Archaeology seeks to reconstruct the past by critically analysing various archaeo-remains such as artefacts, monuments, fossils etc. While much of what archaeology teaches, such as the postulates regarding the origin of the universe, social organisation in pre-historic times, the division of time periods etc., rightfully belong to the domain of conjecture, the ever-increasing use of tools derived from the various sciences - in particular the material and digital sciences - is rapidly justifying the description of archaeology as "the most basic of sciences."
This book, in which twenty-six authors have collaborated to present fifteen articles, seeks to level a new focus on archaeology and underscore the importance of using scientific know-ledge and methods in its pursuit. This book can be broadly segmented as the section on "Science in Archaeological Studies" and "Science in Archaeo-material Studies."
To that end, the very first leading article in this monograph reviews the "two cultures" inherent in archaeology and strongly endorses the scientific aspect. The recent contributions of modern science towards archaeological research have been reviewed in this article and strongly recommended to the young learners and researchers for emulation. Thereafter, methods as diverse as radio-carbon dating; remote sensing in archaeological surveys aided by micro-electronics; genetic perspective of the Indian population; analysis of archaeological residues and slag, Indian pottery and archaeo-metals; use of non-destructive testing methodologies etc., are discussed in detail. These articles will serve as pointers for future generations of archaeologists in their quest for more exhaustive and verifiable knowledge.
Prof. Arun Kumar Biswas, who has specialised in applied chemistry, mineral engineering, metallurgy, archaeo-material studies, history of science and Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, has been associated with a number of prestigious institutions including the Asiatic Society and the Jadavpur University. He has taught at the IIT, Kanpur for over three decades and has authored numerous works and papers on the subjects of his interest especially on minerals and metals in ancient and pre-modern India. The idea for compiling this book came to him when he was analysing the curricular aspects of archaeological teaching in Indian universities.
It is with great pleasure that we introduce this. Multi-authored volume SCIENCE IN ARO IAEOLOCY AND ARCHAEOMATERIALS to our readers at the international level. Twenty-six authors have collaborated to present 15 articles in this volume. The editor has been the prime mover in this collaborative effort.
In January 2002, I started my venture on a small scale, focusing on the pedagogic or curricular aspects of archaeological studies in India. In response to the financial support provided by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), New Delhi, I undertook the task of critically evaluating the archaeological curricula in different Indian universities and suggesting a more scientific curriculum. This target has been achieved. Jadavpur University (JU), particularly its Department of Metallurgical Engineering, provided me office and infrastructural facilities, and the Centre for Archaeological Studies & Training (CAST), Eastern Region, extended library support for my research. I heartily thank AICTE, New Delhi, JU and CAST, both in Kolkata, for their courtesies and manifold assistance.
While pursuing this project, I wanted to highlight the notion that archaeological studies in India should be made more scientific, since such is the trend all over the world. When contacted by me, the authors in this book readily endorsed the idea and agreed to authenticate the same through their articles bearing scientific observations and conclusions. Their articles are in general strongly rooted to the Indian contexts and yet bear international significance. The first article, in particular, draws heavily upon many global examples and is replete with universal significance.
Many of the authors in this book including myself are material scientists and not archaeologists. Therefore we decided to compile a separate section on "Science in Archaeo-material Studies" with great humility as learners, ever willing to learn the great subject of archaeology and serve it through our expertise in the realm of metallurgy and material science. The readers will find in this (second) section nine articles dealing with archaeological residues, slags, ancient Indian pottery, particularly from Chandraketugarh in Lower Bengal, archaeo-metals and materials and their non-destructive evaluation, copper in archaeology, emission spectrography, rust on ancient Indian iron, etc.
Apart from the material sciences disciplines related to minerals, metals and alloys, ceramics, glass, etc., there are many other scientific subjects which can meaningfully contribute towards archaeology. In the first section of this book, eight authors have deliberated on specific areas such as the wide gamut of science in archaeology, such as pre-historic sequence datings, radio-carbon dating by accelerator mass spectrometry, remote sensing and micro-electronics, genetic perspective of Indian population, etc.
The leading article in this book is the first one which starts with a tentative definition of "archaeology" and discussion of the "two cultures" inherent in it: humanistic and scientific. The scientific aspect is strongly endorsed; some of the recent contributions of modern science towards archaeological research have been reviewed.
In the same article we have recommended immediate introduction of three years' Master of Archaeological Science curricula in different Indian universities. The young archaeologists, in our humble opinion, should appreciate not only science in archaeology but also its scientific spirit. Archaeology however is a human cultural science, and therefore it should nurture both the cultures: natural/physical/biological sciences as well as the humanistic/social/moral wissenschaft.
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