What is Archaeology ?

Do you ever wonder how people in the ancient and medieval ages lived? Was History your favourite subject in school? Does everything old fascinate you? If so, you could consider taking up archaeology and making some exciting discoveries. Here are some recent ones made by archaeologists.

In 2001, the remains of an ancient city were discovered on the seabed of the Gulf of Cambay (also known as the Gulf of Khambat), along a nine kilometer stretch off the coast of Gujaratprovince. The structures of the city were said to resemble those of major cities of theIndus Valley Civilisation, with regular geometric patterns representing a granary, a great bath and a citadel.

Recently a 1.8-million-year-old Homo erectus skull was found at Tblisi, Georgia.

Hierakonpolis is one of the world’s oldest freestanding mud-brick monumental structure, found in Egypt.

Thus archaeology is the scientific study of the physical evidence of past human societies recovered through excavations. Archaeologists not only attempt to discover and describe past cultures, but also to formulate explanations for the development of cultures. It can be an extremely interesting field of study to quench your curiosity about the past and its secrets and is a multi-disciplinary science involving a great deal of training in subjects like Chemistry, Anthropology, Geology, etc.

Learning about the past civilisations involves knowing about every aspect – the lifestyles, the architecture of the regions, socio economic cultural influences, etc. This makes Archaeology a very engrossing and fulfilling career, as well as one of the most demanding and competitive branches of social sciences.


What do I have to do ?

Archaeologist are like a detectives, in the sense that they both investigate clues to look for answers to problems. Archaeologists look for clues to learn how past cultures lived, so that we can understand more about how present peoples live and adapt to the environment. They work at a dig site in a team to gather data, and then spend the majority of their time in a lab analyzing this data. They eventually write reports on their findings for other people to read about and learn from.

Most of the archaeological sites are situated in the earth’s extreme temperature zones. Here, you will often have to spend hours in extreme climatic conditions carefully dusting a fragment of a Harappan building with a toothbrush or examining thousands of tiny, nearly identical chipped stone axes.

One of the major aspects of the job of an archaeologist is epigraphy. This involves taking ink impressions of ancient inscriptions on copper plates, stupas, rocks, monuments, etc. and decoding or deciphering them. Another equally important area of work is numismatics, which is the study of old coins, paper money and items such as medals for the purpose of understanding and restructuring the past.

What should I study ?

First of all, you should have a genuine interest in ancient culture and history. You need to be inquisitive (a probing nature), perceptive, meticulous, patient and willing to work hard. Good physical stamina is extremely important. You can take up Archaeology as one of the subjects at the B.A. level. For this you need to have studied History in class 12. For a two-year M.A. you should have completed your B.A. in Archaeology, History or other related areas like Anthropology.

You can also choose to do a two-year post graduate diploma course at the Institute of Archaeology after an M.A./M.Sc in archaeology or anthropology or a Masters degree in medieval or Ancient Indian History. You will have to appear for an interview and written exam to enroll for this course. You should have stamina is one is required to work long and grueling hours on field. Should also have a perceptive and probing mind.

What are the prospects ?

There are ample opportunities in educational/research institutions. Most archaeologists work at major universities teaching Archaeology, History, or Anthropology, as this is one way to earn a living between research grants and excavations. When they are not teaching, many archaeologists are working on digs far from home.

You can also find work with museums, or the Archaeological Survey of India, and National Institute of Oceanography, Goa. For an archaeologist the main jobs involving fieldwork are: director of an archaeological unit; archaeological field officer or inspector of ancient monuments. Other jobs which might be of interest are: Archaeological conservator, who investigates, analyses and preserves cultural objects; Heritage manager who markets, manages and maintains sites of historic interest within local authorities, and large private estates; Historic buildings inspector/conservation officer who inspects and reports on buildings of historic or architectural significance and advises statutory bodies on scheduling issues and regulatory positions.

