Ahmad Hasan Dani: Death of a legend

Renowned historian, archeologist Prof Dani dies
Updated at: 1155 PST, Monday, January 26, 2009 (The News)

ISLAMABAD: Famous historian and archeologist Professor Ahmad Hasan Dani has passed away here on Monday. He was 89.

Prof. Dani was under treatment in Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) since several days.

Government of Pakistan had awarded him Hilal-i-Imtiaz and Pride of Performance in acknowledgement of his services.


Ahmad Hassan Dani (Urdu: احمد حسن دانی) FRAS, SI, HI (born 20 June 1920, died 26 January 2009 in Islamabad) was a Pakistani archaeologist, historian, and linguist who is among the foremost authorities on South Asian archaeology and history. He was Emeritus Professor at the Quaid-e-Azam University and the director of Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations. Throughout his career, Dani held various academic positions and international fellowships, apart from conducting archaeological excavations and research. He was also the recipient of various civil awards in Pakistan and abroad. As a prolific linguist, he spoke more than 14 local and international languages and dialects.

Visiting, research and honorary fellowships

During his Associate Professorship at Dhaka University, Dani worked as a Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1958–59). Later, in 1969 he became Asian Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. In 1974, he went to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia as a visiting scholar. In 1977, he was Visiting Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over the span of his career, Dani has been awarded honorary fellowships of Royal Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (1969), German Archaeological Institute (1981), IsMEO Rome (1986) and Royal Asiatic Society (1991).

Research expeditions

Dani was extensively engaged in excavation works on the pre-Indus Civilization site of Rehman Dheri in Northern Pakistan. He also made a number of discoveries of Gandhara sites in Peshawar and Swat Valleys, and worked on Indo-Greek sites in Dir. From 1985, he involved in research focusing on the documentation of the rock carvings and inscriptions on ancient remains from the Neolithic age in the high mountain region of Northern Pakistan along with Harald Hauptmann of Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, University of Heidelberg. In 1990–91, he led the UNESCO international scientific teams for the Desert Route Expedition of the Silk Road in China and the Steppe Route Expedition of the Silk Road in the Soviet Union.


* 2000 Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Government of Pakistan
* 1998 Légion d’honneur, President of the French Republic
* 1997 Aristotle Silver Medal, UNESCO
* 1996 Order of the Merit, Government of Germany
* 1994 Knight Commander, Government of Italy
* 1992 Aizaz-e-Kamal, Government of Pakistan
* 1990 Palmes Academiques, Government of France
* 1986 Gold Medal, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh
* 1969 Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Government of Pakistan
* 1944 Gold Medal, Banaras Hindu University


Ahmad Hasan Dani

DR Dani was a scholar, historian, linguist, anthropologist and an archaeology and museum expert of sterling qualities and stature. He was the rare Pakistani who was respected around the world for his passion for history and the contribution he made to allied fields of knowledge. In a country where antiquities and the past are fading further into oblivion, he stood tall among the handful of petitioners for safeguarding and conserving cultural heritage. His passion for history was reciprocated by history itself when he became a part of

it as a key member of Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s team that excavated and completed the documentation of Moenjodaro in the 1940s. The Gandhara civilisation further up north, too, was among his beneficiaries in that he painstakingly documented the many sites and set up museums across Taxila and the Swat and Peshawar valleys. Rehman Dheri near Swabi was Dr Dani’s own find.

The scholar’s spread of activities was as vast as his interests. Spanning an entire land mass from the sub-continent to eastern China, Afghanistan, Central Asia and going all the way to the steppes, Dr Dani was part of many global teams of experts who worked on archaeological sites in the whole region. In his last decades, and as long as foreign tourism was part of the Pakistan landscape, he became the darling of both tourists and foreign academics who came here to see or study the country’s antiquities. Mild in speech and manner and extremely forthcoming when questioned about any of his fields, Dr Dani voluntarily made himself available to such audiences. He was one of the reasons for the increase in European and Japanese study groups that came to Pakistan in droves throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He will be missed by all who have any enthusiasm for heritage and culture. (Dawn)