• Supervisor Supervisee Relationship: Some Considerations



    Like having spent over ten years now at our university, I tend to feel that just as university life is governed by some explicit rules, perhaps even some unspoken and unstated ones which are regraded as customary and therefore alright, there would be a world of merit in considering, in the context of Banaras Hindu University, just what are, should be or ought to be, the rules with which the Supervisor-Supervisee relationships here may be governed. Such that successful and meritorious research may become possible.

    This is all of course, very subjective as a point of view, as in these ten or so years that I have spent here, I have myself heard a great deal in departmental council and departmental research council meetings about that very hard to access Ph.D Ordinance, and thus even supervisor's like us potter around oblivious of what exactly this particular ordinance says or does not say: about the role(s) of the Supervisor and the Supervisee. However, the whole point of writing this piece is that you will have to allow that there is from time to time sufficient confusion and chaos both in the mind of these two cogs of the university research wheel that I should have to write about it as explicitly as this. Very obviously, this is neither a very pleasant task or someone else would have done it by now! However, I feel sure that this does need to be done.

    Like with everything else in Banaras therefore let us shoot a bit further in the dark here as well! At the time of writing this post, as a Supervisor, I have successfully supervised no less than eight doctoral students. That is very well and satisfies. However, if I use the index of the employment these same students have gained or not gained, since about 2005, when the first of them started their work with me, as doctoral students, I am horrified that almost none of them have gained such employment as a Doctorate equips them for.

    Why is that so? Being a University Teacher, I have only stock answers to such knotty problems, which is to say, as any other supervisor would, which is to ask my doctoral students, from time to time, "Have you published your Thesis?" The fact remains that a resounding answer, thus far in all these cases, is a resounding No. Why?

    A likely answer as I see at this time that publication of successful doctoral dissertations as indeed the research monographs, reports, books (even text-books!) written by teachers, is never ever on the To Do list, so to speak, or indeed a most urgent or Top Urgent sort of list of the Alma Mater Universities whichever they are, as any student or teacher is likely to have a minimum of two or three Alma Mater sort of universities by the time they have graduated in such a fashion.

    Equally, if not more importantly, amidst all the hullabaloo of university activities it is often pleasantly overlooked that the University Grants Commission of India (the UGC) is a very silent spectator to such a dire circumstance.

    All said about the good that the UGC does do for us, why has it not impressed upon the universities that their university presses could rise a notch or two above merely printing university stationary and the likewise and become active publishers? Yes, indeed all 450 or so universities which are classed as such by the UGC itself. For if university-based research is not published, consigned literally to the academic dustbin in most cases by the commercial publishers, the what indeed happens to the Taxpayers money which pays our salaries and stipends?

    In a increasingly competitive knowledge world publication of university-based research both of the Supervisor and the Supervisee kind, at the discretion of any university's own manuscript-vetting procedures is now not a demand but a necessity, even if that idea should be treated by commercial big-players as whimsical, because that it where they make money!

    Why is that? What then are the recourse? Jobs, even less than good ones in India or elsewhere do not hang on trees. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, isn't it. Thus, and therefore, if our doctoral scholars who have finished do not publish their research, how are they to be judged by their prospective employers as to their merit, if not through their own work: that is their thesis?

    Keeping in touch with your supervisor. What does this mean?

    Every teacher in this university comes to teach here from a background that is different from that of any other teacher's. hence, remedies for specific research related problems may differ from teacher to teacher or supervisor to supervisor and that diversity I guess is the beauty of the university system not its shortcoming.

    In my own experience, I have found students facing study or research related problems to be less than pro-active in contacting their supervisor in a day and age which is more than well-supplied with the means thereof: the email, the telephone and personal chats.

    Again, and very much subjectively and in my own experience a doctoral supervisor is not supposed to be an agony aunt. That is the job of the tutor of student hostel or the wardens. The supervisor is meant to supervise research even raise funding for their students against specific needs. The warden of the hostels they reside in are meant to provide the necessary support social, emotional, and even administrative or logistical ones, which a supervisor may or may not be able to handle successfully.




    Thank you,


  • Semester I Type Humour


    Once upon a time a trainee Archaeologist was surveying for Harappan archaeological sites in the Punjab Area. He moved from one cultivated field to the next and the one after that his eyes firmly to the ground, looking for the tell-tale crop-marks or Harappan mounds, until he walked into a clearing in the Greens, where an old man lay on a charpoy, oblivious to the world and quite enjoying himself at his hookah.

    Said this young Harappan Archaeologist, "Sir. I am looking for Harappan Archaeological Sites. Sir, will you help me please, Sir?"

    "Yes", said the old man, "But do sit down here for a bit." Which this particular young man in this instance did do. He sat by the side of the charpoy, and as it is very usual in India, when you sit on a charpoy with a very ageing man in it, then you usually sit by his leg-side, isn't it?

    "So, Young Man. tell me about yourself a bit, that its other than about your archaeological pursuits..."

    So this young man, in this instance went on an on and on telling this particular old man about himself in matters other than his archaeological-pursuits until he had noting left to say, and then and only then it came upon this very young archaeologists such as this very young Harappan young man than he had not asked after the old man's biography at all and very good manners even in India did require it of archaeologists as of the other the other educated.

    So he turned to him and asked, "Sir, at least now do tell me your name, Sir."

    "Lord Hazaara Singh", said the beaming old man.

    "Lord. Lord? Lord Hazaara Singh.", asked the young man, "After the British have left India. How on earth is that possibly true, Sir?"

