IndIA-Review Report 2015-16


In the beginning of 2015, KCHR launched the Post-Graduate Diploma Programme in Archaeology at Pattanam. The course title was “Post Graduate Diploma in Archaeology: An Interdisciplinary Programme in Material Cultural Studies”. Applications were invited in the month of January. On 28thJanuary and 1st February 2015, selection interviews were conducted atthe KCHR office, Thiruvananthapuram and the Pattanam camp office, Pattanam, North Paravur, Ernakulam, respectively. Seven students with an aptitude for archaeology were admitted out of 25 applicants.

The programme started on 2nd March 2015 with a small function in which Professor P J Cherian lighted the nilavilakku. The message from Professor K N Panikkar, Chairman, KCHR stated that he hoped that the students would benefit from this course in their quest to develop as practicing archeologists. He asked them to make good use of this course through diligence and application.

On this occasion Professor Cherian said that the Indian Institute of Archaeology (IIA/IndIA) is the new academic centre of the KCHR at Pattanam, established to take forward the achievements of the Pattanam archaeological research and to rectify its limitations. Following inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches, the centre would strive to enhance the capacity of students by providing them a foundational knowledge in archaeology and allied areas. This course is also the beginning of the journey to two major goals: to develop Pattanam into an international knowledge hub and into a world heritage site.

Curriculum and Teaching Methods

The current curriculum for the PGDA programme includes six modules in total. These are:

1. Archaeology as the study of material culture;

2. Cultural Archaeology and Environmental Archaeology;

3. Trade, Exchange and Maritime History;

4. Exploration, Excavation and Documentation methods;

5. Archaeo-sciences/Site conservation/Heritage/Museum Studies; 6. Dissertation.

There are two basic textbooks prescribed for the course:

    1. Renfrew, Colin and Paul Bahn 2012, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice, Thames and Hudson, London, 6th edition.

    2. Boivin, Nicole 2008, Material Cultures, Material Minds: The Impact of Things on Human Thought, Society and Evolution, Cambridge.

Apart from these books, there are a number of suggested readings including both relevant books and research papers. Archaeological documentaries are also used as teaching aids to make learning an enjoyable experience. Theoretical classroom teaching is complemented by the fieldwork component, which includes excavations, library assignments and field visits. For a registered student, participating in excavations is compulsory.


In the first semester, classes were primarily taught by Dr Deepak K Nair, a full time faculty member at IndIA. Some of classes were also taught by the KCHR Director, Professor P J Cherian and Co-Director, Dr Preeta Nayar. Research scholars, both senior and young scholars, were invited periodically as guest faculty to teach classes on their specialization. In November, another faculty, Mr Tathagata Neogi joined IndIA/IIA. He covered the remaining parts of the curriculum.

Teaching and Study hours

The curriculum recommends 20 hours of teaching per week. Teaching for 15 hours was achieved in a week. On days when there was no scheduled instruction, students were supposed to either have discussions on the readings they were allotted or work on assignments. There were also reading days when no classes were scheduled.

The following is the report of academic activities at the Indian Institute of Archaeology as part of the PGDA course.

Classroom Teaching

The coursework started with the first module, Archaeology as the study of material culture. Introductory classes were taught by Professor P J Cherian. Focusing on the history of archaeology and its multi-disciplinary nature, Professor Cherian introduced the Pattanam archaeological site. The introductory lectures underlined the need to chart out a new praxis to undertake interdisciplinary studies, in order to understand the materials and their cultural contexts and to practice science and community archaeology towards devolving a career in archaeology and heritage management. After the introductory classes in the month of March and early April, Dr Deepak K Nair took over and taught the remaining classes in the module. The submodules covered included History of world and Indian archaeology, development of archaeological theories – Culture-historical, Processual/New Archaeology, functional and ecological approaches, post-processual archaeologies. There was a break in classroom teaching to engage in the 9th season of Pattanam excavations, which commenced on 12th April 2015 and lasted until the preparation of the excavation report in June. Students were trained to involve in each aspect of this team effort.

Classes resumed in mid June with starting of the new module: Exploration, Excavation and Documentation methods. In this module, classes covered the Discovery of sites and features; Formation processes-natural and cultural; History of archaeological excavations; Documentation methods; Processes of recovery, conservation and storage; and Post excavation studies. This module was completed by the end of July.

