Archaeology in Nepal

Kayla Wilson

Monday, Feb. 19 sociology and archaeology professor Nancy C. Wilkie of Carleton College gave a lecture entitled “Archeology in Nepal, the Land of the Buddha.” The Archaeological Institute of America sponsored the talk.
The talk focused primarily on the research that Wilkie did in Nepal. When she first arrived, Wilkie set out to discover prehistoric artifacts but encountered difficulties.
These difficulties resulted from a lack of interest in this time period and because the constant digging and irrigation of the farmers altered the landscape so much as to make proper excavation impossible.
As discussed by Wilkie, there have been some tools discovered from this era, but it is challenging to discern if these were man made or formed by the swift-moving river.
Moreover, these artifacts were not found in an archaeological context but discovered instead by tourists and native women.
Wilkie said that after her first unsuccessful venture she moved to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, where as is the custom she drank a lot of tea before being allowed by the Lumbini Development Trust to investigate the Buddha’s supposed birthplace.
This endeavor also led to a series of disappointments, including a largely falsified holy site.
When asked about these disappointments, Wilkie said,” Archaeology is always that way. Everywhere I’ve worked it’s been a love-hate relationship.”
She later added, “You have to be patient and you have to drink a lot of tea.”
In addition to focusing on her research, Wilkie’s talk also brought to light the concerns of archaeologists. This was perhaps the most important aspect of her talk, as it exposed the difficulties archaeologists face but more importantly the difficulties faced by archaeology itself.
In exploring different parts of the world, archaeologists face various obstacles ranging from uncooperative governments to ethical conflicts resulting from the potential disruption of holy sites.
In addition, the validity of other scientists’ data also can pose a problem, as unsubstantiated claims are made to satisfy the public interest.
As a former president of the Archaeological Institute of America and a current serving member of a governmental committee which gives funding to countries experiencing looting of their artifacts, Wilkie is deeply concerned with the preservation of artifacts and keeping the study of archaeology alive.
Unfortunately, membership in the AIA is at an all-time low. In an effort to gain more members, the AIA is currently offering a new deal for recruitment: Student membership is only $19 a year.
In addition, artifacts all over the world are being stolen to satisfy the Western thirst for art from these parts of the world. Her talk helped raise awareness among those in attendance in the hopes that the study of the past will continue into the future.

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