You may also work as a consultant or on a freelance basis. Some other career options with Archaeology are Museum/art gallery curator who cares for collections, displays objects, produces catalogues and researches the collection; Museum education officer – devises, plans and implements education and learning programmes to engage the public interest. Museum/gallery exhibitions officer – plans and organizes exhibitions. Dissemination of information about archaeological exploration through the National Geographic and Discovery channels have generated awareness and interest in this field which augurs well for the future of archaeological studies. Your career portfolio can certainly include freelance writing, photography and filming etc.

The basic pay scale of an assistant archaeologist employed with the Archeological Survey of India is between Rs. 9000- 15,000/- p.m. The salary scale of the director general varies from Rs. 25,000-30,000 p.m. A doctoral degree in this field means higher pay scale. A doctorate is a must if one wants to make a name as an archaeologist.

Where should I study ?

There are numerous institutions in India where you can pursue Archaeology. The Institute of Archaeology, in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (Delhi) is the best.


Archaeological Survey of India, 24-Tilak Marg, New Delhi – 110 001

The study involves both theory and training in the laboratories. A lot of stress is laid on fieldwork where students spend time excavating, analysing the relics and monuments, practice procedures of preserving the items and also drawing and photography. Apart from the hard work involved it gives you the opportunity to see what the career has to offer before deciding on a particular area of interest.

Apart from the ASI, some universities offering courses in Archaeology are :

– Allahabad University, Allahabad – 211 002.
– Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam – 530 003.
– Bangalore University, Bangalore – 560 056.
– BHU, Varanasi – 221 005.
– Dr.Harisingh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar-470 003, MP.
– Gujarat University, Ahmedabad – 380 009.
– MS University of Baroda, Vadodara – 390 002.
– Osmania University, Hyderabad – 500 007.
– Punjab University, Chandigarh – 160 014.
– 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.

Two special programmes in Archaeology are offered by: Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management, 18-A, Satsang Vihar, Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi – 67.

Courses: a)Master in Conservation, Preservation and Heritage Management
b)Master in Archaeology and Heritage Management

There are several courses on archaeology abroad. Some of these are :

University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 217, READING, Berkshire, RG6 6AH, United Kingdom.

Courses:  BA, B Sc, MA, M Sc.

Durham University, Department of Archaeology, South Road, DH1 3LE, United Kingdom.

Courses: B.A. , B.Sc MA, M Sc.

University of Cambridge, Department of Archaeology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, United Kingdom.

Courses: B.A., M.A., M.Phil.

University of Oxford, School of Archaeology, 36 Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PG. United Kingdom.

Courses: B.A Archaeology & Anthropology, M.St., M. Phil, M. Sc.

University of Bristol, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UU, United Kingdom.

Courses: BA (Hons), BSc (Hons), MA.

Cardiff University, Cardiff School of History &Archaeology, Humanities Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff   CF10 3EU. United Kingdom.

Courses: BA, BA Archaeology and other subjects (joint degrees), B Sc., MA, M Sc., MPhil., PhD.


University of  Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, United Kingdom.


Courses: BA, MA/Diploma.

University College London (UCL)  Institute of Archaeology – 31-34 Gordon Square – London – WC1H 0PY. United Kingdom.

Courses: BA, B Sc, MA, M Sc.

The University of Manchester, School of Arts, Histories and Culture, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom.

Courses: BA, MA.

University of Bradford, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD7 1DP, United Kingdom.

Courses: B Sc., BA, MA, M Sc.

Princeton University, Department of Art & Archaeology, 105 McCormick Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544. USA.

Course: Undergraduate Archaeology

University of Liverpool, School of Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology, Liverpool L69 3BX, United Kingdom.

Courses: BA (Hons), B Sc (Hons) MA, M Sc

The University of York, Department of Archaeology, King’s Manor, York, YO1 7EP, United Kingdom.

Courses : BA, B Sc, MA, M Sc.


6, Faizabad Road, Adjacent to I.T. College,