    Said Lord Hazaara Singh still beaming as before, "You see Puttar! I was a very big landlord in undivided India and resided in Lahore. After partition, and very sadly all my land was left behind there. Thus and therefore, I remain just a Lord now, isn't it? heh. Heh. heh."


    Thank you,


  • Human Evolution in India: A Review

    Human Evolution in India: A Review


    Ajay Pratap,
    Department of History,
    Faculty of Social Sciences,
    Banaras Hindu University,
    Varanasi - 221 005

    "History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possessed." (Kuhn, 2012, 1)


    There are some front-runner researchers (Dennell, R., Mellars, P.A., Pappu, S. et al, Reich, D. et al) understanding whose work is central to this enterprise of evaluating the status of human origins research in India. Research on the earliest human or hominin presence (Kennedy, Pappu) must not be confused with research on the evidence related with the presence of earliest modern humans in India (Mellars, Reich).

    We shall turn first to assess the archaeogenetic evidence. This is mainly since this is in India a still emerging field or approach and true to its worldwide reputation it is yielding some astounding and archaeologically most relevant conclusions, insofar as Human Evolution in India is concerned. Thereafter, as proposed we shall consider the archaeological evidence to see if if this corroborates to any extent the archaeogenetic model of Reich et. al. Finally, we shall consider the skeletal fossil evidence of South Asia (studied first by those such as Kennedy and Lukacs).


    Reich, Thangaraj, Patterson, Price and Lalji Singh

    The very first point I would like to make in this regard, as a preface, is that this is a very novel piece of work as it takes an archaeogenetic route to identifying and possibly remedying genetic diseases (recessive ones) inherent in the Indian population, arising from our ancestry, over tens of thousands of years ago, both in northern and southern parts and populations of India.

    Why do I say so? As an Indian Archaeologist, who has been looking at our Indian Archaeology and Indian Prehistory in particular, since 1979, I find that the issue of human origins on the Indian Subcontinent is a much neglected subject, the plethora of archaeological evidence notwithstanding. From the discovery of the earliest Soan Valley Acheulean Assemblages discovered by De Terra and Patterson (the famous Yale-Cambridge Expedition) of 1930s, to the more recent ones at Attirampakkam, we have heard about the discoveries of Acheulean stone-tool assemblages ad nauseum.

    Ad nauseum, because, as with me, even though Professor K. Paddayya, Professor M.K. Dhavalikar, Professor V.N. Misra and Professor M.L.K. Murty laboured us ceaselessly to believe that after all India too had a distinct Acheulean tradition, in the absence of clear evidence, such as of the archaeogenetic type evidence present in this research article at hand, it was indeed very difficult to buy this argument. There is K.A.R. Kennedy's paper (here uploaded, and by the way for the umpteenth time here on this Blog I feel pushed to raise again the issue of whether the Harvard Citation System has sought to include a citation system for Blog-writing? no doubt, I shall also go through the above post and the urls indicated to find an answer) which deals with the fossil human skeletal remains of South Asia, however, even this suggests that the relevant fossil human remains pertaining to Homo zinjanthropus, Homo habilis and ultimately Homo erectus are clearly not found in appreciable quantities in south Asia. Therefore, as M.A. students, we generally had to walk away from such lectures, assuming that such Acheulean assemblages as are found in India must all have been somehow imported stone tool-technology from Africa to India. These could not possibly have been the product of genuine early hominids/hominins that produced these locally, which is to say in the Soan Valley and elsewhere.

    If you read Professor H.D. Sankalia's monumental work the Pre and Proto-History of India and Pakistan, and this work is very rightly regarded as a bible for Indian prehistorians, then you would no doubt notice that the very earliest of stone-tool technology of the Old Stone Age, the Lower Palaeolithic, are not only abundant in India, but they are also very evenly spread all over this continental shelf, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Thus it is that prehistorians like us, some thirty years after the 1970s, come to a dead-stop, a cul-de-sac, wondering why it has taken this long to think that the earliest of the humans did actually exist on this continent. However, that is another story. Let us return to discussing the paper at hand.

    As a teacher of Ancient India History at the Banaras Hindu University, of approximately nine years standing, and constantly on the look-out for new material to be discussing in the B.A. Part I class, mentioned before in this post, I distinctly remember that one of the English Language Dailies of Banaras carried a news item which caught my attention, very squarish-ly, some four or so years ago. It was titled "Not Much Difference between Aryans and Dravidians" or some header to that effect. I read and re-read that and even discussed it with my departmental colleagues ad nauseum, and then proceeded to lecture the then class of my Ist Year students about the most remarkable paradigm-shift which had occurred in our understanding of the ancestry of the human groups of Indian, thus far quite incorrectly classified into "Races", by 18th and 19th century anthropologists, historians, geographers and many scholars of a most diverse range of callings, and most of which provide an extremely mirthful corpus of readings today. Of course, you may well like to ask me why then there still exist in India many most scholarly journals devoted to Craniometry and Dermatoglyphics; however, I should then like to say, that most certainly I am in no way responsible for all of this world's ills.

    Leaving aside then this debate about which parts of Physical Anthropology hold still relevance today, and just how much inherent sociobiology and socio-politics informs Physical Anthropological Research in this 21st century...this review of the article above would now like to move onto more substantive issues. Nearly the only valid opening idea of this article which we find admissible is "that India contains deep-rooted lineages which share no common ancestry with groups outside of South Asia for tens of thousands of years." However, tens of thousands of years sort of turn of phrase means nothing in particular as it is more rhetorical and therefore quite imprecise, chronologically speaking.

