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Ahmad Hassan Dani

July 20th 1920 - 26th January 2009

Appreciation by
Samar Majid

Professor Ahmad Hassan Dani's name was known the world over in Archaeology circles. We were all saddened to hear the news of his passing on 26th of January 2009 in Islamabad, Pakistan.

At the time of his death, Professor Dani was serving at the Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad as Professor Emeritus. He had served in this post since 1971.

A Kashmiri by birth (in 1920), following his migration to Utter Pardesh, India, he won a Gold Medal for his Masters on Sanskrit language in 1944 at Benaras Hindu University. In 1955 he completed his PhD from UCL, UK, after which he served in Dhaka Museum. In 1962 he established a Department of Archaeology at Peshawar University, Pakistan. In 1971 he left that Department after inspiring so many young Archaeologists. He authored many books related to almost every field of Archaeology including prehistory, protohistory, Buddhist history, Numismatics, Palaeography, Architecture, Field Archaeology and many more, too numerous to mention here. Professor Dani was awarded with the Pride of Performance as well as FRAS, SI and HI Awards for all his services. His family was consoled by fellow Archaeologists, academics, friends and many others from all over the country who paid their solemn respects by attending his funeral on 27th January 2009.

Professor Ahmad Hassan Dani will always be remembered by the services he rendered to Archaeology and by all those who have studied his books to become Archaeologists. We all archaeologists will miss him always. May his Soul Rest in Eternal Peace.

Appreciation by
Norman Hammond

Published in The Times, 18 February 2009.

Professor A. H. Dani was one of the pioneers of Pakistani archaeology, helping to establish the discipline in both East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the western wing of the country after partition. An authority on culture, linguistics, Buddhism and Central Asian archaeology and history, he was noted for his work on the archaeology of northern Pakistan, especially of the area around Peshawar.

An ethnic Kashmiri born in 1920 in what is now India, Ahmed Hasan Dani was the first Muslim graduate of Banaras Hindu University. In 1945 he worked as an archaeologist with Sir Mortimer Wheeler - then Director-General of Archaeology in British India - on excavations at Taxila and at Mohenjodaro, the great prehistoric city of the Indus valley civilisation; later he was to work at Rehman Dheri, an important pre-Indus site.

After Partition, Dani soon became Superintendent-in-Charge of Archaeology in Dacca (Dhaka), the capital of East Pakistan, curator of the Dacca Museum and associate professor of history in the university there, carrying out research on the Muslim history of Bengal. During his twelve years there he took a PhD at London University in 1955 and was a research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1958-59.

He moved to the University of Peshawar in West Pakistan in 1962 as professor of archaeology, conducting a number of archaeological explorations on the Stone Age and Gandhara civilisation in the northern of the country and overseeing the renovation of the Lahore and Peshawar museums. He became editor of the journal Ancient Pakistan in 1964, and latterly one of the editors of UNESCO' Scientific and Cultural History of Mankind. He also acted as scientific leader of two UNESCO-sponsored expeditions studying the ancient Silk Road in China and the USSR respectively in 1990-91.

At Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, where he took a chair in 1971 and remained for the rest of his career, he established the Islamabad Museum, and worked on ancient rock carvings and inscriptions on remains from the Neolithic age in the mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan His earlier interests remained, however, and he was one of those behind the "Save Mohenjodaro" campaign which attracted both publicity and funds from the mid-1970s onwards.

In the 1990s he was archaeology adviser to the Ministry of Culture in Islamabad and chairman of the National Fund for Cultural Heritage. Dani represented Pakistani archaeology at numerous international conferences, and was honoured by UNESCO, the French, German and Italian governments and various universities; the last of his more than thirty books - some popular, some wide-ranging, some detailed archaeological monographs, and almost all published in Pakistan itself - was a history of Pakistan, published in 2007.

Ahmed Hasan Dani was born in Basna, Raipur, on July 20th, 1920, and died in Islamabad on January 26th, 2009 at the age of 88.