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Biography: Dr. Alok Kumar Kanungo

Dr. Alok Kumar Kanungo

Dr. Alok Kumar Kanungo, a postdoctoral fellow at Deccan College in Pune, India, focused on the antiquity of glass in India, based on archaeological, ethnographic, and archival studies. Dr. Kanungo, who recently published his dissertation, Glass Beads in Ancient India: An Ethnoarchaeological Approach, has been excavating the site of Kopia and exploring other regional glass centers in an effort to trace the history and development of glass in India.

Kanungo provided a much-needed update on the history of Indian glass. “Past work on Indian glass makes us presume that good glass and its technology came to India from Rome during the Indo-Roman trade contact period [i.e., first century A.D.], and in south India the glass industry got established at Arikamedu,” he said. “From there, early by-products of glass traveled to the rest of India. This assumption is still believed by many, since the ... history of glass has never been updated and reviewed after the landmark work History of Indian Glass by M.G. Dikshit about 50 years ago. Since then, many important discoveries and advanced studies in the field of glass research have taken place.”

Glass finds from archaeological studies show that glass was readily available in many parts of India from 1000 B.C., added Dr. Kanungo, who has examined evidence from many excavations throughout the country. “Yet we are not sure,” he cautions, “whether the early glass and/or its technology came to India from the West, [whether] they were developed indigenously, or whether both these events took place simultaneously. ... Thus there is a need not only to investigate potential sites in other parts of India but also to upgrade [our knowledge of] the antiquity and history of glass in India.”

Kanungo said that finds from his excavation at Kopia in Uttar Pradesh have “left no doubt that this site was a manufacturing center of glass and its by-products ... and the whole economy of the site was revolving around the glass making and working.” More work at the site will be carried out this year. When this research is completed, Kanungo plans to write a book on Indian glass history and the final report on the Kopia excavations.

Kanungo holds a doctorate in archaeology and a degree in anthropology.