    If the above point deals largely with the opening para of this most learned of articles, then the two subsequent ones, to my mind, reveal, in the final or ultimate analysis that the authors here, of this learned article are trying to grapple with the truth-content of the hypothesized theory of discrete racial structure of the Indian Population, which was an idea largely advanced through nearly two centuries of colonial physical anthropological assays of the Indian Population which (H.H. Risley, W.W. Hunter etc.) always categorized into the Aryan, Mongoloid or Proto-Mogoloid, Austro-Asiatic, Australoid, Caucasian, Proto-Australoid and such discrete groups based on measures such as Dolichocephalism and Brachecephally, the nasal index measurements, dermatoglyphic variations, hair-types, which is to say largely outward appearance of various linguistically and culturally distinct groups of Indian peoples. Clearly then, the approach of the present authors is at a great remove from the earlier approach to racial classification enshrined in such great works as Risley's on the Races and Cultures of India and W.W. Hunter's classic work The Annals of Rural Bengal.

    The following section on page number 489 reports on the results of the hypotheses which are but very briefly posed in the concluding para of the previous section, which we have been discussing until now, in an explicatory mode for the benefit of my B.A. Part I students. It would seem from the questions enumerated in the para that the authors would like to see if there is specific genetic or DNA signature caste-wise and tribe-wise, from a sample of the Indian population.

    The following para begins to elucidate the results of such genetic sampling of assumedly or presumably discrete cultural groups such as castes and tribes. Here, in my most humble opinion, there is Dear Students, absolutely no need whatsoever, to get daunted by such terms as Principal Component Analysis and Fst etc. What is basically, and most fundamentally being said in the para on the right-margin of page 489 is that the authors did find significant genetic signatures to the DNA types extracted from such groups as they have discussed. In the Siddi case, for instance, it has been hypothesized even ethnographically that they have been migrants from Africa, and lo and behold the authors have detected that their genetic signatures correspond with an African sort of ancestry. In the case of Nyshi, Ao and Naga tribes they have found that their genetic or DNA signatures correspond with or have ancestry links with the Chinese type but then again I have myself had the chance to see a book edited by Drs. J.P. Singh and G. Sengupta on the ethnohistory of the culture-groups of the North-East of India where their South-East Asian cultural links are demonstrated not only in terms of their oral tradition and extant historical records, but there is also, as Singh and Sengupta discuss, an affinity in the stone tool-kits of North-Eastern India and those of South-East Asia with sites like Ban-Chiang and Knon Knok Tha. Minimally, therefore, and as you may well see, how the work of the present authors has served most scientifically to corroborate what were, some would say, previously only archaeological and ethnohistorical hypotheses. Finally, and still sticking to the parameters this post has set for itself, we have to suggest that for all that you may learn about principal component analysis from the URL given above in this post, this method in statistics is one which helps you sort out the distinct components of a system, whichever type of system it is. Finally, as it is said in Systems Theory, and it would be useful, Dear Students, to re-capitulate that here: the sum of the parts of a system is greater than the whole! Try reading David L. Clarke's Analytical Archaeology, for instance.

    We now move to consider the further parts of this most learned of article. The remainder of page 480 and the table and the first para on the following page 481 lead us to behold a fantastic claim. This is that the present authors seem to think that caste lineages which were sampled seem to have founder events which go back to earlier than 30 generations (pp. 480). I am inclined to take a generation at 100 years so the product regarding the antiquity of a majority of caste and tribe groups' founder events rests at around 3,000 years (Vysya being an exception to this rule!). The authors state that this could be possible only because of endogamy which leaves, according to them, distinct genetic signatures in the Allele.

    As I have had the benefit of having heard one of the above authors namely Dr. Lalji Singh, in his Inaugural Lecture, at the Swatantrata Bhawan, BHU, and to have listened very carefully to this lecture, I wish here to add that in that lecture he had posited that the origin of Caste and Tribes in India may well go back to the end of the last Ice-Age, which is the Terminal Pleistocene. As Climate Change ensued and a warmer climate started with the Holocene perhaps changes in Biota caused faunal migration and a largely Upper Palaeolithic sort of Indian Society at the time , which then were largely all Tribes and forest-dwelling, found it reasonable to migrate into River Valleys, hunt out the last of the mega and other fauna and then as they were busy doing this say between c. 10,000 BCE to about the c. 4,000 BCE, which is the Mesolithic, of which there are more than enough sites in the Mid-Ganga-Plains, they gradually, and due to the paucity of any further fauna, domesticated wild species of plants and animals, and started, that is with the Neolithic, a sedentary-farming lifestyle. To sum up, he added that those who chose to remain in the hills and forests, and the rock art from the Vindhyas does suggest that people had lived up there right into the Iron-Age, which would be well past the Neolithic and the Chalcolithic too, became in due course Tribes, and those that migrated down from the Vindhyas at the start of the Holocene at around c. 10,000 BCE in due course became the Caste Society. In a sentence therefore, it is implied here by the author's that Caste and Tribe are a) Social Constructs, b) There is no genetic basis to Caste or Tribe, c) However, due to demographic segregation and endogamy, acting in conjunction with such social processes of status and rank differentiation as was unleashed by the faunal and human dispersal, that Caste and Tribes all as social entities came into being entirely due to social processes and not genetic ones!

