Wednesday, 21 October 2015

New Indus Civilisation Archaeology Postdoc at Cambridge

 A new Cambridge University project on the Indus Civilisation has launched, building upon an earlier project known as the Land, Water and Settlement Project (with whom I've been working since 2009). This new project, 'Winter Rain, Summer Rain: Adaptation, Climate Change, Resilience and the Indus Civilisation (TwoRains)' will investigate the relationship between climate change and the Indus people.

"TwoRains is a five year research project led by Dr Cameron Petrie (Cambridge) that will investigate the resilience and sustainability of South Asia's first complex society, the Indus Civilisation (c.2500-1900 BC), which developed across a range of distinctive environmental contexts where westerly winter rainfall overlapped with the summer rainfall of the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM). The project will combine cutting edge approaches from Archaeology, Earth Sciences and Geography to reconstruct climate, model rain patterns, and explore societal adaptations and responses to change by combining data on settlement distribution, food production and consumption, and water stress. The data will then be integrated and assessed using agent-based modelling. TwoRains will pursue a series of specific objectives through four interrelated work-packages, focussing on: climate, landscapes, water stress and life-ways, and modelling strategies of adaptation and resilience. By adopting an integrated interdisciplinary approach, TwoRains will ask "Does climate change really cause collapse?", elucidate how particular communities perceived weather and landscape changes, hypothesise why they made the decisions they did, and explore the consequences of those decisions."

The first postdoc for this project has just been announced- a two-year Cambridge PDRA working on remote sensing and GIS. The successful applicant for the position of Research Associate will conduct research within Work-package 2. Landscapes; and will specifically be involved in the use of remote sensing and satellite imaging data to carry out GIS-based image classification and spatial analysis in order to model the settled landscapes of northwest India. Applicants should have, or must be expecting to complete, a Ph.D. in Archaeology or a related field before they take up this position. Research experience in remote sensing and GIS is required. Previous experience with statistics and modelling would be beneficial.

Deadline: 9 November 2015. Start date: 1 January 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter

Further details here:

Call for Papers: European Association for South Asian Archaeology and Art (EASAA) 2016


The EASAA has just announced its 23rd conference, taking place in Cardiff, Wales, from 4-8 July 2016. The Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, will be hosting.

Abstracts of up to 350 words for 20 minute presentations are invited, in Word (.doc, .docx, or .rtf format). Conference contributions should draw on current and unpublished research relating to the archaeology and art history of South Asia, from all periods. Topics from neighboring regions will also be considered if they throw light on South Asian archaeology or art history. Submissions by PhD candidates should be accompanied by a letter of recommendation from their University, preferably from their Supervisor.

Deadline: 14th December 2015. Please send abstracts and any enquiries to

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Expedition to North Gujarat, India: Beyond the Indus

A colleague of mine is working for a great archaeological project studying the archaeology of Gujarat. The project has recently begun a blog as part of an outreach programme. The blog discusses the work as well as the travel experiences of the team as they conduct field research in Gujarat.

It should be of interest to those who would like to know more about archaeology in India and how archaeologists go about their day-to-day work!

Adam Hardy: Temple, Template, Text

If you are in or around Cambridge, the Cambridge Asian Archaeology Group has an upcoming talk.

Professor Adam Hardy (Cardiff University) will be giving a talk entitled

Temple, Template, Text: Making temples in medieval India

Abstract: At Bhojpur in central India where a gigantic temple attributed to the renowned Paramara king Bhoja was left unfinished in the mid-eleventh century. Quarries and incomplete architectural parts are scattered around the temple, and engraved on the rocks are numerous architectural drawings which have been documented for the first time. Ascribed to the same monarch is the Samaranganasutradhara, a Sanskrit treatise on architecture. For the first time its prescriptions are being translated into architectural drawings, a necessary first step for discussing the relationship between a canonical text and the practice of architecture. The talk will discuss how medieval Indian temples were designed, bringing together the drawings, the text, and the evidence provided by buildings themselves.

4.00-5.00pm, South Lecture Room, Division of Archaeology, Downing Site

Open to all.

Image: Bhojpur Mandir. Taken from Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons and can be freely distributed.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

In Memoriam: Raymond Allchin (1923-2010)

I haven't been updating this blog for a while, and so there are some things I'd like to cover that are very very (very...) belated. Two of those things are obituaries for archaeologists in the field who passed away in 2010 and 2011.

