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  • Indian Archaeology in Retrospect, Volume III: Archaeology and Interactive Disciplines
  • Seetha N. Reddy
Indian Archaeology in Retrospect, Volume III: Archaeology and Interactive Disciplines. Edited by S. Settar and Ravi Korisettar. 2002. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers. xviii + 505 pp., bibliography, index. ISBN 81-7304-321-3.

Indian Archaeology in Retrospect is a four-volume publication of 60 papers authored by 76 scholars. The primary objective of this impressive undertaking was to review the progress made in South Asian archaeology during the later half of the twentieth century, and to summarize and evaluate changes in research trends. This book review is focused on the third volume: Archaeology and Interactive Disciplines. Volume 1 (Prehistory: Archaeology of South Asia) is a compilation of 15 articles, four appendixes (lists of sites from various cultural periods) and an index. Volume 2 (Protohistory: Archaeology of the Harappan Civilization) also has 15 chapters, one appendix (annotated list of excavations and survey), and an index. Volume 4 (Archaeology and Historiography: History, Theory and Method) has 15 chapters, one appendix (a survey of archaeological investigations by the Archaeological Survey of India), and an index.

Volume 3 is comprised of 15 chapters authored by 18 scholars including 15 Indian and 3 Western archaeologists. The volume has a helpful introduction, which presents a short synopsis of each chapter. The 505-page volume is arranged topically, covering such subjects as soils (Chapter 1), climate and paleoenvironment (Chapters 2 and 3), bioanthropology (Chapters 4, 5, and 6), ethnography (Chapters 7 and 8), ethnoarchaeology (Chapter 9), paleontology (Chapter 10), subsistence studies (Chapters 11 and 12), and technical studies (Chapters 13, 14, and 15).

The first three chapters, on soils, climate, and paleoenvironment set the stage for the volume by presenting the ecological background critical for reconstructing prehistoric natural and cultural landscapes. Chapter 1 by G. S. Dasog, is a concise review of the very unique "black" soils in central and western India, and their importance to prehistoric agriculture. Information on their morphology, physical and chemical [End Page 398] properties, and formation is presented with reference to archaeological implications. Chapter 2 by R. Korisettar and R. Ramesh is a synthetic review of paleoclimatic studies on monsoonal rain patterns during the last 2.5 million years. Although their discussion has strong environmentally deterministic underpinnings (for example, equating development of intensive subsistence economies to monsoonal patterns, pp. 48–49), this chapter offers informative details on long-term climatic fluctuations and the resulting econiche segmentation. Chapter 3 is focused on the contribution of Quaternary palaeoclimatic (bioclimate and palynology) studies to archaeological research. Succinct discussions are presented on bioclimatic zones across India, and the Quaternary history of flora in salient regions within India. In this synthesis of Indian paleoclimatic research, Meher-Homji provides examples of how the natural environment has been altered both by natural and cultural changes throughout the Quaternary.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 examine the status of bioanthropological research in India. Chapter 4 by K.A.R. Kennedy provides insight into the emerging evidence for Pleistocene human occupation in Sri Lanka, and in doing so addresses the recent debate on the identification of fossil cranium in the Narmada Valley, central India, discovered in 1982. The affiliation of 'Narmada Man' has been highly controversial; scholars are divided on whether it should be classified as Homo erectus or archaic H. sapiens. Kennedy concentrates discussion on Pleistocene Sri Lankan fossil hominids and their muscular-skeletal robusticity and reduced tooth size. In Chapter 5, J. Lukas presents the theoretical and methodological frameworks of bioarchaeological research in India. He discusses the delineation of economic systems, diet, sexual dimorphism, and climate using biological and cultural data from the prehistoric urban center of Harappa in Pakistan, and the Chalcolithic early farming village of Inamgaon in India. Bioanthropology of living populations in India is the topic of Chapter 6 by R. Singh. The discussion provides an important synthesis on the history of the field in India since independence, with particular emphasis on anthropometric studies, growth studies, dental anthropology, and human biology (genetics). Although the author stresses the lack of genetic morphology studies in India, he has not referred to the extensive work done by Pingle (1983) and Pingle and Haimendorf (1987, 1998) on...