No. 10 (2010): Redefining Archaeology and the Ethno-history of Pre-colonial Singhbhum - By Asoka Kumar Sen

Conventionally archaeology stands for the remains of cities, palaces, temples, statues etc as well as numismatic findings often emanating from centralized power centres. As these remains often do not historicize ethnic communities, we are forced to redefine the very term archaeology when we attempt a reconstruction of ethno-history. But as we redefine archaeology to include survivals of a different genre, like ponds, mango groves, sasandiri (gravestone) and also such evidences of linguistic archaeology as villages and arable land names, a new vista of information opens up before us. In the absence of centralized polity, these remains were mostly promoted by the community. Hence these constituted a different genre of archaeology, which may be termed as social rather community archaeology. With this inclusive archaeology, the present essay seeks to reconstruct the ethno-history of the pre-colonial Singhbhum, the available corpus of which is both sparse and fragmentary. It may be argued that the cause behind this ethnographic lack was the lingering faith in the conventional meaning of archaeology, the remains of which in Singhbhum mostly belonged to the time and the people which either predated the advent of the tribal groups or related non-tribal people living here. These often create the notion of specific cultural spaces that embodies archaeological layers representing multiple village histories to support Bernard Cohn’s famous words that ‘There is not one past of the village but many.’

Published: 2010-12-01