Shereen Ratnagar

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Shereen F. Ratnagar is an Indian archaeologist whose work has focused on the Indus Valley Civilization. She is the author of several texts.


Ratnagar was educated at Deccan College, Pune, University of Pune. She studied Mesopotamian archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.[1]

She was a professor of archaeology and ancient history at the Centre for Historical Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. She retired in 2000, and is currently an independent researcher living in Mumbai. She is noted for work on investigating the factors contributing to the end of the Indus Valley Civilization.[2]


  • Encounters, the westerly trade of the Harappa civilization, Oxford University Press (1981).
  • Enquiries into the political organization of Harappan society, Ravish Publishers (1991).
  • The End of the Great Harappan Tradition, New Delhi: Manohar, ISBN 81-7304-331-0. (2000)
  • Understanding Harappa: Civilization in the greater Indus Valley, Tulika Books, ISBN 81-85229-37-6 (2002)
  • Mobile and Marginalized Peoples, New Delhi: Manohar (2003)
  • Trading Encounters: From the Euphrates to the Indus in the Bronze Age, Oxford University Press (2nd edition), ISBN 0-19-568088-X (2006)
  • The Other Indians - Essays on Pastoralists and Prehistoric Tribal People, Three Essays Collective (2004)
  • Ayodhya: Archaeology After Excavation, New Delhi: Tulika Books (2007)
  • The Timechart History of Ancient Egypt, Worth (2007). ISBN 190302532X.
  • Makers and Shapers: Early Indian Technology in the Household, Village, and Urban Workshop, Tulika Books (2007).
  • Being Tribal, Primus Books (2010). ISBN 9380607024.

Ayodhya dispute[edit]

Shereen Ratnagar along with archaeologist D. Mandal spent a day, in 2003, examining the excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at the site of the Babri Masjid on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board. Subsequently, the two researchers wrote a highly critical appraisal of the excavations by the ASI titled Ayodhya: Archaeology after Excavation. In 2010, they appeared as expert witnesses for the Sunni Waqf Board in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case in the Allahabad High Court.[3]

In its judgement on the Ayodhya dispute, the High Court flayed the role played by several witnesses including Ratnagar, who was forced to admit under oath that she had no field experience in archeological excavations in India.[4] Ratnagar and her supporters defend her record by stating that she has participated in some archaeological digs at sites outside India, such as Tell al-Rimah, Iraq, in 1971,[5] as well as in Turkey and the Gulf.[6]

Earlier in the case, Shereen Ratnagar was served a contempt notice for violating a court order restraining witnesses in the ongoing case from airing their views in public.[7]

The High Court of Allahabad had directed the Archeological Survey of India to open up the ground under the Mosque, by then broken down by the vandals of 1992, to search for temple remains. The Archaeological Survey excavated the site of six months in 2003, and submitted its Report the same year. The Report gave the suggestion that there are traces of a pillared temple in strata under the Mosque. While the book by Mandal and Ratnagar places on record the reasons why the two scholars conclude that claims about the temple are not credible, in the broader sense it also indicates why attempts to restore holy places to their original owners can be self-defeating projects. In this book two archaeologists have discussed the excavated data and the presentation and interpretation of these data by the Archaeological Survey. They have critique the methodology that was followed, show that certain excavated objects are not compatible with temples, question the existence of the foundations of temple pillars in strata beneath the Mosque, and observe that there are very few architectural features that can point to the remains of a temple at the site. What is the evidence that can point to the destruction of a public building at a particular site? In explaining this and the problems of the relative dating of floors and walls, it has been the endeavor of the authors to make stratigraphic archaeology intelligible to the lay reader. The authors have written this book not because they claim to have the last word, but because they are convinced that thinking people should peruse the evidence for themselves and make up their own minds.[8]

But, archaeologically one cannot prove that it was Ram Janmabhoomi. Mandal and Ratnagar assert that the pillar bases are clumps of bricks that are too feeble to support the weight of pillars and their view is widely supported by archaeologists and historians who reject the temple theory. In a review of the book, M S Mate, a former professor of archaeology at Deccan College, points out that the layout of the pillar bases are not at all conducive to temple rituals. One of the duos most important discoveries was that the floor of the purported temple was actually of the same age as the mosque, as it ran up to the face of the mosque wall. There is also no evidence that the mosque was built on the foundations of a structure that had been destroyed. This leads the authors to vociferously conclude that the site bears evidence not of a destruction that took place in the 16th century, but of vandalism in the 20th century.[9]


  1. ^ "Shereen Ratnagar". Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  2. ^ "Shereen Ratnagar: A past to mirror ourselves" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  3. ^ "Trench warfare: Writing on the Wall". Times of India. 16 October 2010. Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  4. ^ How Allahabad HC exposed experts espousing Masjid-cause, Times of India, 9 October 2010, 03.07am IST
  5. ^ Iraq Vol. 34, No. 2 (Autumn, 1972), pp. 77-86. Published by: British Institute for the Study of Iraq
  6. ^ Publisher's statement on Shereen Ratnagar, Trading Encounters (Oxford University Press, 2006) Archived 24 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Babri witnesses get HC contempt notice, Indian Express, Thu 20 May 2010, 04:18 hrs
  8. ^ Mandal, Dhaneshwar; Ratnagar, Shereen (2007). Archaeology after Excavation. New Delhi: Tulika Books.
  9. ^