- Indian Archaeology in Retrospect, Volume IV: Archaeology and Historiography—History, Theory and Method
This edited volume is undoubtedly the most important of four volumes compiled by Settar and Korisettar, as it addresses critical methodological and theoretical issues that form the heart of archaeology, not only in India, but also in the whole world. There are fifteen substantive articles that provide critical summaries of the state of different research methods and the quality of theoretical frameworks used by scholars working in South Asia. An appendix provides a useful list of sites reported by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in its annual reports between 1953 and 1993. Overall, I feel that this is one of the most important new edited volumes to come out of India in recent years and recommend it as essential reading for anyone interested in current and future developments in archaeological method and theory.
The first article by R. S. Pappu is an excellent summary of the recent projects in India that have been investigating the Plio-Pleistocene to early Holocene record of climate fluctuations, geological events, and evidence for early human presence in this changing landscape. His main conclusion is that we have a fairly comprehensive understanding of secondary sites that demonstrate the presence of human populations in the subcontinent, beginning as early as 2 million years ago, but that future investigations [End Page 401] need to focus on the discovery and excavation of primary occupation and activity sites. The article by M. D. Petraglia, appearing later in the volume, directly complements Pappu's article, since it focuses on specific methods of analysis and the various theoretical frameworks used in Paleolithic studies. While both articles are excellent summaries, they do not emphasize the major contributions to the field that have resulted from work in India and South Asia in general. Perhaps this is out of a sense of modesty by the two authors, but I can say without hesitation that the Paleolithic settlement analysis done by Petraglia with K. K. Paddayya in Karnataka is one of the most thorough and well documented for any region of the world, even though they did not find evidence for any primary undisturbed sites. Furthermore, the comprehensive geoarchaeological reconstructions and site catchment analysis done by Pappu and his colleagues is also an excellent example of well-organized multidisciplinary research. Although they do mention it in passing, I feel that they should have given more time to a discussion of the extremely significant work done by Pakistani geologists and the British Archaeological Mission in the Potwar region of Pakistan (though this work is discussed in other articles). The modern political borders and current political tensions between India and Pakistan should not compromise the credit due to outstanding scholarship.
The article by B. B. Lal is only slightly revised from his 1981 article on his research methodology for testing the historicity of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Lal's work has provided considerable impetus to Hindu fundamentalists who have tried to appropriate the incomplete archaeological record to legitimize their own views of the past. He does add an up-to-date discussion of the continuing controversy about the contested site of the now destroyed Babri Masjid and the previously destroyed Rama temple, but does not suggest an improved methodology that would avoid future misappropriation of the archaeological record.
In the article by Lahiri et al., we are provided with a scathing critique of the Archaeological Survey of India. In their analysis of the annual reports of the ASI, they find serious gaps in terms of survey coverage by the ASI and argue that an overall map of archaeological settlements in India is needed to understand changing settlement patterns. The main thrust of the article is that the ASI does not employ people who have a strong theoretical or methodological foundation in modern archaeological approaches, that there is a lack of planning and carrying out of high-quality scientific research, and that it...