Department of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology of the University of Allahabad, one of the four oldest universities in India, were carved out of the Department of History in May 1955. From then onwards the Department has grown steadily focusing on archaeology, socio-economic history, religion and philosophy, art and architecture and ancient Indian polity. The Department was the first university department in India to receive a license to undertake archaeological excavations from Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India. It started with Kaushambi, a centrally protected site, in 1948 under the direction of a young faculty, Sri G.R. Sharma. The extensive excavations carried out at the site threw significant light on the archaeology of the Ganga valley with special reference to the urban revolution posterior to that of the Harappan civilization. The explorations and excavations carried out in the Vindhyas since mid-sixties, especially in the valleys of the rivers Belan and Sons and their tributaries, have broadened the canvas of archaeological studies in space and time. For the first tithe a complete and uninterrupted sequence from the early- Paleolithic to- the Neolithic, described as ‘Text Book Section’, was established in these river valleys. The excavations carried out in the Vindhyas and the Ganga valley threw significant light on the Mesolithic cultures of the region (yielding the largest number of human skeletons) as well as the earliest evidence (seventh millennium B.C.E.) of rice cultivation in the world at the Neolithic sites of Koldihwa, Mahagara,Tokwa, Hetapatti and Jhusi. The last site-overlooking the holy confluence of rivers at Allahabad, identified with Pratishthana of the Vedic-Puranic fame, occupies a rare place in the history of India as it has revealed the uninterrupted cultural sequence from the 8th millennium B.C.E. to the medieval period. The works done by the Department in history and pre-history of the Vidhya-Gangeya region drew world-wide attention. A joint project between the Academy of Sciences, USSR and the Department was launched in 1980. The Department also entered into a collaborative research with a team of archaeologists, anthropologists and geomorphologists under the leadership of Desmond Clark of USA and carried out pre-historic investigations in the middle Sone valley, Sidhi district of M.P. In recent years the Department has taken new initiatives in the field of digital archaeology in collaboration with HT, Kanpur. In recognition of the valuable intensive works in archaeology and other branches of ancient Indian history, the U.G.C. accorded the Department the status of SAP from 1978 culminating in the recognition of the Centre of Advanced Study in 2001.
The academic excellence of the Department has been enriched by the dedicated works of Prof. G.R. Sharma (the founder Head of the Department), Prof G.C. Pande, Prof. J.S. Negi, Prof. B.N.S. Yadava, Prof U.N. Roy, Prof V.D. Mishra, Prof Om Prakash and others who have made significant contribution in the fields of archaeology, philosophy of history, religion, socio-economic history, political ideas and institutions and art history.
The G.R. Sharma Memorial Museum of the Department houses antiquities recovered mostly from department’s own excavations and explorations that present a complete cultural sequence right from the earliest times to the historical periods. Some of the antiquities of international repute are the bone Mother Goddess belonging to the Upper Paleolithic age (the earliest example of sculptural art in India) from Lohanda nullah in the Belan valley, complete human burials of the Mesolithic period from Mahadaha, Damdama and Sarai Nahar Rai and terracotta objects like Hariti and Gajalakshmi figures of early historic period from Kaushambi. The Department has other sections to facilitate research such as photography, drawing. reprography and three laboratories : Archaeo-Chemistry, Archaeo-Zoology and Experimental Archaeology. A research library containing rare books and journals as well as N.N. Ghosh Memorial Library for post-graduate students exist in the Department. The Department has published a large number of excavation reports, books, monographs and seminar proceedings from time to time.