    Archaeological Evidence

    You may like to check my website www.rockartofindia.webs.com where I have just uploaded an album containing some human activity depictions in the Rock paintings of the Vindhyas. I tend to think that there are amongst these rock-art depictions which suggest that from the Upper Palaeolithic through the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and the Iron-Age, people continued to live in the Vindhyan Uplands. Subsequent disappearance of fauna such as is depicted and of people is entirely due to the climatic change engendered by the onset of the Holocene. Of course, if you have read Ester Boserup's The Conditions of Agricultural growth (ref. to be cited!) then in this book she has argued that in the course of agricultural growth population tends to act as an independent variable. I am here and therefore suggesting that the out-migration of people from the Vindhyas was also as a consequence of population growth. archaeologically speaking

    What then, in my view, are the evident weaknesses of this article, archaeologically speaking. In a sentence, we are left wondering if the archaeogenetic evidence marshalled in this paper is actually borne-out by any sort of archaeological corroboration by way of material culture remains which would confirm such a theory, or, as the case may be, refute it? For in the long-run such a theory may not stand at all without archaeological corroboration which are too simplistic to state just yet, in this review.

    My main observations in such a regard are:

    Consider that if an Out of Africa, and eventually into India, model of Modern Human populations has been accepted by the authors, as does seem to be the case, then even if archeogenetics supports such a theory or a hypothesis, then where indeed is the archaeological evidence which would support such a claim? If, as has been proposed by the authors, the ASI (the Ancestral South Indian group) arrived here some 75,000 BP, and following a part sea part land route out of eastern Africa through West Asia and into Southern Asia then with which Middle Pleistocene archaeological assemblages and industries would the authors connect such a migration? A bit tricky this but it must be said that in Philosophy of Science only phenomena which are observable are indeed admissible as scientifically existing. Thus, and therefore, without an or any archaeological corroboration as to its observability from an independent quarter, such as an archaeological one, as in stone-tool industry sort of correlate to this archaeogentic model, in my view as as a prehistorian, then such a syllogism really stands only on one leg.

    It has been stated that both the ANI (the Ancestral North Indian) and the ASI populations are genetically radically different from other groups such as the Chinese and the Europeans. This is very well. However, it has been stated that the Hominin migrations out of Africa passed through India, most likely northern and central India, onwards to South East Asia and the Far East. Where are the archaeological traces of the modern humans having taken such a route, or at least their presence in northern and central India, during middle to late Pleistocene? Perhaps the authors might consider including such evidence in a future publication.

    Paul Mellars Going East

    An alternate route, to resolving this seeming impasse is to take a look at Paul Mellars's article given above. By virtue of being an archaeologist who has almost ceaselessly worked on the issue of Human Evolution or Human Origins and the archaeology connected with it, Professor Mellars has made many splendid contributions in such a direction. I have here uploaded a key article which throws some light on our debate at hand: why and how did the first of modern human groups find it necessary to migrate out of Africa, and why and how did they possibly come to the South Asian region and populate it. Let us read this important paper together.

    Insofar as India is concerned Professor Mellars has this to say:

    "Large areas of...India in particular are at present largely blank areas on the archaeological map (Surprise! I would have thought the reverse to have been the case!!) over the critical range ~50,000 to 60,000 B.P. in question. And of course, all the coast-lines of this period are now deeply submerged below the rapidly rising sea levels of the past 15, 000 years." (This is true!). (Pp. 797, Parentheses mine).

    The arrows showing routes of modern human migration on the accompanying map, on this page, seems to enter India from the North-West, lead along or near the West Coast line, across Patne, and then still continuing almost in a straight-line it heads ostensibly into Madras Territory (Attrampakkam?). A distended or broken or a fresh line now emanates a little distance away from where the previous ended just a little before Jwalapuram (where microliths have been found in a strata below the Ash and other debris deposits from the eruption of the South East Asian volcano and the term Toba Ash has been preferred for this by Indian archaeologists. This volcanic eruption is estimated to have taken place some 75,000 years ago!) and then the line of modern human migrations (let's call this the LMHM), continues along or near the East Coast this time across the Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal Territories from where it turns from either the Seven Sister States or the Sunderbans Delta into Bangladesh, then Myanmar across Thailand (again its East Coast line) into territories further South. However, Mellars is too thin in marshalling the archaeological evidence to support this claim other than Patne and Jwalapuram (pp. 797).

    Now it is my pleasure to discuss an article by my colleague Dr. Shanti Pappu, Director of the Sharma Center for Heritage Education, Pune, as also a Professor of Prehistory at the Department of Archaeology, Deccan College, Pune, who has just published a fantastically well-researched paper, on her excavations of a Paleolithic site in Tamil Nadu called Attirampakkam. Just look at the wonderful plates of hand-axes which she suggests in this article may be as old as 1.5 MYA, and therefore connected with the Homo erectus ancestor.


    However, and in her own words "The Acheulian is a phase of the Lower Paleolithic typified by assemblages of large cutting tools primarily composed of bifaces. So far, evidence from Africa suggests that it emerged around 1.6 million years ago (Ma). Determining when hominin populations routinely crafting these Acheulian stone tools inhabited India is critical for understanding the dispersal of this distinctive technology across Eurasias. Limited evidence has suggested that Acheulian hominins appeared in India substantially later than in Africa or southwest Asia." (PP. 1596)

    The accompanying map provided by the authors on this page shows the location of ATM (Attirampakkam) at the coastal confluence of the tributaries of the River Kortallaiyar (the Kortallaiyar Basin) which from this map seems to drain itself into the Indian Ocean, which by the scale of this map seems some 1200 kilometers from ATM.

