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"Legislation and the Study of the Past: The Archaeological Survey of India and Challenges of the Present"- Archaeology Lunch Club with Himanshu Ray

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was founded in 1861 and Alexander Cunningham appointed its first Director-General (1861-1885), barely three years after colonial rule had been established in the subcontinent. The setting up of the ASI coincided with another major activity of the colonial state, namely, the extensive railway and road-building period, with the railway contractors being responsible for the greatest damage to archaeological sites. In the nineteenth century, conservation and repair, which were looked after by local governments, had formed no part of the ASI’s responsibilities, even though several laws had been enacted for the protection of archaeological remains in the country, starting with the 1810 Bengal Regulation Act.
In 1895, after the post of Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India had lain vacant for some years, the future of the Archaeological Department was re-considered and it was decided to direct it exclusively towards conservation. The Ancient Monuments Preservation Act was passed in 1904 under Lord Curzon, “to provide for the preservation of ancient monuments, for the exercise of control over traffic in antiquities and over excavation in certain places and for the protection and acquisition in certain cases of ancient monuments and of objects of archaeological, historical or artistic interest”. This paper examines the implications of this early twentieth century legislation for archaeological research in the subcontinent and the new challenges and pressures of the present century.
Himanshu Prabha Ray is Chairperson, Academic Unit, Project Mausam, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi and Honorary Professor, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. She is former Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi where she taught until 2012. Her research interests include Maritime History and Archaeology of the Indian Ocean, the History of Archaeology in South and Southeast Asia and the Archaeology of Religion in Asia. She is the Editor of the Routledge Series on Archaeology and Religion in South Asia.



Wednesday, May 18, 2016. 12:00 PM


Building 500 Archaeology Center


Archaeology Center