Frank Raymond Allchin was born in England in 1923. He developed an interest in Indian archaeology, history, and culture while stationed there from 1944. He went on to complete a degree in Hindi and Sanskrit and a PhD in Indian Archaeology at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, London). He then stayed at SOAS to teach.

He went on to teach South Asian Archaeology in Cambridge from 1959. He inspired many students to go on to work in the field, trained many students from South Asia, and continued to do fieldwork across India and Pakistan.

While at Cambridge, he also co-founded the Ancient India and Iran Trust in 1978, along with Prof. Joan Van Lohuizen, Dr Jan Van Lohuizen, Sir Harold Bailey, and his wife Bridget Allchin, also a celebrated South Asian archaeologist. Today the organisation provides a home for research on India and Iran, houses an impressive library, and hosts regular talks by distinguished speakers.

He was also one of the founders of the European Association for South Asian Archaeology (EASAA), that hosts the biennal South Asian Archaeology conference. The 21st conference is this summer in Paris.

Raymond Allchin was prominent and influential enough that he was honoured by obituaries in the Times, the Times Higher Education Supplement, and the Guardian, among many other news media.

I won't go on about his many achievements, his teaching and publications, and how he went on to shape the field through his research and the creation of forums for South Asian Archaeology. All I can say is that this is the man who taught the people who lectured me as an undergraduate. Some of the first academic literature I read was his writings. As an early career researcher I'm presenting a paper on my PhD at the EASAA conference that he founded. He was one of the early archaeologists who brought South Asian Archaeology to the world. His influence in the field was phenomenal, and ours is a tremendous loss.

Images: Ancient India and Iran Trust logo, Book cover for The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan by Bridget and Raymond Allchin

'Mother Goddess' Image found in Andra Pradesh

A full-size (150cm/4'9" high) sandstone statue of a seated 'Mother Goddess' figure has been found associated with a temple in Andhra Pradesh. The archaeologists estimate that it dates to the 3rd century BC, which would make it the oldest such figurine found in the country/South India (the article is really not clear). However, there is no explanation in the linked article of how they dated it.

As you can see from the photos in the article, which I couldn't copy here, the statue is not in the best condition, but certainly exhibits steatopygy, or prominent hips, thighs and buttocks. Along with prominent or exaggerated breasts, many archaeologists maintain these features indicate an emphasis on fertility, and are related to ideas of the Mother Goddess.

Such figurines are found around the world, with some of the more famous examples including the Venus of Willendorf, a much older (24,000-22,000 BC) statue found in Austria. The Venus of Hohle Fels, found in Germany, is another example. As you can see, in the European tradition these statues are much older, and are often named for the goddess Venus.

The prevalence of the Mother Goddess idea comes from the research of prominent archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, who wrote a deeply influential series of books on the role of women and matriarchy in Neolithic and Bronze Age European cultures. Her work has more recently come under criticism for simplifying the association between these figures and themes of fertility and matriarchy, and for perhaps imposing modern feminist theory on early societies.

That's a whole different story however, and these Venus statues are much older. The Indian statue, which as I mentioned has been dated (tentatively?) to the 3rd century BC, is much younger. It is also associated with a Hindu temple and hence has been found in a religious context, which suggests some religious function. Hence it has the potential to indeed be a female goddess, but whether it is related to fertility or not is yet to be seen. The archaeologists also say that she appears to be holding grain in her lap, which would also suggest fertility, plenty, bounty, harvest or spring/summer.

It is unclear whether this 'Mother Goddess' is a Hindu deity; there is a rich tradition of Hindu goddesses, and certainly there are fertility deities such as Bhumi, but this statue is unusual in its representation- which is why the archaeologists are excited about it! It's certainly a very interesting find, but more research is needed to understand the meaning and context.

Image: Venus of Willendorf. Taken from Wikipedia and hence licensed to freely share.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

RangSutra and INTACH Event

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and RangSutra are holding an event on traditional Indian crafts. They describe it as an invitation to discover "our traditional crafts and unique products".

RangSutra describe themselves as "a company of a thousand artisans from remote regions of India – the deserts of Rajasthan, hill regions of Uttaranchal and Assam.

Our goal is to ensure sustainable livelihoods for artisans and farmers, by creating top quality hand made products based on the principles of fair trade and a celebration of India’s rich craft heritage."

71 Lodi Estate, New Delhi
2-4th March, 11am to 9pm.

Images: INTACH logo, promotional poster for the event.