    The South Asian Skeletal Human Fossil Record

    K.A.R. Kennedy

    Subsequently, we have a more recent and interesting piece of research done by Patnaik et. al. in the Narmada Valley which deserves mention as a very significant piece of research done by way of trying to correlate the human or hominin fossil record (Homo erectus) of the Narmada Valley, with broad spectrum investigations into the palaeontology, palaeobotany and the archaeology in the Narmada Basin. I have read this article thoroughly and do tend to like it sufficiently enough as to be uploading it here (copy courtesy: Parth S. Chauhan).

    Patnaik et al. 2009 (JHE)

    J.R. Lukacs's and J.N. Pal's work dates to about 2003 and is earlier than this, and deals with modern humans (Mesolithic skeletal record) properly speaking. (Hunt for a PDF version is currently on! Kindly bear with me!)



    Agrawal, D.P., Bhatt, D.K., Kusumgar, S., Pant, R.K. 1981. The neogene/quaternary boundary in India: a review. Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Science. 90(2): 111-13.

    Boserup, E. Conditions of Agricultural Growth. Chicago. Aldine.

    Reich, D., Kumarasamy, T., Patterson, N., Price, L. A., Singh, L. 2009. Reconstructing Indian Population History. Nature 461 (24): 489-94.

    Singh, J.P., Sengupta, G. (Eds). 1991. The Archaeology of North Eastern India (NEHU History Series). Delhi: Sangam Books.

    Mellars, P. 2006. Going East: New Genetic and Archaeological Perspectives on the Modern Human Colonization of Eurasia. Science. 313 (5788): 796-800.

    Pappu, S. http://www.antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/pappu297/

    Pappu, S., Gunnell, Y. Akhilesh, K. Braucher, R., Taieb, M., Demory, F., Thouveny, N. 2011. The Pleistocene Presence of Acheulian Hominins in South Asia. Science 331: 1596-1599.


    Sonakia, A. http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/the-narmada-fossil-files/996409/

    Sankhyan, A.R. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9034953

    Rajendran, P. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=emoMAQAAMAAJ&q=P+Rajendran+human+fossil+find&dq=P+Rajendran+human+fossil+find&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pilRU5e5CI-IrAeHuIGYAw&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAg

    Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. http://press.princeton.edu/titles/5313.html

    Dennell, R. 2008. The Palaeolithic Settlement of Asia. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

    Kennedy, K.A.R. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=W6zQHNavWlsC&pg=PA416&lpg=PA416&dq=K.A.R+Kennedy+archaeology&source=bl&ots=E3RgeF0Y3W&sig=X3vdyEZKcvayvj1xfq4bJgwMm88&hl=en&sa=X&ei=diZRU7MRyZSuB_7BgYgF&ved=0CDoQ6AEwBA

    Patnaik, R., Chauhan, P.S., Rao, M.R., Blackwell, B.A.B., Skinner, A.R., Sahni, A., Chauhan, M.S., Khan, H.S. 2009. New Geochronological, Paleoclimatological, and Archaeological Data from the Narmada Valley Hominin Locality, Central India. Journal of Human Evolution 56: 114-133

    Lukacs, J, R., Pal, J.N. 2003. Skeletal Variation among Mesolithic People of the Ganga Plains: New Evidence for Habitual Activity and Adaptation to Climate. Asian Perspectives. 42(2): 329-351.

    Kuhn, T.S. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.


    Glossary of terms:

    Polymorphism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymorphism_in_object-oriented_programming

    Genotyped: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genotyping

    Clusters: http://www.techterms.com/definition/cluster

    Sampled: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampling_(statistics)

    Caste: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste

    Tribe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribe

    Human Genome Diversity Panel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Genome_Diversity_Project

    Allele frequency differentiation: http://userwww.sfsu.edu/efc/classes/biol710/amova/amova.htm

    HapMap: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HapMap

    Principal component analysis (PCA): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principal_component_analysis

    Single nucleotide polymorphisms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-nucleotide_polymorphism

    Endogamy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogamy

    Genetic signatures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_signature

    Gene flows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_flow

    Substructure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substructure

    Genetic ancestry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogical_DNA_test

    Genetic clusters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_cluster

    Founder event or effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founder_event



    Thank you,


  • Field Life in India or The Journeys and Journals of an Indian Archaeologist

    Field Life in India or The Journeys and Journals of an Indian Archaeologist


    Ajay Pratap


    It would be a good question whether putting your children in an Indian school-hostel from very early-on predisposes both the student and the parents to grow-up appreciating Indian Archaeology. For hostel life in India requires nearly just as many journeys as does the practice of Indian archaeology. Equally, what sort of a field vehicle is used by an Indian archaeologist, is of the utmost importance: in my case, this was a 350cc Royal Enfield motorcycle, but then that was just during the second year of my doctoral fieldwork in the Santal Parganas District. In the first of these, like most of my doctoral colleagues, I walked a full year surveying for archaeological sites, visiting tribal usually the Paharia Tribe's villages for ethnographic surveys; however, on longer walkathons in the Rajmahal Hills, where the Paharia reside to this day, one was bound to come across numerous Santal villages too which are situated in these hills.

    Welcome here to some anecdotes which I shall hope shall thrill you to some extent. However, whether that happens or not, please rest assured that such stories as I shall try to recount here, are all almost true. I am writing this post primarily to suggest that relics of the past are necessarily those locations where humans dwelt in one sort of configuration (e.g. those living within a forest and those without etc.) or the other. In any case, the fact that these locations were only partly shared with wild animals at the time these relics were actively dwelt within and without, by human populations, that now today that they should entirely be dwelt within and without, mostly by wild animals, surely needs an archaeological comment. Thank you. Ajay

    The Vindhyan countryside, heading southward from Benaras, is simply glorious. Even if the actual forest cover has depleted and shrunk miserably. The Imperial Gazetteer of Mirzapur is a very good place to start to acquaint yourself with this district. Archaeologists tend to become naturalists more from necessity than choice.

