ISLAMABAD, Jan 26: Internationally acclaimed archaeologist, historian and linguist Prof Dr Ahmad Hasan Dani died here on Monday morning. He was 88.
Dr Dani had been admitted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences five days ago with heart, kidney and diabetes problems. His condition deteriorated on Sunday night and he was shifted to the ICU where he died.
He is survived by his wife, three sons — Dr Anis Ahmad Dani, Navaid Ahmad Dani, Junaid Ahmad Dani — and daughter Fauzia Iqbal Butt. He has left behind a large number of admirers, students and friends to mourn his death.
President Asif Ali Zardari expressed profound grief over the death of Prof Dani and described it as a great loss to the nation. He said the country had lost an eminent historian. His death, the president said, had left a vacuum that would be hard to fill.
He said Dr Dani’s contribution to setting up of several museums in the country and his vast publications had set the pace for future course of action in this vital field.
Prof Dani was a world renowned historian. He was regarded as an authority on archaeology, culture, linguistics, Buddhism and Central Asian archaeology and history. He was Professor of Emeritus at the Quaid-i-Azam University, a distinction bestowed on him after his retirement as Dean of the Social Sciences Department in recognition of his contributions. He was founding director of the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisations of the university since its establishment in 1997 and founding director of the Islamabad Museum.
During his long career, Prof Dani had held various academic positions and international fellowships and conducted archaeological excavations and research. He received a number of civil awards in Pakistan and abroad. As a recognised linguist, he was proficient in more than 14 national and international languages and dialects.
An ethnic Kashmiri, Dr Dani was born in Basna, in the district Raipur in India, on July 20, 1920. He did his Masters in 1944 and became the first Muslim graduate of Banaras Hindu University. In 1945, Prof Dani started work as an archaeologist with Sir Mortimer Wheeler and took part in excavations in Taxila and Moenjodaro. He was subsequently posted at the Department of Archaeology of British India at Taj Mahal.
After partition, he moved to Dhaka and worked as assistant superintendent of the Department of Archaeology. At that time, he rectified the Verandra Museum in Rajshahi. In 1950, he was promoted to the position of superintendent-in-charge of archaeology. For 12 years (1950-62), Prof Dani worked as associate professor of history at the University of Dhaka and also as curator at Dhaka museum. During this period, he carried out archaeological research on the Muslim history of Bengal.
He also worked as a research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1958-59). In 1969, he became Asian Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. In 1974, he went to the University of Pennsylvania as a visiting scholar. In 1977, he was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Prof Dani was awarded honorary fellowships of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (1969), German Archaeological Institute (1981), Ismeo, Rome (1986) and Royal Asiatic Society (1991).
He moved to the University of Peshawar in 1962 as professor of archaeology and remained there till 1971. He conducted a number of archaeological explorations and excavations on the Stone Age and Gandhara civilisation in the Northern Areas and guided the resetting and renovation of Lahore and Peshawar museums.
In 1971, he moved to Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad where he established the Faculty of Social Sciences and served as its dean until his retirement in 1980.
He received an honorary doctorate from Tajikistan University in Dushanbe in 1993. The same year, Prof Dani established the Islamabad museum. Between 1992 and 1996, he was appointed adviser on archaeology to the ministry of culture. Between 1994 and 1998, he worked as chairman of the National Fund for Cultural Heritage in Islamabad. In 1997, he became honorary director at the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisations.
Dr Dani took part in exclusive excavation works on the pre-Indus civilisation site of Rehman Dheri in northern Pakistan. He also made a number of discoveries of Gandhara sites in Peshawar and Swat and worked on Indo-Greek sites in Dir.
From 1985 he was involved in research focussing on documentation of ancient rock carvings and inscriptions on remains from the Neolithic age in the mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan, along with Harald Hauptmann of Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, University of Heidelberg. In 1990-91, he led Unesco’s international scientific teams for the Desert Route Expedition of Silk Road in China and the Steppe Route Expedition of the Silk Road in the former Soviet Union.
He was awarded Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2000 and Sitara-i- Imtiaz in 1969 in recognition of his meritorious contributions. He was also awarded Légion d’Honneur by the French government in 1998, Aristotle Silver Medal by Unesco in 1997, Order of Merit by the government of Germany in 1996 and Knight Commander by the government of Italy in 1994.
Dr Dani authored more than 30 books, the latest being the History of Pakistan published in 2008. His other books include Historic City of Taxila, History of Northern Areas, Romance of the Khyber Pass, New Light on Central Asia, Central Asia Today and Human Records on Karakoram Highway.
He co-authored with J.P. Mohen the Volume III of History of Humanity, and with B.A. Litvinksy The Kushano-Sassanian Kingdom.
He was fluent in Bangla, French, Hindi, Kashmiri, Marathi, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Seraiki, Sindhi, Tamil, Turkish and Urdu languages.
His funeral prayers will be held on Tuesday at the Abbasi market mosque, F-8/3, Islamabad, after Zohr prayers. He will be laid to rest at H-11 graveyard at 2pm.