Archaeology has many contributions to Indian History, its importance cannot be over-emphasized. Archaeology means the scientific study of the material remains of early societies and cultures. It may be in the form of ancient objects such as buried cities, tombs, and skeletons, etc. It also studies the early history and cultures of man. Besides, Archaeology means the study of the remains of the ancient past and it is the only means for knowing about the way of living of the past many thousands of years ago
The term archaeology is derived from the Greek words “archaeos” which means ancient and “logos” which means discussion, reason or science. In short, archaeology is the study of human behavior and cultural changes that happened in the past through material remains.
- The Importance of Archaeology
- The Importance of Archaeological Evidence
- The importance of archaeology in the re-construction of Ancient Indian History are:
The Importance of Archaeology
Archaeology that deals with the classical period are known as classical archaeology Archaeologists who specialize in the classical period is called classical archaeologists. Historians usually use this method to excavate the remains of classical civilization.
Classical archaeologists focus more on the development of literature, architecture and other forms of art objects. So, they concentrated (centralized) mostly on places, temples theatres, and Royal cemeteries.
The study of prehistoric archaeology is another importance of archaeology. The term prehistory was coined by Daniel Wilson in 1851 in his book, “The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland”. It covers the story of man’s development before the appearance of writing. However, the term is used differently due to the diversified nature of cultural material. The Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures fall in the ambit of prehistory.
The importance of the Historical Archaeological method is that it studies colonial and postcolonial settlements. In the Indian context, particularly in the post-independent era, it generally confines to the study of dynastic imprints. The topics covered under historical archaeology are the remains of historical sites (place), settlement places, forts and sites of historical events.
Besides, Historical Archaeology tests the information from historical sources and can provide more complete documentation and understanding of historical events. Therefore, historical archaeology has great potential for testing anthropological and archaeological theories.
Archaeologists started paying much attention to the environmental factors as it determines the life of the people. The techniques of recovering and interpreting environment are of crucial importance to archaeology as it has greater influence over mankind.
The evidence acquired from environmental archaeology would help to understand the economy of the people, the character of housing and a major change in the climate. Therefore, archaeologists strive to understand the palaeo-environment in order to access (approach) the essential variables that might have influenced the operation of cultural systems.
It is the study of living people and of their material culture to be undertaken with the aim of improving our understanding of the past like ethnographers, archaeologists are used to living with the contemporary communities with the unique purpose of understanding their material culture like how they make stone tools, build houses and cultivate agriculture.
The Importance of Archaeological Evidence
The things that are dug out or unearthed from the ground are called the archaeological pieces of evidence. The archaeological evidence may be in the form of (i) Literature, (ii) Coins (numismatic evidence), (iii) Inscriptions (epigraphic evidence), (iv) Figurines and (v) Monuments (buildings and sculptures).
Inscriptions provide significant information about the past. Since inscriptions are engraved on stones and metals. Changes or modifications cannot happen without any detection. At length, we can be sure while using the material from inscriptions that they contain what was originally written.
The information derives from the inscription is reliable because it cannot be modified and interpolated, but that is not the same in the case of books. Thus, the genuineness of the inscription is authentic.
Besides, the inscriptions help in providing the genealogy of the ruler, approximate age, locations, political ideas, etc. Also, inscriptions throw light on the events of birth, death, and other important events.
Numismatics is the study of coins and to collect various coinages. With the study of coinage, it throws a lot of information with regards to Ancient India history. In fact, coinage became one of the most important sources in the study of Ancient History. Thus, the coins give us genuine information regarding the history of ancient India because there is no possibility of any changes in the coins.
It is worth mentioning the Numismatic Society of India for their tremendous work with regard to coinage. Due to their efforts, we have numerous coins available that throws light on various aspects of Ancient Indian history. Coinage was made in various metals such as Silver, Copper, and Gold.
Besides, coins play a vital role with regard to the existence of Kings, since coins were the only piece of information that throws light on unknown remains (like the period of the ruler, years of their ruling, etc.) of the Kings and their existence.
Many a time, the information from the coins can be used to collaborate the evidence from other sources such as the Puranas, etc.
Since years are mention at coinage, it helps us to a great extend about the years and help us to arrange the date in chronology order. Thus, coins help us the duration of the ruler, their dates of accession, and the year of their death. Besides, coins are found in various places which also help us to decide the area of the King territory.
Further, many Roman coins are dug out in India. Thus, it is a confirmation that trade between the Roman Empire and India was happening.
