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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Benchmarking the Social and Economic Impacts of Cultural Heritage in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, India

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


This project brings together UK and Indian heritage managers and archaeologists to explore and compare the social and economic impacts of heritage within Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh at a sample of Buddhist pilgrimage sites. It builds on an earlier British Council (India) Knowledge Economy Partnership (KEP) and six years of UNESCO-funded research on pilgrimage sites in Nepal’s western Terai. It utilises workshops, practical field laboratories and data collection at heritage sites to benchmark current social and economic impacts of heritage, and explore ways that sustainable pilgrimage and tourism can be better promoted at sites whilst protecting them. The earlier British Council funded Knowledge Economy Partnership between Durham University and the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in India established a series of benchmarks in order to monitor the economic and social impact of cultural heritage sites on the communities within which they are situated within South Asia. The most recent part of the project is funded by the University Grants Commission and UK-India Education Research Initiative.

In 2013 the United Nations published a special edition of its report on ‘Creative Economy’ and highlighted the potential of cultural heritage as a key driver for local development pathways. This valuable economic contribution to sustainable development is also recognised within most recent Operational Guidelines of the ‘1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’. The linked relationship between cultural heritage, international tourism and economic growth is not new and many international organisations like OECD (1967) and the World Bank have encouraged, since the late 1960s, countries with emerging economies to utilise their natural and cultural resources as drivers for national and local development.

South Asia, and India in particular, has benefited from recent infrastructure investment across the region as part of the Asian Development Banks ‘South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project (Bangladesh, India, and Nepal) which is intended to develop sustainable and pro-poor tourism in the Buddhist Heartland through the upgrade of tourism infrastructure and facilities in key areas. Their premise is that “Tourism development can create expanded economic opportunities, generate employment and incomes, and promote infrastructure development” but they also recognise that “Increased tourism within the region can also contribute to mutual understanding and development of a stronger sense of community among the countries and peoples of the region”. This premise is similarly shared by the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank which published its Buddhist Circuit Tourism Strategy in 2013 and stressed that pilgrimage and tourism will deliver “sustainable and inclusive economic growth” and that “benefits reach deep into local households”. However, neither project offers explicit tools for measuring either the social or the economic benefits of this investment.

The dynamics defining the complex relationship between local populations, heritage and management structures are now central aspects of heritage studies and management. The World Heritage Centre modified its Operational Guidelines in 2008 to include community participation as a key strategic objective. Furthermore, the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity recognises culture as a basic human right. Many academic researchers have thus argued for a transition towards a human rights-based approach to heritage management which represents new challenges, notably its practical implementation within existing managerial frameworks.


The project is funded by the following grants.

  • Benchmarking The Social And Economic Impacts Of Cultural Heritage: A Comparative Pilot Study (£11000.00 from British Council)
  • Promoting Sustainable Pilgrimage And The Protection Of Heritage Sites In Gujarat And Uttar Pradesh, India (£66270.00 from UKIERI)


The new project will bring together archaeologists, historians, heritage managers and practitioners, as well as members of the public and students in three annual field laboratories (2017, 2018, 2019), each with a connected workshop aimed at tackling different challenges within the field of heritage preservation and management. The field laboratories combine small targeted excavations at a sample of sites in order to establish chronometric dates, mapping, geophysical survey and auger-coring in order to define subsurface archaeological features and their extent. These features will then be added to archaeological risk maps for each site and shared with statutory managers. The resultant risk maps will guide the placing of future infrastructure, such as water pipes and power lines to avoid damaging subsurface heritage. Alongside this archaeological project will be an ongoing system of visitor recording and interviews, and targeted interviews with heritage site stakeholders in order to gauge current levels of social and economic impact of heritage on local communities.

The three field-based workshops will be practitioner-led and explore themes surrounding the social and economic impacts of heritage, potential for site development for tourism and pilgrimage, site preservation and presentation strategies, and plans for enhanced, yet sustainable, pilgrimage and tourism. The workshops aim to be multidisciplinary and encompass participants from undergraduate level through to policy-makers and residents. Two further workshops will be held at Durham University that will explore the wider implications of the collaborative work, including how politics and identity influence heritage protection and the future development of sustainable pilgrimage and tourism.


Durham-Baroda Knowledge Economy Partnership 

Working with students at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, the team conducted detailed visitor and business surveys at two heritage sites - Champaner-Pavagadh and Lothal. Champaner-Pavagadh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a major international tourist attraction, as well as a centre for pilgrimage for Hindu communities within Gujarat. Lothal, on the other hand, is a much older archaeological site managed by the national Archaeological Survey of India, with no immediate connection to the modern communities of the area. These two sites were selected to investigate alternative methods of heritage tourism, pilgrimage and economic impact.

Durham hosted a workshop on Durham's World Heritage. This workshop played a key part of evaluating and promoting the comparative monitoring and enhancement of social and economic impacts by sharing benchmarking tools for cultural heritage in the UK and South Asia.

Baroda hosted a workshop on Benchmarking the Social and Economic Impacts of Cultural Heritage in South Asia. This workshop aimed to evaluate and enhance the current tools for benchmarking social and economic impacts of cultural heritage in India and the UK. It brought together academics from Durham University and the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, along with heritage practitioners and managers from Gujarat and India, and archaeologists and historians from across India.

UKIERI Project

This project has started with the visit of two students from MSU Baroda in July 2017 to undertaken excavations at Nevern Castle in South Wales, one of the departments UK-based excavation projects. They were followed in November 2017 by Dr Amit Singh (Allahabad University) who joined the UNESCO Chair team in conducting visitor interviews at Durham Castle to begin to benchmark social and economic impacts of heritage in the city.

May 2018 saw the beginning of our first field laboratory at Champaner-Pavagadh which focussed on training students from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in undertaking surveys and interviews to benchmark the social and economic impacts of heritage for local communities and stakeholders. This included training for interviewing and collecting data from human participants and also training on the ethics of undertaking surveys to ensure anonymity of participant responses. The field laboratory also involved training on the digitisation of recorded data and its safe storage. The field laboratory was preceded by a workshop on Promoting Sustainable Pilgrimage and Protecting Heritage within India. This workshop looked at pathways to the protection of heritage and the development of heritage sites for positive social and economic impacts for local communities within India, South Asia, as well as globally.

In June 2018 we held our second workshop in Durham, which explored issues of Identity and Cultural Heritage across South Asia, using examples from the UNESCO Chair’s work throughout Nepal, Sri Lanka and India, as well as examples from Egypt and the North East. Two further students from MSU Baroda and Allahabad joined one of the departmental excavation projects Lindisfarne: The search for the heart of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, led by Dr David Petts. This allowed the students to develop an understanding of how archaeological projects operate in the UK and to learn new skills and approaches to archaeology

Our second field laboratory was held in Champaner-Pavagadh in September 2018, which saw us begin excavations at a number of sites within the walled city, including Jami Masjid, Saharki Masjid and the Delhi Gate. This was accompanied by augering, further stakeholder and community interviews, community asset mapping and geophysical survey. Running alongside this field laboratory, we held our third workshop Site Preservation and Presentation which was a more practice-led and task-oriented workshop interspersed within the field season. Within this workshop, students were tasked with utilising the skills developed during their training to design new information boards, develop risk maps and scrutinise strategies for how sites are protected and presented to the public.

Our next workshops and field laboratories are planned for mid to late 2019.


From the Department of Archaeology

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