    Several times, in my archaeological work in Mirzapur, and thus and therefore, in the course, several times, of having driven upwards of 150 kilometers in a day, the mind tends to wander, although this condition is alleviated somewhat by some small gossip with students accompanying, some tea at a wayside Dhaba.

    It is just sheer pleasure to behold a very large herd of the very large and sturdy Nilgai, who quite suddenly stampede helter-skelter, as once upon a time we saw, while surveying within a few miles of Sidh Nath Ki Dari.

    One of our rock painting sites, now labelled as WYN 1 or Wyndham 1, occurs some distance inside the Barkacha Forest Reserve, at Wyndham Falls. The said painting at WYN 1 is a painting at a height, located some fifteen to twenty feet high up on the wall of a sandstone cliff right beside the Falls. Standing at this vantage, one is also afforded a glorious view down to the waterfalls. As I looked down at the gushing and frothing waters below, one field trip there, I saw a very big Mongoose dart out of the bushes, dipping its snout into the water, and in a matter of seconds, making off with a huge fish. This one was remarkably hefty no doubt on account of such a high protein diet.

    Our Indian Grey Wolf sighting was a little deeper inside the Barkachha Forest Reserve. As my students and I were returning bone-tired after miles of trekking and recording a reasonable amount of rock-art data, our field guide tapped me on my shoulder gently and then whispered, "Sahab, Janwar!". My first thought was to say a quick prayer as my adrenalin jumped just in case it was a 500 kilogram striped big and very very clawy sort of Janwar. Then, he pointed towards it and my student and I were very very lucky to have our first sighting of a fully grown Grey Indian Wolf. It stood very still, turning its head backwards to take a good look at us. Then his curiosity satisfied, he looked forward and loped-away for his evening constitutional.

    Another time, as we were driving in Mirzapur, on a road with paddy-fields on either side of the road, down in the plains part of the countryside, three or four fox-like animals darted across the road, however, not fast enough for us to miss noticing that they all had black, I mean absolutely black fur. Wild dogs? I'm still searching the Internet and such documents as we have on Mirzapur for any evidence to support this claim.


    Chronologically speaking, I saw the Rohtas Fort on the Bihar side of the Kaimurs, first. In the early 1980s, it was still very very grand, but hopelessly desolate and village speak had it that it was infested with the most dreaded dacoits of the area. The Banda Fort, I saw in the early 1990s, and although there were about two guards of the Archaeological Survey of India, posted here at that time, the location was still very very wild at night, indeed in our perambulation of this fort, we managed to locate an active Leopard-den complete with bones of various kinds and descriptions. There are some ten very outstanding buildings within the perimeter walls of this fort, and they were all and very similarly very ruined. The Chunar Fort is perhaps the very best of them as it is well-maintained. However, how many tourists actually make it there is a burning question. Finally, the Vijaygarh Fort at Robertsganj, which we visited this year. It is almost completely wild and equally ruined. If there should be a moral to this story then that should be evident. Isn't it?


    Although the only living example or a live specimen black buck, which my students ever saw, was a young fawn, with it's characteristic size, body and horns was one that was a Paltu or friendly one, by the gate guards of the Chandraprapha wildlife sanctuary...Without doubt this species has been hunted viciously in it's habitat for a long time now. I remember that when I visited the Nawab's Gallery at the State Museum at Lucknow, a few years ago, I was stunned to see that amongst the many many period pieces of weapons and arms of that period on display here, there was a certain dagger of metal which was mounted on the reverse of a Black buck deer's horns. It was truly difficult to decide which side would have inflicted a worse injury, but let's assume the side with the Black Buck's curvilinear horns would.

    The good luck which did visit us however during this trip was that my student Shri P.K. Singh and I and our most helpful and jolly field assistants on this trip to Vijaygarh were indeed also quite able to see some three or four Black Partridges or Kala Teetar walking about in a group in some very distinctly Mirzapuri Bamboo thickets on a high ridge. That was a glorious sight indeed!

    The Mirzapuri Bamboo is quite thin and well-rounded, as would appear from a look at these Bamboo thickets,and are well-shaped to make such spears as are often depicted in the rock-paintings of Ghormangar and Harni-Harna painted rock shelters at the base of the Vijaygarh promontory. Here there are numerous such spears shown in the rock art depicting rhino-hunts by groups of prehistoric hunters.


    As is usual one doctoral student helps another, thus it is that I was also thus privileged, once upon a time to have assisted two of my colleagues in some mundane fieldwork chores like taking their field photos for them and the such like.

    Thus variously I found myself at such very distant climes from the Rajmahal hills, the field for my own doctoral fieldwork, and such places as the Juanga Hills of Keonjhar and the Gond Hills of Adilabad.

    Thus and therefore, apart from gaining a comparative view of shifting cultivation in the Rajmahal hills, with these far flung places which also have shifting cultivation systems intact to this day, I also had a chance to see and hear something of the wildlife of these respective areas! This was a good enough pay-off.

    Until the 1980s, in Keonjhar, the Juanga shifting cultivators are probably the best artists in the world, in that they paint their huts with some of the most wonderful colours and designs, which I have ever seen anywhere. Again, and until the 1980s, the Gond shifting cultivators of Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, were amongst one of the most wonderful singers and dancers as compared with any people anywhere else. In fact, and as a matter of fact, they were at that time, also surely and with great difficulty winning a very tough livelihood from a fast receding forest cover.