The figures of the various kings appear with the coins and from the coins itself we can have an idea regarding the head-dress of those kings.
Besides, from the study of coins, we can generalize the economic conditions of the past. If people have gold or silver, they are likely to be prosperous. Sometimes, the depreciation of coinage goes an indication that the country was passing through abnormal times. During the Hun invasion of India, the Gupta currency depreciated
Also, the Scythians and Parthians coins provide lots of information of the past, though the coins are inferior in quality. Their coins have enabled us to have an outline of the history of the rulers and without them; even the outline would have been missing.
These coins have helped us to reconstruct the history of Western Satraps for more than three centuries. The Kushans also issued a number of coins. The existence of the Malavas, Yaudheyas and the Mirta rulers of Panchala can only be traced from the coins.
The study of monuments is another importance in archaeology. In fact, the ancient monuments, like buildings, statues of stones or metals, terracotta, ornamental and decorative fragments, pottery, etc. provide us many pieces of information about Ancient India. With the information from the monuments, it changes our perception of Ancient Indian history.
With regards to monuments, the main sources of Ancient India history are the excavation of Harappa, Taxila, and Mohenjo-Daro. Excavations from these sites provide a lot of information about the culture, traditions, customs, believes, etc.
The importance of archaeology in the re-construction of Ancient Indian History are:
The study of coins is called “Numismatics’. The numismatic evidence forms a vivid (clear-cut) historical source of ancient India. The coins issued in different periods of Ancient India are one of the important sources of information in determining definite chronology, prosperity, territorial extent, religion and relation with neighboring countries of the then ruling Kings.
Besides, a numismatic study throws much light on the artistic talents and development of science in Ancient India. From the coins, it helps us to identify the language and script of a particular age.
The materials remain like bones, cereals, pottery, tools toys, seals, terracotta utensils, precious stones and bricks discovered from the excavated sites like Kallbangan, Lothal, Harappa MohenJodara, etc. provide valuable information of the life of Indus people.
From the above materials, the economic activities, artistic talents, amusement religion of people can be understood. The excavations of Taxila and Nalanda also provide a lot of historical sources of the Mauryan, the Kushan, and Guptas period.
The remaining monuments of Ancient India are important historical materials to reconstruct Ancient Indian history. The antiquities or remains of the building drains, and small size statues show the high value of architecture. Thus, from monuments (temples of Deogarh) we came to know the glory of the Gupta period.
Also, the paintings in the cave of Ajanta, Ellora, and Bagh provide the artistic talents of the ancient Indian people. The Buddhist Stupas and the other monuments indicate not only architectural perfection but also the religious life of the people. The development of Gandhara and Mathura schools of Art highlights the progress of the making sculpture in ancient India.
The study of the inscription is famous as Epigraphy. Inscriptions are an important source of information. They are written records that are engraved on stones, pillars, and rocks. Inscriptions bear important historical values. There are eight types of inscription i.e. commercial, magical, religions and didactic, administrative, eulogistic, dedicative-donative commemorative and literacy.
The important eulogistic inscriptions like Allahabad Pillar, Inscription of Samudragupta, Nasik cave Inscription of Usavadata, Bhitari Stone Inscription, Sakandagupta and Aihole Stone Inscription of Pulakesin II, indicate the name of the rulers, their early career, their administrative, military, political achievements, and their patronage.
Architecture helps us to get information about the Mauryan period. So, the architecture gives information about the Mauryan economic conditions, skill, social and religious conditions of their people of the then period.
Methods of Excavation
Excavations take place in two methods: Vertical Excavation and Horizontal Excavation.
Vertical Excavation limits itself to a specific area. This method of excavation provides little information about the characteristics feature of cultural periods expected at the site.
Horizontal Excavation is to reveal and understand the details planning of the township with its street, general houses, and shops. It does not limit itself from space and area. It leads to the complete reconstruction of the cultural pattern of a particular period.
Thus, it is worth mentioning the importance of Archaeology because it is the only source of knowledge about the past since there are no written records and manuscripts available during ancient times. Also, it helps us to study past ancient history. The remains of the past such as stones, metal tools, pottery, images, monuments, and figures are helpful in the study of the past ancient history.
Source: Mohammed Rafi Komol & O. Jnanendra Singh
A Guide to History of Modern Europe 1789-1945.
Imphal, Khumanthem Babudhon, 2018,
Note: There are some changes in the Length and Text of the Article.
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