Conclusion – What This Can Mean for Archaeologists

It is clear that Ayodhya is an archaeological controversy on a scale unlike many other recent debates. Other disputes over archaeological interpretation may have led to confrontation and even violence, but not to the deaths of hundreds of people.

The destruction of the Babri mosque “confronted the international audience of archaeologists with the problem of considering the ‘Other’ as homogenous and always in the right” (Funari & Podgorny 1998, 419) – the view captured in the WAC Code of Ethics that will always prioritise the views of indigenous or disposed people. “This easy and naïve way of thinking about the distant and conflictive world implies that ... the poor of the world, are the good oppressed salvages, our main conflict being with the bad rich countries” (ibid.)

There is no such thing as archaeological truth. The reported stratigraphic location of materials, and the significance attached to them, can always be contested. If it can be argued on archaeological grounds that a Hindu temple pre-dated the Babri mosque, some were able to use this as justification for the subsequent destruction of the mosque.

At Ayodhya, this has been the application of what Härke (1993) has called a "mythical" concept of history where little or no separation exists between the past and the present, all is very much continuous and this permits response to a historical situation to be made as if it was a recent and ongoing issue.

“The 1992 destruction of the mosque becomes a direct response to a perceived wrong of 500 years ago; bringing the past very near to the present helps to legitimate revenge for past injuries. Ironically, Muslims living in India today are in many cases not even the descendants of the Mughal invaders of the Middle Ages but rather members of low Hindu castes who have converted to Islam. Conversion, whether to Islam or to some other religion, is one possibility open to members of low castes to attempt to better their social position” (Bernbeck & Pollack 1998, 140, after McDonald 1994).