Archaeology of India at SAA2017

We are three weeks into 2017 and this is my first post. I’ve been on hiatus – two stints in the field over the last four months all but ensured that I kept away from the desk and blogging. But I’m back!

I will have more on field studies soon. In the meantime, I am thrilled to announce that the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) includes a session on the Archaeology of India. The SAA is an international academic society with roughly 7000 members, and is dedicated to promoting intellectual interest in archaeology (read more on SAA here). This year, the annual meeting will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada between March 29th and April 2nd.

The session aims to 1) promote intellectual interest in Indian archaeology; 2) encourage scholarly exchange on the latest methods, tools and techniques in archaeology; 3) shed light on the ‘lesser-known’ archaeology of India. What do I mean by ‘lesser-known’?!

Post-colonial Indian archaeology has typically conformed to a north-centric narrative, which is reflected in the intensity of archaeological study of the Indus Valley Civilization in northern India and in Pakistan. Until the early 1920s, very little was known about this ancient society, but since then (we are coming up to almost a century of research), the Indus Valley Civilization has been of great interest to scholars from India, Pakistan, Japan, the United States and a host of European countries. Archaeologists from different countries worked at Indus sites before the creation of Pakistan and Independent India in 1947, as well as after (contrast with Lawler 2008).

From the perspective of the collection of archaeological data, this overall situation is a good thing, which can ultimately deepen our understanding of this complex society. Intellectual interest in the Indus Valley Civilization still continues today as new excavations are carried out in an ever-changing geopolitical context. Yet this intense study in one specific geographic area and temporal period has obscured all other archaeological phenomena across India. The archaeology of India and Indus studies are certainly related, but they are not synonymous and interchangeable.

Back to the ‘lesser-known’ then – what is there to know about the archaeology of India, apart from the Indus Valley Civilization? That is what each author in the SAA session will present on.  And here is the line up (first authors only):

  1. Supriya Varma (Jawaharlal Nehru University) – Unsettling a Region: Archaeological Landscapes and Seascapes of Saurashtra, Western India
  2. Nazim Husain Al Jafri (Aligarh Muslim University) – Cultural Change in Funerary Practices from Harappan to Post-Harappan Phases in Proto-Historic India
  3. Jaya Menon (Shiv Nadar University) – The Materiality of Domestic Space: Indor Khera, North India, 200 BCE- 500 CE
  4. Teresa Raczek (Kennesaw State University) – Microregions and Materiality: Artifact Analysis at Panchmata, India
  5. Meenakshi Vashisth (University of Delhi) – A Study of the Archaeological Landscape of Bairat, Jaipur district, Rajasthan
  6. Mannat Johal (University of Chicago) – “The South” as object of knowledge between archaeology and history
  7. Julie Hanlon (University of Chicago) – Carving a Space for Jainism: Jain Rock-Cut Caves in Early Historic to Medieval Tamil Nadu, South India
  8. Kelly Wilcox Black (University of Chicago) – Zooarchaeology and the Study of Human-Animal Relationships in Pre and Early Historic South India
  9. Peter Johansen (McGill University) – Settlement, Socio-environmental Practice and the Long Durée of Landscape Production in South India: A Regional View from Maski, Raichur District, Karnataka
  10. Rajesh S.V. (University of Kerala) – Current State of Megalithic Research in Kerala, India
  11. Neha Gupta (Memorial University of Newfoundland) – Fishers and Farmers in northern Kerala: Preliminary Results from the Northern Kerala Archaeological Project (NorKAP)
  12. Discussant: Carla Sinopoli (University of Michigan)

Over the next weeks and until the conference, I will post a short note on each paper, ie. its author and the abstract. Watch this space!


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