Archaeology Museum, Deccan College: A walk through Chalcolithic Age

A museum is an institution that conserves a collection of objects of cultural, artistic, aesthetics, historical or scientific importance. Museum initiative is that such collections should be available for public viewing through exhibits. Historical museums display objects that give us a special access to the past and take us back in time to relieve the past. In the disciplines like archaeology, the objects recovered from excavations are examples of the same. They not only showcase the objects retrieved but other related information like reconstructed models of the past human life, stratigraphic sequences of the site, charts showing ethnographic practices, communities, etc. for a better understanding of the general public.
One such museum is located in the vicinity of Pune city in the premises of Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute. The department of Archaeology owes its foundation to Late Dr. H.D. Sankalia who has done path breaking work in Indian Archaeology popularly known as ‘Father of Indian Archaeology’. He was of the strong opinion that archaeologists should actively incorporate scientific investigation in their search for history. He himself demonstrated it in his work and was elementary in establishing different scientific laboratories. His contribution was honoured by the college in the form of a memorial gallery. The H.D. Sankalia Memorial Gallery is an integral part of the college. This gallery has a display of memorabilia objects from Dr. Sankalia’s collection, as well as first ever stratigraphic representation of the site of Nevasa, which is the key feature of the gallery.
The other galleries are all based on the various branches of archaeology. The objects exhibited in these galleries are testimonies of the intellectual and cultural development of mankind from Stone Age to early historic period. Among all these galleries, the most fascinating gallery is the Proto-Historic gallery. This gallery draws a viewer’s attention to the artefacts which are from Chalcolithic sites including Nevasa, Inamgaon, Kayatha, Savalda, Daimabad, Navdatoli, Balathal, etc. Display of the collection in this gallery connects us to the early stages of village life and further development in human settlement. One such object on display is a replica of the settlement pattern of Inamgaon.
Excavations at these sites yield the material evidence which show various developments in human lives, such as the pottery kiln with clay cushions retrieved from the site of Inamgaon. This data is related to day to day life, rituals, burial practices etc. Other material like four-legged jars, numerous variety of pottery with various shapes which may help one to understand the idea about what must have been the functions of these material. According to scholars these jars were probably used to store grains for longer duration. These jars and pottery are decorated with various geometrical, naturalistic motifs.
The gallery displays touch upon one of the lesser discussed themes like post mortuary practices. Main focus of this section is the beliefs and practices that are seen in burials. A unique form of burial is that of urn burials recovered from different archaeological sites, are a part of the collection display. A gallery like this is an interesting visual medium for a viewer without any prior knowledge, to witness firsthand an archaeological settlement site that would have been the cradle of several aspects human lives present till date. The Chalcolithic age gallery gives a sneak-peak of that time in human history.
Archaeological museums have a targeted audience especially research scholars and students with the background of archaeology, history, ancient Indian studies, etc. The material displayed in the gallery are the best remnants of past. It has heritage value and it belongs to the masses. The people should be well aware of their heritage and in this sense the archaeology museums become significant. Such museums should conduct various outreach activities where people would be involved in taking care of the museums in turn their heritage.

(The writer is a Graduate in History from Mumbai University, and is currently pursuing MA in AIHC & Archaeology from
Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune.)

Vishakha Kulkarni

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