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6 April 2005
Indian archaeologist sparks debate after unauthorised excavation

A professor of archaeology at the Jahangirnagar University in India is courting controversy following the unauthorised excavation of an archaeological site.
    Professor Sufi Mustafizur Rahman led the excavation of an 18 by 16 metre area at Owari-Bateshwar in Belabo upazila of Narsingdi, and claimed in April 2004 that he had found a road, a citadel and a raft of artefacts dating back to 450BC, which would redefine the history of eastern India and substantiate the theory of the Brahmaputra civilisation.
    As well as sparking a debate amongst historians and archaeologists about prematurely reaching his conclusion, Professor Sufi has incurred the wrath of the Department of Archaeology who did not give permission for the dig. A senior official said "He did not even hand over materials he had dug out from the site or submit any report to the department about his findings. Non-compliance with the archaeological rule is a punishable offence."
    However, Professor Sufi insists he did seek permission, and said "As the excavation was completed in April 2004, the Department of Archaeology asked me to submit the report and the materials within a month. The work is time consuming so I could not submit the report but will in the course of time."
    Aside from the issue of not reporting his findings to the Department, his conclusions have also been questioned by academics. Mozammel Haque, a professor of archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, said "A road must have starting and finishing points that are not visible. It is not possible to pinpoint the time period without carbon dating, an examination which is sensitive as well as expensive."
    Another professor of archaeology at the same university, Quamrul Ahsan, added "It is too early to say the site is part of an ancient civilisation. It took many years to validate the Indus valley as the oldest civilisation in the India."
    In his defence, Professor Sufi said "I have never said the site is part of an ancient city. It was publicised by the media, not me."

Source: News From Bangladesh (28 March 2005)

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