Ahmad Hasan Dani (1920-2009): Legendary Archeologist, Historian Dies

Posted on January 26, 2009
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Legendary archeologist, historian and linguist, Dr. Ahmad Hasan Dani has passed away in Islamabad today at age 89; born on June 20, 1920.

Among Pakistan’s most noted authority on South Asian History and Archeology, Dr. Dani was author of several books and received national and international recognition for his remarkable work. He was under treatment at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad where he died today.Dani has left behind his wife, three sons Dr Anis Ahmad Dani (World Bank), Navaid Ahmad Dani (PTV), Junaid Ahmad Dani (Action Aid), daughter Fauzia Iqbal Butt, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

An erudite writer of history and an evergreen tree of knowledge, Dr Ahmad Hasan Dani spent his entire life to establish a better world by providing his study of history, an attribute which made him an extraordinary scholar, at home and abroad.

Ahmad Hasan Dani was a key figure in setting up of several museums in Pakistan and his vast publications have set the pace for future course of action in this vital field in the country. Late Dr. Dani had been extensively engaged in excavation works on the pre-Indus Civilization site of Rehman Dheri. 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 was 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.

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. As a prolific linguist, he spoke more than 14 local and international languages and dialects (French, Turkish, Persian, Bangla, Pushto, Hindi, Marathi, Kashmiri, Tamil, Punjabi, Sindhi, Seraiki, Broshiski and Karoshti – apart from English and Urdu).

He was also the recipient of various civil awards in Pakistan and abroad, some of which are:

Professor Dr. Ahmad Hasan Dani’s national and international Awards:

  • 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 (the first ever Muslim student there. He broke the 25-year-old record of achieving the highest mark in MA, becoming the first Muslim gold medalist in the University’s history)

29 Comments on “Ahmad Hasan Dani (1920-2009): Legendary Archeologist, Historian Dies”

  1. Owais Mughal says:
    January 26th, 2009 7:16 pm

    It is a very sad news. may god rest his soul in peace.

    I do recall a PTV stage show where Prof. Dani and Pakistan’s hockey captian Islahuddin were invited.

    Prof Dani’s complexion was very light and Islahuddin recalled his first encounter with Prof. Dani.

    When Islahuddin heard Prof. Dani speak he said:

    “dekho ye angrez kitni achi Urdu bolta hai”

    - probably nothing signinficant, but this little episode b/w Islahuddin and Prof Dani on PTV is etched in my memory.

  2. wll says:
    January 26th, 2009 7:28 pm

    great loss!

    may his soul rest in peace.

  3. Adil Najam says:
    January 26th, 2009 7:30 pm

    I am deeply grieved to hear this news. Prof. Dani was one of the intellectual giants of Pakistan. I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from him many times and his enthusiasm, engagement and passion always rubbed off on those around him.

  4. Hamza says:
    January 26th, 2009 7:49 pm

    Really a great loss. He led a fruitful and useful life and has left much for us to remember him by.

  5. Nihari says:
    January 26th, 2009 8:48 pm

    We have simply no one to replace him.

  6. yaseen ch says:
    January 26th, 2009 11:45 pm

    yes he was a brilliant man but we never honored him ,its not our tradition.

  7. ASAD says:
    January 27th, 2009 2:12 am

    Dr. Dani was a great scholar indeed. I heard him on TV many times and was always amazed at his always smiling face and depth of his knowledge. It is a great loss. My prayers are with him and his family.

    P.S. For yaseen ch.: It is our tradition and actually he is one person who the nation did honor (did you not read the list of awards at the end). I think he was one of those who was treated well by us as a society. I wish even more had. So, please, lets celebrate the good things and celebrate his life and achievements.

  8. wasiq says:
    January 27th, 2009 4:39 am

    A very full life indeed. I’d like to find some of his books, but given the range and size of his scholarly output, could anyone recommend a few in particular?

  9. QAMER says:
    January 27th, 2009 5:15 am

    Dani sb was great person he brought lot of respect and proud for nation , unfortunately we did not returnd what he deserved,

  10. Saeed says:
    January 27th, 2009 5:36 am

    In 2002 or 2003 i attended a discussion regarding culture/history where Dr. Ahmad Hasan Dani was also present.
    I found him very polite and humble man.
    May his soul rest in peace.

  11. January 27th, 2009 7:02 am

    Rest in Peace Dani Sahib, along with Ashfaq Ahmed,Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi,Mustansar Tarar and many others…. he was a elder of pakistan (a role model), Dani sahib started the term cultural tourism in pakistan, he used to bring all western diplomats to see pakistani heritage,

    my post on cultural tourism was inspiration from his work

    http://dilnawazinqalabi.blogspot.com/2007/01/peace-tourism.html

  12. January 27th, 2009 9:00 am

    shaher mein ek chiragh tha na raha.
    It is the most saddest news in the prevailing gloom and despondency. Indeed he was one of those towering personalities who brought recognition to Pakistan. May his soul rest in peace

  13. Zia Ahmed says:
    January 27th, 2009 9:23 am

    after all we can only say…

    May his soul rest in peace.