    In Keonjhar, I saw a fair-sized parrot-green snake, which was resting in the open, however upon sensing our footfalls, it jerked into motion, whisking its girth away from us, and into the nearby bushes.

    The King Cobra, is a grand sight to behold in the wild. This particular one was comfortably ensconced next to the chicken-coop of a Gond hut, to the right hand side of this particular and frequented village road, right in the middle of the forest range of Adilabad. On hearing our Willys jeep approaching as we were leaving this area, it must have been alarmed to the extent that it whipped across the road at blinding speed even as I applied the not too new nor very effective brakes of this very second world war sort of but delightful roofless jeep. I saw this grandest of our jungle creatures spanning at a time the entire width of this forest road which was easily more than ten feet wide.

    In both cases, and to more than a marginal extent of difference, a lot of surprise is followed by lots and lots of fear and then laughter.


    The one and only time when my opinion has been sought on an extraneous sort of subject, that is other than on my own area of research, as an archaeologist, was by now well-known architect and heritage conservationist Shri Karan Grover of Baroda. Smt. Harshad Kumari of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage was kind enough to put us in touch, suggesting that Karan was in need of some pressing archaeological advice. Subsequently, and as I was the working at Delhi's Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute and was thus placed at Delhi, Karan Grover called me tp meet him on one of his visits to Delhi.

    I went to the India Habitat Center where he was put up and I was delighted, in a long long time, to meet a man who wore a very antiquated sort of beard, parted in the middle and combed-up on either side of his jaws. He suggested that he would like me to visit Baroda or Vadodara, such that we would then together visit Champaner in Gujarat State, a location about forty kilometers away from Baroda, with a view to my suggesting to him, from an archaeologists point of view, how best the complex of built heritage at Champaner, then fast degenerating may be best preserved in the long term.

    Looking at my scheduled, I suggested in turn that I would have liked to have undertaken such a piece of work along-with my friend and Journalist associate Shri Raju Mansukhani who had also written a book already on the Jagmandir on Lake Pichola, as he was no doubt better placed and far more knowledgeable on the Geography of Gujarat than I. Karan agreed that a proper knowledge of Geography was of the utmost importance in such matters and that second only to archaeology and conservation.

    Soon a date was set for our visit there and Raju and I left for Baroda by train from Delhi and on arriving there we made our way to Karan's house at Alkapuri. Here we had a brief stopover to exchange pleasantries and gifts, to drink water from very nice pure silver goblets and some very fine Tea. We also freshened-up before moving again to a nearby luxury hotel whose name I now forget. The idea was, that we were to first receive a briefing from Shri Karan Grover, on Champaner and on what he expected from the two of us by way of advice after a site-visit, later in the day, and then to leave for a site visit a day later after we were fully rested, the day following.

    Raju Mansukhani and I, spent the time in between, roaming the streets, in the nearby areas of Baroda. The streets were spanking-clean, traffic-islands bore exquisite landscaping and metallic modern sculptural works of art, very good tea-stalls, an excellent book-shop and thus, and therefore, we even managed to hop across to the Archaeology Department of the M.S. University and spent some time chatting with Professor V. H. Sonawane, the Head of the Department quizzing him about Champaner. Among many most enlightening things we also learnt about the Baroda Heritage Trust.

    Karan Ji, However had been most unhappy with the performance of this notable body insofar as the proper development of Champaner was concerned and hence our visit and that of those many other scholars from very far-flung places like Japan who were to advice him on the Dos and Donts in the matter. Thereafter, as Raju retired to our hotel, I scouted my way to the local office of the Archaeological Survey of India, Baroda Circle, in order to meet my old friend and class-fellow Dr. Vilas Jadhav who was then a staffer of the Survey, and In-charge of Office as well. Having chit-chatted with him for a long while, as old classmates are wont to do when they meet after a longish spell, and after having heard something from him about Champaner, I decided to head back to our very comfortable hotel, for a bite of lunch and to rest a bit. We were set to depart for Champaner for a site-visit the very next day.

    If the silver-goblets filled with water were an introduction to how class architects live, then watching his Tata Safari being loaded with all sorts of goodies and eatables was quite another as to how they do their fieldwork. Soon the car was ready to Karan's satisfaction and Raju Mansukhani and I were told to take the comfortable seats (Karan was to drive the vehicle himself), as the liveried attendants and the Khansama took up rear positions accompanying the caches of the aforesaid eatables.

    We exited the city of Vadodara and soon hit a fantastic highway at the beginning of which a toll-tax plaza charged us toll charges, apparently since it was new enough to be doing so. Once we got-off this highway, where it ended, the usual country roads appeared as if on a cue, and at some of these Karan stopped his car to give us a look-see of some exquisite monuments of the Medieval period in various states of disrepair. While giving us a walkabout at these sites he suggested that he had appealed to the Archaeological Survey of India to conserve and protect them but thus far nothing had been done. Apparently, this also explained his personal interest in his quest to have properly conserved the Champaner complex of heritage sites which consisted of Rajput period forts and fortifications and a Shahar built by Mahmud Shah Begada. We also visited the site of Professor R.N. Mehta's excavation and thereafter his jeep started the breathtaking ascent up the Champaner-Pavagarh Hill.

