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Introduction to Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of human activity, the ancient and recent human past and all human culture through material remains. A subfield of anthropology, the main motto of this discipline is to study human cultures that existed ages ago by identifying, conducting the survey and excavation of historical sites. These sites reveal the remains of our ancient cultures in the form of relics (such as pottery, weapons, jewelry, articles of daily use, flora, fauna, and human remains and so on) and architecture.

Archaeology offers a unique perspective on human history and culture that has greatly helped us understand both the ancient and the recent past. This social science is the study of human activity which helps us understand not only where and when people lived on the earth, but also why and how they have resided, scrutinizing the changes and causes of changes that have occurred in human cultures over time, all of this learned through the analysis of material culture. Archaeology helps explains the whole lot right from how and when people first came to inhabit the Americas, to the origins of agriculture and complex societies.

Beside the old methods and processes for collecting data and analyzing materials of the past and digging out its proof of existence, archaeologists also use modern investigative techniques which they have developed over 150 years. Archaeologists also depend upon methods from other fields such as history, botany, geology, and soil science. The methods and techniques for research utilized by today’s archaeologists are genetic study, radiocarbon dating, thermography, satellite imaging and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), etc.

As a multidisciplinary activity, archaeology draws upon various subjects such as:

  • Anthropology
  • Art history
  • Chemistry
  • Classical literature
  • Ethnology
  • Geology
  • History
  • Information technology
  • Language
  • Palaeontology
  • Physics
  • Statistics

Altogether, a career in archaeology is an inspiring one.

Pre requisites

Your first step towards becoming an archaeologist is to get a graduation degree. Individuals must enroll in a 4-year bachelor’s degree program in any accredited Institute or college. However, being a graduate in history, sociology, or anthropology, is much more beneficial to understand the benefits of archaeology.

Studying in this field is not too expensive and can easily be afforded. As far as the cost is concerned, a bachelor’s or a postgraduate degree in this field is almost similar to other arts, commerce, and social science subjects’ degree.

Courses offered

Maharaj Sayajirao University of Baroda provides a three years bachelor’s degree in Indian History, Culture, and Archaeology. Banaras Hindu University offers two undergraduate courses in this field: a three years honors program in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology and a three years vocational program in Museology and Archaeology.

The Institute of Archaeology under the sponsorship of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), New Delhi, regulates a two-year Post Graduate Diploma in Archaeology. The qualification to enter this program includes a master’s degree in Ancient or Medieval Indian History, Anthropology, or Archaeology from a certified university. Students holding a master’s degree in classical languages or geology are also eligible for this program. This course is diversified into four semesters, and the curriculum of this course is as follows:

Paper – I Principles and Methods of Archaeology
Paper – II Application of Science in Archaeology
Paper – III Prehistory
Paper – IV Protohistory
Paper – V Historical Archaeology
Paper – VI Art and Iconography
Paper – VII Architecture
Paper – VIII Epigraphy and Numismatics
Paper – IX Museology
Paper – X Structural Conservation of Monuments
Paper – XI Chemical Preservation of Monuments and Antiquities
Paper – XII Antiquarian Laws
Practical Test
Practical Test includes Surveying, Drawing, Photography, Modelling, Exploration & Excavation, Chemical Conservation, Computer Application, Viva-voice, General observations, Tutorials, and a Dissertation.

Gearing up for archaeology

Archaeological fieldwork is not a romantic treasure hunt. Digging deeper holes and profession as an archaeologist requires you to visit museums, cultural centers, historical monuments, and even excavation sites because these places reveal a lot if findings of the past culture. Gathering relevant facts and figures from books, journals, and periodicals on topics such as history, art history, and ancient civilizations help a lot in this field. Keeping an eye on developments and new findings in the sphere of archaeology is vital to get a head start in this field.

Who should opt this as an occupation?

