Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Finding Forgotten Cities by Nayanjot Lahiri

The end of Finding Forgotten Cities builds to a scene of great excitement: it is when Sir John Marshall (director-general of archeological office in all of India) calls a meeting in Simla in May 1924. Following a hat tip from another archeologist, Madho Sarup Vats, Sir Marshall invites two of the archeologists who have recently uncovered artefacts in the Indus Valley (Rakhaldas Banerji in Mohinjodaro and Daya Ram Sahni in Harappa) to his home in northern India. Together they compare and correlate what they have found. This leads to the revelation, in the London Illustrated News, of one of the most exciting archeological discoveries of the twentieth century.

The slow build to this moment involves a host of players including the early explorers e.g. Charles Masson, and in the twentieth century archeologists such as the tragic Italian Luigi Pio Tessitor, the studious Sahni and the characterful Banerji. As well as describing this, the narrative gives a very interesting impression on how archeological work is done, and the importance of comparing results. It also gives an insight into the view of the world from the Indian perspective.

Like Peter Hopkirk's books Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, it tells of the drive to discover, but with greater emphasis on the archeological detail and Imperial and local politics...and to my mind a more sensational result: the revelation of an unknown important ancient civilisation.


Blogger Jud said...

Thank you for once again sharing a book that I now must add to my reading list that I might not have run across on my own for years.

Thu Jul 12, 05:00:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

And thank you for reading, Jud (and I apologise for the second sentence (now corrected) which seemed to lose its subject somewhere along the way).

Thu Jul 12, 07:49:00 am  

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