Foreign universities flock to India to explore archaeological sites

Several foreign universities are tying up with their counterparts here and approaching the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) with proposals to undertake excavations at archaeological sites here. A lack of heritage sites in the West has had them looking towards India, which has a large number of unexcavated Indus Valley and other rich ancient sites.

Foreign universities are all for bartering their technological expertise and resources to get an opportunity to work on the unexcavated sites here. The MoUs with Indian institutes help foreign students to be a part of the excavation and exploration projects, and then conduct the classification and documentations back in the better-equipped laboratories of their country.

R S Fonia, Director, Exploration and Excavation and Publication, ASI, told The Indian Express, "We have received applications from a number of foreign institutions like Harvard University, Cambridge University and others. Their interest in Indian sites is positive for us, as this provides us with updated modern technological know-how and adequate funds. The need for modern technology and digitisation of old records are required for a country like ours, which is so hugely endowed with ancient sites. For such large-scale projects, huge amount of funds are also required. These foreign universities, on the other hand, face shortage of such sites and look towards Indian heritage sites for an opportunity to conduct excavation processes."

Licenses are, however, issued only to Indian institutes to conduct these excavations and explorations so that foreign organisations do not claim copyrights on the findings. "We encourage foreign institutes to take active part in the excavations through tie-ups with Indian universities. Certainly these foreign universities have advanced technology and we are always short of adequate infrastructure. The tie-ups are mutually beneficial," Fonia added.

Banaras Hindu University (BHU), in a tie-up with Cambridge University, had undertaken excavations in the Harappan sites of Alamgirpur and Bulandkhera both in Uttar Pradesh earlier this year. The MoU signed by the two universities calls for student and faculty exchange programmes in the department of archaeology and funds for the excavation projects as well.

"We have received a sanction of Rs 18 lakh this year from Cambridge University for funding excavation projects and students and faculty who would go out on the exchange programme," said Paras Nath Singh, head of the department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, BHU. "Thanks to the tie-up, we can now conduct tests like radio carbon dating (C 14) more accurately and make useful comparisons of our results with their reports," Singh added.

The Deccan College in Pune, which attracts a large number of foreign students for its post-graduate and research courses in archaeology, has tie-ups with Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, and Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan.

"The Cotsen Institute tie-up is for excavations in Shishupalgarh in Orissa while the Japanese collaboration has undertaken a project on an Indus Valley site at Farmana near Haryana," said Prof K Paddayya, director of the college. "Cotsen Institute provides training in exploration techniques for our students under the eight-year collaboration. We will also come up with joint publications. All financial aspects of the exploration and excavation project too are covered."

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