Archaeology is a lucrative career for those who possess keen interest in finding out about history and culture, which disappeared during the changes in the lives of humanity. It is an occupation that is very demanding and consumes most of your time since archaeologists have to spend countless hours and days camping and undertaking field work at excavation sites and in laboratories. Thus, patience to handle the archaeological fieldwork is a must. The good part is that as a part of an expedition, you will have the freedom to contribute personally to the revival and preservation of the human past.

You must possess a sound knowledge of history and must be an avid reader with excellent writing skills, and an analytical and concentrated mind.

Financially speaking:

Students who successfully get enrolled in the two years Post Graduate or Diploma program in Archaeology run by the ASI get a stipend of Rs.1,500 each. Emoluments are raised once their position is elevated to that of a Senior Research Fellow (SRF). The pay bracket of lecturers is around Rs. 20,000 per month whereas professors earn even higher than this.

After joining the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the basic pay package of an assistant archaeologist can range between Rs. 10,000 and Rs.15,000 per month approximately. Archaeologists who have a doctorate can acquire better positions in the job hierarchy. The director general of ASI gets a monthly salary of somewhere around Rs. 30,000 per month.

Universities extend merit scholarships and stipends to students by their performance at bachelor as well as post graduate levels. Some educational institutions also have provision for government and privately funded fellowships for their students, the eligibility for which varies from institute to institute.

Job opportunities:

The ASI is the main recruiter of archaeologists in our country both at the center and the state levels. From the master’s level onwards; students can apply for appropriate positions in the ASI by clearing examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) or by the State Public Service Commission (SPSC).

After acquiring a post-graduate degree in archaeology students can apply for lectureship in various universities across the country. In this regard, they have to appear for the National Eligibility Test (NET) or the Junior Research Fellow (JRF)-Lectureship examination conducted by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Candidates who succeed to qualify the JRF examination have the option to pursue a doctorate in the capacity of a paid research fellowship. To land up in a lectureship position within a particular state, candidates are required clear the State Level Eligibility Test (SLET) of that state.

The demand for Archaeologists in India

India has a rich cultural heritage which dates back thousands of years. Owing to this rich cultural heritage and the scope of findings, there is always a perpetual demand for well-qualified archaeologists to work on new archaeological projects and assignments. There is also a demand for experienced lecturers, curators, and conservators. Universities and colleges across the country are doing great in meeting this demand.

Since ASI, government agencies, and educational establishments act as the main job hopes for students of archaeology, there is no dearth of openings for fresh minds.

Archaeologists are required to travel extensively within the country from one excavation site to another. They also get the opportunity to work on international excavation projects, which becomes the special moment for them long awaited. Archaeologists get placed in permanent positions such as lecturers, professors, conservators, museum curators, and so on in the country. The profession is not limited within the country, one even has a scope to travel to foreign countries as per their experience and area of specialization.


Different roles played

Archaeology has further divisions and is itself is a huge ground. The various roles played are based on the area of specialization. The major chapters of study in archaeology include Archaeobotany, Archaeometry, Archaeozoology, Battlefield Archaeology, Environmental Archaeology, Ethno-Archaeology, Experimental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, Marine Archaeology, Palaeontology, Prehistoric, Archaeology and Urban Archaeology.


Top recruiters

  1. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
  2. Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR)
  3. National Museum
  4. Universities and colleges
  5. Government and private museums and cultural galleries


Colleges best to study from:

  • College of Fine Arts, Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath
  • Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Madras
  • Department of Ancient History, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Rohilkhand University
    Bareilly , Uttar Pradesh
  • Department of Ancient Indian History and Epigraphy, Karnatak University of Dharwad
    Dharwad , Karnataka

Click here to view the complete list of colleges.


Archaeology is an ideal profession for people who want to unravel the mysteries of the past. A famous finding or discovery can enhance the reputation of the archaeologist greatly. The quest to find and bring into limelight undiscovered historical sites is never ending and insatiable.

However inclement weather and tough working conditions pose a challenge to professionals engaged in field work.

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