The new module, Cultural Archaeology and Environmental Archaeology, commenced by the end of July. The submodules were: Discovering varieties of human experience-social organization; study of mobile hunter-gatherer societies; segmentary societies, chiefdom and state societies; environmental archaeology; reconstructing the plant environment; animal and human environment; subsistence and diet; and technology- altered and unaltered materials. This module finished by the first week of October.

The next module, Trade, exchange and Maritime History, was covered during October and November. The submodules included: History of interaction; study of characterization, exchange and interpretation; study of consumption pattern; early historic Indian ocean trade- textual and archaeological sources; and Pattanam and trans-oceanic links. The module was completed by the end of November.

The final teaching module, Archaeo-sciences/Site conservation/Heritage/Museum Studies, was covered during December 2015 and January 2016. It included: Dating methods- relative and absolute; conservation aspects; heritage and museum studies; and public archaeology.

In December the new faculty Mr Tathagata Neogi taught classes on the remaining Module 2.6: Technology of unaltered materials. He focused on archaeo-metallurgy and theories to study technology. He also covered Module 2.7: Everyday concerns in anthropology and archaeology, and space and landscape in archaeology.

Guest Lectures

As mentioned above, both senior and young research scholars were invited to deliver guest lectures throughout the programme period. Taking into account the multi-disciplinary nature of archaeological research, specialists from geology, anthropology, linguistics, language and literature were invited in addition to scholars working in the field of archaeology.

In March 2015, the first guest lecture was delivered by Dr Linto Alappat, Department of Geology, Christ College, Irinjalakuda, Thrissur. His lecture covered basic aspects of the geology and geomorphology of the coastal Kerala region. The students subsequently visited the geology lab at Christ College where Dr Linto introduced them to different rocks, fossils and other geological specimens.

In June, Mr Sajan, PhD Candidate in Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, Norway, taught some classes on methods of ethnography. He also taught the following submodules from module 2: Everyday concerns in archaeology and anthropology-‘Bodies, Landscape and Social Memories’; Materiality of objects- How archaeologists construe the relationship between people and things- the agency’ of material elements in a cultural system. A discussion was also held on Ian Hodder's article 'Human-thing entanglement: towards an integrated archaeological perspective'. Mr Sajan also conducted an ethnographic exercise with the students in the village of Pattanam to explore the social memories of the inhabitants. Later in the same month, he taught a workshop on how to organize ethnographic field notes and how to write a report on ethnographic data.

In early July, Dr. Jenee Peter, UC College Aluva, was invited to deliver a guest lecture on Indian Megaliths with special reference to Kerala. Dr Preeta Nayar was invited to deliver lectures on World Prehistory and Human Evolution. Ms Madhavi K, Mar Thoma College for Women, Perumbavur, delivered lectures on Stone Tool Technology and Indian Prehistory. In August, Dr Jayaseelan Raj, Post-Doctoral Fellow, London School of Economics, was invited for a talk on methodological techniques used in anthropological/ethnographic survey, since KCHR had prepared a blue print for the anthropological/archaeological survey of the Periyar River valley. Professor N Gopalakrishanan was invited to take a class on Sangam literature. Professor P J Cherian also taught classes on Gordon Childe’s concept of ‘Urban Revolution’ and the urban characteristics of the Pattanam site.

Ms Rachel Varghese, PhD Candidate in Archaeology, JNU, New Delhi, delivered two lectures on public archaeology in late September. In January 2016, Mr M N Namboodiri, Hill Palace Museum, Tripunithara, was invited to share his knowledge of conservation aspects in archaeology with the students.

During the excavation, a Chinese team from the Palace Museum, Bejing, visited Pattanam to study and create a database for Pattanam Ceramics using the pXRF analyzer. During this period, a talk by team members Dr Li He and Dr Ji was organized on the methodology and rationale of XRF studies with the database created using pXRF analyzer.

Distinguished visits

On 3rd July, Srilankan Ambassador His Excellency Sudarshana Seneviratne visited the Pattanam archaeological site. Himself an accomplished archaeologist, he addressed and interacted with the KCHR team and the students of Indian Institute of Archaeology. He shared his experiences in the field of archaeology.

