ASI's carbon dating lab at IIT

Determining relic antiquity to become easier

 Archaeologists will no more have to wait for years to determine the antiquity of the relics that they dig out from ancient sites and to know the historical significance of the discoveries.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is set to fund the establishment of a laboratory for carbon-dating at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Gandhinagar, in a joint collaboration with a premier engineering college.

The proposed laboratory will use modern chemical analysis and carbon dating tools to determine the antiquity of the relics. The services of the facility will be available to any organisation, including universities and state archaeological departments against “certain fee”.

Since the ASI will fund the establishment of the laboratory, it will avail its facilities “free of cost”. The proposal to set up the laboratory first came from IIT-Gandhinagar, which has already set up a centre for archaeological studies.

“We are in the process of preparing a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed between us (ASI and IIT-Gandhinagar),” additional director general of the ASI B R Mani told Deccan Herald.

The budget for the establishment of proposed laboratory, however, is yet to be placed before the ASI. “We have asked them for it,” he added.

The move assumes significance as India does not have many laboratories which carry out scientific tests to determine the age of fossils and relics. Those, which are available, are either overburdened or not up to mark.

The ASI, which has taken up many excavation works across the country, has always faced problems in getting the dates of their relic samples determined due to dearth of such facilities.

“There is always a huge backlog in the laboratories available in the country. This delays our work,” a senior Culture Ministry official said.

A senior official of the ASI said samples for determination of date were earlier sent to Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, and Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow.

“There was a dire need for a dedicated laboratory. While Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad is almost closed, dissatisfaction was expressed on many occasions over determination of date by other laboratories. Sending samples for scientific tests abroad is a costly affair,” he added.

The official said that determination of dates costs about Rs 50,000-60,000 per sample in India. “The proposed laboratory at IIT-Gandhinagar will come as a great relief to the ASI,” he added.

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