now – is this lovely straight section of road part of the Roman road that cuts below the Iron Age hillfort hidden in the trees to the right? Beyond, the Fleam Dyke and the Devil’s Dyke cut sharp lines across the sunken fenland, miles of rough grass mound rich in bee-orchids and wildflowers, marking out ancient defences and allowing views down the Icknield Way. The houses that etch out village lives so far distant and unfamiliar to the commuters that occupy them now – merchants in saffron, farmers, Great North Eastern railway workers. The archaeological brain slips briefly into all these pockets of previous, accidentally almost, before refocusing on the road ahead.