  14. Umar Shah says:
    January 27th, 2009 11:04 am

    Dr Dani was a great man with great achievements. I hope his life is celebrated and remembered as an inspiration for coming generations. Lets be optimistic and work towards making our children educated, knowledgable and hope that many of them will become brilliant like Dani sahab. Lets continue to hope that Pakistan will produce and nurture many more Ahmed Hasan Danis. May he be in a better place -aameen.

  15. Anwar says:
    January 27th, 2009 12:17 pm

    A loss but that is how life is – he laid the foundation and the next generation has to continue building on it.
    Just few memories to share – Archeology Department at Peshawar University consisted of a room and a half and we often wondered what went on in there with a sleepy shared peon/secretary and two faculty members… The department was very often locked as “entire staff” went on extended field trips that Prof. Dani has written in his publications.
    Prof Dani was often mistaken as an Englishman because of his complexions but looked like a Pathan whenever he dressed in traditional attire and Chitrali cap… May he rest in peace.

  16. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    January 27th, 2009 12:20 pm

    Ahmad Hasan Dani Sahab was one of a kind. Over the life I had read many of his books, articles and lectures. He was an authority on Pakistan history. In my humble attempts to write about Pakistan here at ATP I had often consulted his work. Surly many of us are indebted to this great scholar of Pakistan. May God bless his soul and give us wisdom to honour him in his death as well. I suggest to Adil & Owais to invite many wonderful contributors of ATP to write a series of articles on this great scholars. In his death we must celebrate his life.

  17. Yasmeen says:
    January 27th, 2009 2:13 pm

    This is indeed a great loss. He was an intellectual heavyweight but more than just being a major scholar he was a great communicator of his subject and listening to him talk even about archeaology would make you want to read up and study that subject more.

    We actually have a number of scholars and intellectuals from Pakistan who have made great contributions: Abdus Salam, Saleemuzzaman Siddiqui, Raziuddin Siddiqi, Eqbal Ahmed, and many others. These should be the role models for young Pakistanis.

  18. Samad says:
    January 27th, 2009 3:08 pm

    much to say about Dr. Dani “the encyclopedia of

  19. Watan Aziz says:
    January 27th, 2009 10:46 pm

    “My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives,” President Obama told Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language news channel based out of Dubai. (This interview was on the same day Mr. Dani passed away.

    We need to have good role models for Pakistani youth, honor our heros and show the world that Pakistanis have and will continue to offer greater service to humanity.

    ~~1944 Gold Medal, Banaras Hindu University (the first ever Muslim student there. He broke the 25-year-old record of achieving the highest mark in MA, becoming the first Muslim gold medalist in the University

  20. Fakhar says:
    January 28th, 2009 12:59 am

    i don’t know why but i see some resemblance in Gul Jee and Dani Sb. We have lost the both.
    Both were extraordinary in their fields.

    On loss of Dani sb why did Gul Jee came to my mind at once, i can’t explain but it is the fact.

    If some one else feels some resamblance the please do let me know.

  21. Nadeem Anjum says:
    January 28th, 2009 9:54 am

    We desperately need such true sons of Land.. He was a pride.. a true scholar and what an ideal Pakistani should be.. May Allah bless his soul..

  22. Rabi says:
    January 28th, 2009 11:08 pm

    I am so Sad.

    Dani Sahab ( Marhom ) rest in peace. With this news item I drifted back in time when we used to watch your PTV programs showing you walking across the often forgotten places of Pakistan and educating the masses on the historical significance of those places.

    We will all miss you Sir. Inah Lilah E WaInallahe-e-Rajeon

  23. Sharjeel says:
    January 29th, 2009 10:24 am

    Its truly sad that being born in Pakistan and living there till i was 17, i never once heard of this great man. And i wonder how many more such selfless people that are out there, that many will never hear about, who still who work tirelessly in a world that is undeniably on its way down the gutter.

  24. Muhammad Usman Butt says:
    February 16th, 2009 7:02 am

    Truely a sad moment and a great loss for the nation. Researchers like him are rare to be found in pakistan, much better than the corrupt political leadership we have. Hope that young pakistani researchers take him a role model in whatever field they are doing their research, like me doing currently research in physics here in stuttgart germany. Hope I can serve pakistan like Dani after I have gained enough experience.

  25. weasel says:
    September 16th, 2009 10:11 am

    r.i.p

  26. kaali says:
    January 18th, 2011 11:20 am

    Do you know Dani was awarded the title of Distinguished National Professor in 2004 by the Higher Education Commission in recognition of his contributions and achievements.

  27. Hamid shafiq says:
    May 30th, 2011 5:49 pm

    A great Arcehlogist and a great person and scholar on indus civilization.

  28. October 7th, 2011 7:41 pm

    Here are some comments about ahmad hasan dani. You can also add your own comments here:

  29. October 17th, 2011 10:20 am

    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.

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