ICHR collaboration: Isro to use scientific tools to ‘monitor heritage sites’ | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

ICHR collaboration: Isro to use scientific tools to ‘monitor heritage sites’

Jun 28, 2023 06:24 AM IST

Officials at ICHR have now said their work with Isro will majorly be in the field of archaeology and excavation using scientific technology.

Months after the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) agreed to collaborate to trace the history of India’s contribution in science and technology using evidence from ancient scriptures, raising questions about the scientific rigour of the exercise, officials from the space body said the project will instead use scientific tools such as space-based imaging and satellite monitoring of heritage sites.

The Entrance gate of World Heritage listed monument of Agra Fort in Agra. (File photo) PREMIUM
The Entrance gate of World Heritage listed monument of Agra Fort in Agra. (File photo)

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between Isro and ICHR to conduct a detailed study titled “History of Indian Science and Technology,” said Isro chairman S Somanath. The aim of the partnership is to trace and establish India’s contributions in science and technology in each historical era by following the scientific method.

“The study is not using ancient scriptures, but space-based imaging of heritage sites and palaeo-channels and other geographical observations. The work is yet to start,” Somanath said. A palaeo -channel is the area where a river once flowed.

HT reported last year that ICHR and Isro planned to initiate a 1.5 crore project to produce six volumes of a book, two each dedicated to the ancient, medieval and modern periods, tracing the “history of India’s contribution in the field of science and technology using evidence from ancient scriptures.”

That report cited former ICHR member secretary Umesh Kumar Kadam to explain that the project would use evidence from ancient scriptures to trace India’s contribution in the field of science and technology.

“There is a huge amount of information available in our ancient dharam granthas (religious scriptures) about India’s rich history of science and technology but, unfortunately, that has not been tapped by historians as yet who refute it and call it myth. We will read the texts properly and understand their historical and scientific content,” Kadam said then.

Officials at ICHR have now said their work with Isro will majorly be in the field of archaeology and excavation using scientific technology, even as they said that the council is yet to finalize the modalities.

Isro scientists said that sites of historical significance across India will be identified, then studied using satellite imaging and other space-based monitoring systems. The images generated by Isro’s technology will be used by ICHR experts to trace significant civilisations, incorporating palaeontological (related to the study of fossils) and other evidence of science and technology related contributions that could have gone unrecognised in modern records.

“For instance, rivers are known to change their paths. Our satellite technology can track the paths that our rivers followed several years ago, and then trace civilisations around these tracks. This is just one aspect, there will be many areas where evidence-based scientific tools will be able to help,” an Isro official said, asking not to be named.

Vasant Shinde, an archaeologist and member of ICHR, said that the council would collaborate with Isro to discover, document and reconstruct India’s cultural wealth and trace the scientific evolution of India over the ages.

“There are thousands of archaeological sites and monuments that are yet to be discovered properly because of their limited access, and it is not possible to explore them physically. Isro’s technology can be used in exploring such sites. For instance, in the Saraswati region archaeological site and Isro has already managed to reconstruct a trail of this river that has dried up now. There are archaeological sites in the thick forests of the northeastern region that can be explored through Lidar drone technology,” he said. Lidar stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a well-known remote sensing technology that uses laser to measure distances. A Lidar drone is simply a drone carrying a Lidar sensor. The Saraswati river, believed to flow underground, is mentioned in the vedas but is yet to be discovered.

Shinde said that the collaboration will also explore the scientific technologies used in India in the past. “Both archaeologists and scientists are working on traditional knowledge systems in the field of science and technology. We might explore the technologies used in the past in the field of water harvesting, irrigation, and climate change, and how they can be used in the present context.”

KK Muhammed, archaeologist and a member of ICHR, said there are several technologies including remote sensing and ground-penetrating radar through which Isro can help ICHR in accessing unexplored archaeological sites.

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    Soumya Pillai covers environment and traffic in Delhi. A journalist for three years, she has grown up in and with Delhi, which is often reflected in the stories she does about life in the city. She also enjoys writing on social innovations.


    Fareeha Iftikhar is a Special Correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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