Archives of the Earth


Project title: Archives of the Earth: Fossils, Science and Historical Imaginaries in Twentieth-Century India (2020-2022)

PI: Dr Amelia Bonea

Funding body: German Research Foundation (Project no. 423157196)

Host institution: Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, University of Heidelberg


Project description:

This project explores plant and animal fossils as objects of scientific investigation and historical imagination in twentieth-century India. It documents in particular the local and global contexts that framed efforts to collect, exchange, study and preserve fossils, the wide range of individual and institutional actors, material objects and ideas involved therein, and the ways in which these ‘archives’ of the Earth were used to generate knowledge about the deep past of the natural world and its relation with the human past. The aim of the project is to write a history of the global entanglements of ‘fossil science’ in colonial and post-colonial India that also furthers our knowledge of the history of natural resources exploitation, climate change research and women in science.

Main collaborators:

Prof. Ashok Sahni (Panjab University); Prof. Dhruv Raina (Jawaharlal Nehru University); Prof. Dr. Dominic Sachsenmaier (University of Göttingen); Prof. Daqing Yang (The George Washington University)

Other collaborators:

Sakshi Aravind (University of Cambridge); Dr Arvind Das (journalist); Dr Advait Jukar (Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies & Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History); India-China Conjunctures; Prof. Shiho Maeshima (University of Tokyo); Dr Chris Manias (King’s College London) & Popularizing Palaeontology; Argha Manna (journalist, comics artist); Dr Nitin Sinha (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient); Chelsea Szendi Schieder, Ph.D. (Aoyama Gakuin University); Dr Benjamin Zachariah (University of Trier); Prof. Dr. Anne-Julia Zwierlein (University of Regensburg).

*Photo credit: Prof Ashok Sahni. Top: Palaeobotanist Birbal Sahni at the Botany School, University of Cambridge, c.1910s. Bottom: Geologist Mulk Raj Sahni on his first assignment after joining GSI, Shan States, early 1930s.

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