On 26th September, Dr Irving Finkel, Assyriologist, British Museum, London, visited Pattanam and delivered a lecture on ‘Ancient Board Games’. On the same day, the students attended his public lecture on ‘The Ark Before Noah’ in Fort Kochi. 

Fieldwork Component

Classroom teaching was complemented by training in field methods.


The 9th season of excavations at Pattanam commenced on 12 April 2015 and concluded on 21stMay 2015. A single trench was excavated in the courtyard of the present camp office. The excavation provided students with direct exposure to archaeological field methods. Students were trained in laying out the trench, digging, sieving, cleaning pottery and other artefacts, labeling and bagging them, and archaeological documentation (making field notes and filling in context sheets). During the excavation, students were given the responsibilities of documenting the findings, including the number of bricks and brick fragments and the volume of soil excavated at each locus each day. They presented these details at the daily meeting to discuss the excavation progress and the strategy to be used in further excavation after the end of each day of excavation

During excavations, the pXRF database was also being prepared for the local pottery. Students participated in creating the database. Apart from that, they also helped with the photo documentation of the pottery. After the excavations, students helped the Pattanam archaeological research team to consolidate the data and prepare the excavation report.

Field Visits

Pottery Workshop at Mannam

In the beginning of the course, the students visited a pottery workshop in Mannam. This pottery workshop was documented for the first international workshop on pottery in the form of an ethnoarchaeological survey on ‘Pottery Traditions in Pattanam Region.’ The students could see and document all the processes of pottery production, from processing of the clay to the firing of vessels.


In mid September, a field visit was organized to the early historic site of Keezhadi/Keeladi in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, which is a contemporary site of Pattanam. The visit was organized during the excavations at Keeladi by the Archaeological Survey of India. This provided the students with exposure to contemporary sites with similar material culture in a different region. Since excavation was in progress, students also witnessed an alternative excavation method, Wheeler’s Grid-Box method.

Boat making workshop at Cherai

For the KCHR-BM organized international workshop on ‘Architectural Features of Ancient Port Sites,’ an ethnographic study of traditional boat building was conducted from 14th to 20thNovember. All the students participated in the ethnographic study and made observations and thorough documentation of the Chaîne opératoire method of boat building.

Traditional Carpentry workshop at Pattanam

An ethnographic survey was conducted, also as part of the Architecture workshop, on ‘Traditional carpentry practices of Kerala –wooden super structure’. It was carried out at Mr Ayappan’s workshop, Pattanam 

Kalady Visit 

On 7th December 2015, students with Professor Cherian and the IIA/IndIA faculty visited Mr. Ali’s residence in Kalady. Mr Ali has been collecting stone and other objects belonging to different periods from the Periyar River Valley area. Neolithic ground and polished axes were the most remarkable objects in his collection. His collection also included some metal objects, stone pestles and coarse pottery. 

Kodanad Visit

On the same day, the team visited the Dhanya library, Kodanad, where the NGO PEARCH has stored surface finds from the Kodanad region, Periyar valley. These include various hollow terracotta sculptural fragments, some Koorayodu tiles, and some sharp stone fragments which might be some kind of tool.

Special Sessions 

During the excavations, a one-day workshop was organized to make the students familiar with the methodology of pottery analysis. Research Assistant Rajitha gave an introduction on the Pattanam classification methodology and Research Associate Dr Deepak K Nair gave a general introduction to ceramic classification. After the talk, there were some hands-on activities including pottery drawing. Other Pattanam team members Dineesh and Sarath provided training on how to describe and draw profiles of pottery.

In November, ceramic specialist Dr Roberta Tomber conducted a workshop on pottery analysis. She provided training to students on how to analyse and document the fabric of ceramics with naked eye, lens and optical microscopy. There was also a hands-on exercise in which the students attempted to fill out a pottery recording sheet.

During the third international workshop on the ‘Architectural Features of Ancient Port Sites,’ a special talk by Professor Steven Sidebotham, University of Delaware, USA, was organized for the students. He shared his experiences of archaeological fieldwork in Egypt with special reference to the sites of Berenike and Siaket.

There is a proposal to organize a 2-3 day workshop on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in February.


Screening of educational documentaries based on archaeology, anthropology, geology, nature, trade, culture etc. was a regular feature of teaching at IIA/IndIA. The documentaries were usually screened after a relevant lecture was delivered in the classroom. This methodology aims to make learning possible through using enjoyable and effective media. Various documentaries concerning topics such as pottery making, domestication, Roman trade, and archaeo-metallurgy were screened.

