Charles Masson (1800–1853) was the pseudonym of James Lewis, a British East India Company soldier and explorer. He was the first European to discover the ruins of Harappa near Sahiwal in Punjab, now in Pakistan.
In 1827, while stationed at Agra, he and a colleague deserted and traveled through parts of the Punjab that were under British control at that time. At Ahmadpur, they were rescued by Josiah Harlan and commissioned as mounted orderlies in his expedition to overthrow the regime in Kabul, Afghanistan. Not long afterward, near Dera Ghazi Khan, he deserted Harlan.
He was the first European to see the ruins of Harappa, described and illustrated in his book Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan and The Panjab. He also visited the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan, serving as an agent of the East India Company.
Through his wide-ranging travels, Masson built up an extraordinary collection of artefacts largely (although not exclusively) from the modern states of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Numbering about 9000 objects, they are now held by the British Museum.
Books and edited volumes:
- 1843 Narrative of a journey to Kalât, including an insurrection at that place in 1840; and A Memoir on Eastern Balocistan, Richard Bentley, London.
- 1844 Narrative of various journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan, the Panjab and Kalat 4 vols. Richard Bentley, London, (reprint, illustrated Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2001, ISBN 978-8121510332.)
- 1848 Legends of the Afghan countries, in verse, James Madden, London.
- 1841 A memoir on the buildings called topes. In Ariana Antiqua: A descriptive account of the antiquities and coins of Afghanistan, edited by Horace Hayman Wilson. East India Company, London.
- Elizabeth Errington: Ancient Afghanistan through the Eyes of Charles Masson (1800-1853): The Masson Project at the British Museum in: IIAS-Newsletter 27, Pages 8–9
- Ben Macintyre, The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. ISBN 0-374-20178-1
- Charles Masson
- Charles Masson. Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan and The Panjab.ISBN 978-8121510332
- Charles Masson of Afghanistan: Deserter, Scholar, Spy Biographical article by Bijan Omrani.
- A chapter describing Charles Masson's role in the 1840 siege of Kelat