    It takes a bit to complete the ascent and almost nothing of Mahmud Shah Begada's structures are on this hill at all rather it is the Rajput Forts which are placed here. The Jeep stopped at one of these and a short walk later to one of these Karan answered our basic question as to how such structures were held in place without any cementing. I recollected seeing such joints at Delhi's Tuglakabad Fort. He said it is an architectural building technique called `Dry Bonding'. We soon stopped at a site office of the Archaeological Survey of India and Karan walked across to chit-chat with the officials. We busied ourselves with the Khansama and the liveried attendants.

    The Jeep stopped next at the top of the Pavagadh Hill. There are some rather well carved historic period temples on this hillside and some of these have fallen into disuse owing to their age. The Pavagadh Hill sports a Devi temple at its apex, and pilgrimage to this spot is as intense in the rainy season as elsewhere. We walked through various bazaars full of devotional goods meant for the pilgrims and slowly but steadily reached the top. There are a number of rock-cut water-reservoirs on top of the Pavagadh Hill, which reminded me then of similar water harvesting structures which for instance I had already seen at the top of the Simhagadh Fort in Maharasthra, and much much later at the Vijaygarh Fort in Uttar Pradesh.

    The best, by way of water harvesting structures, was yet to come, though, as we started our descent down the Pavagadh Hill and its multitude of heritage structures now to be taken for a looksee at the base of this hill. Well, not exactly the base. We had to drive out to the east for a few miles and then we hit a waterbody which was very vast. Karan parked his Jeep near a small but very histrionic period pavilion built near this lake. We disembarked to stretch our limbs and to take a look at this fantastic lake. Karan suggested that this lake was also built by Mahmud Shah Begada to provide water to his city. While Raju and I and the liveried attendants, Khansama and Karanji beheld this magnificent view, Karan added that the value of such waterbodies is that they were able to supply water to local residents to this day.

    Much much later and upon having met Shri Anumpam Mishra of the Gandhi Peace Foundation at Delhi and luckily having read his now famous book which has won him a Padma Shri Aaj Bhee Khare Hain Talab, upon reflecting upon his very historically accurate documentation of water-harvesting practices in India from ancient times, I do actually tend to feel that Mahmud in Gujarat as Jehangir at Maner in Bihar did a pretty good job, isn't it? We then had our lunch here and proceeded to have an exhausting look at Mahmud Shah Begada's walled city which was in a remarkably good state of preservation given that the last of it must have been built in the 16th century. There were upwards of a hundred buildings built of a pinkish stone and all alike marvellously and most intricately carved and architectured. It was as if time stood still here. To say the very least, this medieval city must have supported a very high population of citizens.

    By evening, we returned.


    Karanjia, the abode of Verrier Elwin makes for another interesting story, here. Sometime in the 1990s the then extremely popular magazine The Illustrated Weekly of India gave me Verrier Elwin's famous diary called Leaves of the Jungle for the purpose of writing a book-review of it, which they said they would like to publish.

    Having published some five or six book reviews already at this time I entertained little doubts that I was indeed capable of accomplishing this task. The fact that I had approached them on the recommendation of the veteran journalist Shri M.V. Kamath, which helped enormously with their decision-making process, and with whom I had had an extremely privileged and most benign sort of a chat in advance. He exhorted me to write for each and every magazine, newspapers and what have you, but with the caveat that in the long-term creativity, howsoever defined is what pays!

    As an ethoarchaeologist trained by the very best at India and in England, I decided on a very leisure-work sort of a book-review in which I would first read this very famous author and work line by line, and then after having made my perfunctory notes and comments for this review that I would then undertake to travel to the setting or location which this Diary of Verrier Elwin is set in: his home village of Karanjia in Madhya Pradesh.

    Gory details regarding ethnographic fieldwork are and are not necessary since if we follow Clifford and Marcus's writing, then it is amply clear that disciplinary contingencies in both ethnography as ethnoarchaeology require that we leave-out far more than we write in what we do end up writing about our field visits. In fact there are a lot of very similar very loud fieldwork manuals written. In time, as Valentine Ball, I do wish to write my own manual for the students of Indian archaeologist anecdotally.

    That is how my own story of my experiences at Karanjia have been dormant for nearly two decades now. Like many other specialists, like geologists and geomorphologists, strictly speaking an ethnoarchaeologists is also never never strictly speaking on a holiday! Thus it is that after alighting from a Bombay train at Katni Junction I boarded a MP Tourism Bus to Amarkantak, and the long but winding journey up the ravines and ghats of the Maikal Hills afforded many a salutary view of glorious and very forested landscapes. It was winter and there was a lot of mist around in the Maikal Hills. The bus which I had chosen was laden with very normal sort of people doing their domestic journeys flitting from one village to the next. Some visiting relatives and friends others simply travelling to the pilgrimage at Amarkantak where the river Narmada has her origin in a rather small waterfall.

    Now the point of remembering is not necessarily to suggest that the narrator's narrative has precedence over that of the others. Cool? Coz, and very dimly, and Kautsky or no Kautsky, we are all bound within our own confines. That said, If I did travel to Dindori, subsequently to Amarkantak, and did meet Mr. Ratan Singh Dhurve, who this very book of Verrier Elwin's said is the brother-in-law of Bade Bhaiyya (that is how Verrier Elwin according to his book published by the Oxford University Press said), spent a good night and a good meal later, after a local woman village Pradhan, with all her supporters in Ratan's hut, with a good log-fire giong, harangued me no-end about the ills of government prayojanas in the area, thus and therefore, and as ascribe of my old scout troop, at a Patna School, who did after-all did record her elocution, what indeed was my fault? That Ratan was a retired Postman whose sister Kosi bai or Gnaga-bai was after-all married to an Oxford Guy?

    What is my fault?



    Thank you,


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