09 August 2009

Wanted: Numismatists and Epigraphers

An article in India's Business Standard laments the shortage of trained numismatists and epigraphers to fill vacant jobs in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The Business Standard suggests that this is because the jobs are not remunerative enough to attract educated young Indians, but lack of remuneration has not led to a shortage of archaeologists elsewhere: in many European countries, the heads of local archaeological museums and inspectors in state archaeological services are often effectively volunteers.

Like many other institutions of Indian civil society, the ASI had its origins in the British colonial administration, with its mania for taking inventory of native people and their resources. Mortimer Wheeler, director of the ASI from 1944-1948, did important work at Mohenjo-daro in the Indus valley and Maiden Castle in southern England, excavations he is remembered for organizing like military campaigns. He has received less posthumous attention for stoking the fires of public interest in archaeology at every opportunity. Today this sort of promotion is often considered distasteful by one's colleagues: few academic professionals are comfortable soliciting media attention (far less trying to create Zahi-like cults of personality, which is just as well). But it may prove essential for archaeology to do a little "marketing," not only in order to compete for public attention and resources, but to attract the students who will eventually succeed the current generation of professionals.

1 comment:

  1. Cool post.

    I wish I knew more about the Indian context. I wonder if the colonial legacy is a turn-off for young Indians who might want to go into archaeology? What would an Indian equivalent of Mortimer Wheeler be like?