Some of the documentaries screened are as follows: Golden Road: The Ancient Incense Trail (On Frankincense Trade); The Cave of Forgotten Dreams by Werner Herzog; How earth made us by Professor Iain Stewert; and Archaeology at work, an ethnographic film on iron smelting by the Bamago tribe in the Dablo region of Burkina Faso, Africa.

Capacity Building Programme

The students in this programme come from different academic backgrounds. Therefore, at IndIA/IIA, Ms Chelsea McGill, Mr Tathagata Neogi’s wife, has taught classes to build the students’ capacity. She conducted classes on academic writing and critique, how to read and comprehend a research paper, incorporating citation methods, and plagiarism. Each student was given a research paper which she/he was supposed to read analytically and present in the next class. Her classes also included presentation skills and writing exercises

Participation in Academic programmes

KCHR and the British Museum organized a third international workshop on the ‘Architectural Features of Ancient Port Sites’ from 23rd November to 27th November 2015. The students took an active part in the management of the event and also attended the workshop as research scholars. The workshop provided them with a great learning opportunity to listen to the papers of top archaeologists from India and abroad and to interact with them.


Currently there is a small library housed in the Oxford House. This library has books on archaeology mostly sourced from KCHR Trivandrum library. Some copies of journals such as Antiquity, World Archaeology, Journal of Field Archeology, Man and Environment, Puratattva, as well as archaeology magazines such as Current World Archaeology Magazine and Minarva are also available. The library is growing gradually by purchasing essential books on archaeology. 


IndIA/IIA offers a short term Internship programme of 2-15 weeks to those who are genuinely interested in undertaking a significant experiential learning opportunity in Archaeology. The internship structure links classroom learning, field work, Pattanam archaeological excavation, post excavation research, Green archaeology, Community archaeology and student interest with the acquisition of knowledge in the field of material Culture.

During excavations, three students joined the internship. Subsequently, three more students completed the internship successfully after excavations. The short-term internship also provides an opportunity for the students to interact with interns belonging to diverse backgrounds and social setting 

Assessment and Evaluation

The programme carries an element of assessment that is continuous. Discussions, multiple choice questions, presentations, and short assignments are all part of this. The course evaluation will be done on the basis of student’s performance in two assignments and a dissertation. The last two to three months of the programme are designated for the dissertation. Students are encouraged to think afresh and work on proposals that usher in new perspectives in understanding of the past.

The word limit of the dissertation is 10,000-15,000 words. Currently the students have submitted two assignments and are working on their research proposals.

Other components of the Programme

The IndIA/IIA conceives the PGDA programme from a new educational vision and alternative living perspective. The programme is residential in nature with 24x6 engagement at the campus. The highlights have been elaborated below.


The day starts at 6:30 with meditation in the early hours of the day. It consists of breathing exercises. It is followed by the reading of select texts and poetry directly or indirectly connected with the early historic period. The classical sangam texts are read- for example, Manimekalai -that are pertinent in understanding the historical context of people who lived during the times represented in the Pattanam archaeological record i.e. from 3rd c BCE to 5th c CE . The reading session is followed by cycling in the village.

Green Archaeology

The green archaeology project aims to transform the Pattanam site into an organic garden of spices and medicinal plants. By implementing this programme with sensitivity towards the empowerment of the local community and with ecological concerns, KCHR hopes to conserve the site scientifically and ensure that the soil is not disturbed below 1-meter depth in the Pattanam mound. KCHR insists on the reduction of carbon footprints on earth and encourages the use of bicycles in Pattanam. Under this project, cycles have been gifted to some of the local inhabitants. The faculty, staff and students all ride bicycles to ensure no pollution is imposed on nature through them. Thus the programme hopes to ensure an organic relationship between the site, local community and the students. Students are supposed to be the ambassadors of the philosophy of site protection with community participation.

Sharing of responsibilities

The students are encouraged to share the responsibilities of the institution in order to run it smoothly and to create an organic relationship with the institution. They are supposed to play supervisory roles for food services, administration, construction projects etc. For example, setting up the Muziris Children’s museum called for the students to take on supervisory responsibilities regarding various responsibilities.