What are the primary archaeological sources?

Following are some of the primary archaeological sources:

1. Monuments

The monuments include temples, stupas, monasteries (viharas), palaces, forts etc. In addition to individual monuments, there are vast remains of ancient cities. Mohenjodaro and Harappa cities produce this type of sources. In absence of literary records the monuments play vital role in history writings. The information about ancient dynasties like Kushanas and western satrapas can be gathered by excavation of the sites and studying the monuments found in excavated historical sites.

Besides the monuments and their remains, sculptures, paintings, pottery and other artefacts help us in reconstructing the history and culture of ancient India. The cave paintings of Ajanta, the animal sculptures at the Buddhist stupas at Sanchi, Bharut etc. show scenes from the life of the Buddha and represent the Jataka stories. The South Indian temples of the Pallavs, Chola, Chalukya and Pandya period are full of sculptures that help us in understanding the artistic achievements of the ancient Indian sculptors and artists. Artefacts of different kinds also help us in reconstructing the history and culture of ancient, medieval and modern India.

2. Paintings

The sultanate period, except in some regions like Gujarat and Malwa, did not have many illustrated manuscripts. The Persian practice of miniature painting was also first introduced by these regional rulers. It was during Akbar’s reign that painting was organized by an imperial estab- lishment which brought together Hindu and Muslim painters and artisans from different parts of India, especially, from regions like Gujarat and Malwa where this tradition of manuscripts and miniature paintings had developed.Despite the objection of orthodox religious leaders, who regarded painting as un-Islamic, the Mughal emperors patronized this art. The painters, besides depicting usual scenes like war, hunting, and other public activities, also started specializing in portrait paintings. A similar style of painting developed in Rajasthan using Hindu mythological themes.

3. Coins

The legends and effigies on the coins help the historian to reconstruct the religious history of the period. The gradual Indianization of the foreign invaders such as the Sakas, Pahlavas and Kushanas can be understood from their coins. These foreign invaders embraced Indian religions, either Hinduism or Buddhism and also adopted Indian names. The coins provide us lot of information about republican and monarchical government in ancient India. Most of the ancient states had issued coins. The coins had legend engraved on it. The legend on coins helps historian to reconstruct the religious history of the period.

4. Inscriptions

The archaeological sources played an important role in constructing or reconstructing the history of a region. The archaeological source improved our awareness about our past and also provided important materials, which we could not have been obtained otherwise. Epigraphy and Numismatics are the important branches of the study of history, which has greatly enhanced the understanding of India’s past. For the reconstruction of the political history of ancient India inscriptions are of great value. These inscriptions being engraved on stones or metals are authentic as they are free from tampering. The inscriptions contain various subjects. They include religious matters, decrees of rulers, records of conquests, sale or gift of land by various rulers to individuals or religious institutions, description of achievements etc.

5. Archival Records

Mumbai Archives has a collection of good number of printed records in the form of volumes and books. The old publications consist of Printed Abstracts of Proceedings, Government Gazettes, Reports of various Department, Offices, Commissions and Committees, Acts, Rules and Orders issued by the Government, Civil Lists and numerous Government Publications published from time to time. Three copies of each State Government publication are sent to Mumbai Archives for preservation. Apart from the vast bulk of Public Records and Private Papers, the National Archives has a rich and ever growing collection of Library. This has some of the oldest and rare publications on a variety of subjects, besides contemporary published material.

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