Facelift of the excavation camp house in Mahasthangarh
Lost within the mango trees in the enclave of the Archaeological Museum of Mahasthangarh, stands the excavation house of the Joint Collaborative Bangladeshi-French Archaeological Mission of Mahasthangarh, Bangladesh.
During the first years of the joint mission in 1993, the French members of the team were staying in a hotel between the modern village of Mahasthangarh and the big city of Bogra. Quite soon, the French Embassy in Bangladesh managed by the then ambassador Jean-Michel Lacombe from 1992 to 1995 suggested the idea to build an excavation camp house near the ancient site of Mahasthangarh. To do so, the Embassy launched an architect contest in the entire Bangladesh. Saif Ul Haque and his associate Salma Parvin Khan won the first price, and they were put in charge of this stimulating challenge with the financial support of the French Embassy. In 1996, the excavation camp house of Mahasthangarh inspired by the ancient architecture of the Buddhist monasteries well known in the region was inaugurated. The architects even obtained the IAB – Institute of Architects Bangladesh – Design Award in 2002 for their work.
Since then, the members of the mission are staying in this “second home” when they go in Mahasthangarh for the archaeological campaigns. One wing of the house contains the bedrooms and bathrooms, while a second wing houses the offices and short-term storage space for some of the discoveries from the excavation. Both wings are connecting with each other thanks to a third part consisting of the kitchen and the living room. A flat roof also serving as a terrace protects the entire building. If this house has survived bravely to the heavy rains, storms, and seismic shocks, it needed a deep facelift in order to regain its beauty of days gone by.
Thanks once again to the financial support of the French Embassy in Bangladesh, the mission managed to renovate the private wing, the one with bedrooms and bathrooms. The work was conducted by Md. Abdul Ohab and his team from Building Construction Limited (BCL) – Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS) Foundation from mid-October to mid-November 2021. As deputy director of the Joint Collaborative Bangladeshi-French Archaeological Mission of Mahasthangarh, I spent two weeks (from 16 October to 1st November 2021) in the excavation camp house to supervise the work and to control the state of preservation of the archaeological material which is stored temporarily in the house during the time of the documentation and study. Unfortunately, I left Mahasthangarh before the end of the work but Massud Karim, the right-hand man of the direction and the resource person in Mahasthangarh, has managed the last phase of the labour with the help of Jumilla, Joana and Polash, all working with the mission since more than 20 years.
The entire team can’t wait for admiring the for sure spectacular facelift of the excavation house during the next campaign planned in January-March 2022!