Emerging Paradigms: Maps, Digital Databases and Visual Exploration of Archaeological Sites in the Fluvial Terrains of Bengal


The publication of the annotated atlas of West Bengal (2005) introduced new research trends for archaeologists working on the fluvial terrains of Bengal. The Atlas published by the Centre for Archaeological Studies and Training, Eastern India (I&CA dept, Govt of West Bengal) comprised 50 digitised maps of Bengal highlighting the natural topography, geological formations, geomorphology, and distribution of archaeological sites along the major river channels of Bengal. The work based on collaborative research between archaeologists, historians, geographers, and geologists paved ways for further dialogues and exchanges of methodologies between the practitioners of the concerned disciplines. Subsequently, mapping and the use of digital technology in understanding the location and distribution of archaeological sites in the fluvial terrains of Bengal initiated studies on settlement patterning and settlement systems in different regions of Bengal. Borrowing ideological trends from geographical models and implementing the same to decipher the past cultural processes put forth new avenues of analyses. Field and visual explorations of archaeological sites aided with digital technologies therefore is shaping up Bengal archaeology in innovative ways. The annual review reports of the Archaeological Survey of India The present paper is an attempt to trace this trajectory of change and innovativeness by meaningful interpretations of selected case studies based on field explorations of archaeological sites, rereading of archaeological maps with emphasis on the fluvial terrains in the annotated atlas and discussing the methodological transformations in the documentation of archaeological sites of Bengal in the annual reports (1950-2010) of the Archaeological Survey of India. The paper is an initial attempt to address and discuss these methodological breakthroughs along with the emerging trends of researches where digital technology plays a crucial role in decoding the past cultural landscapes.