Although Pakistan is a relatively young country, it has produced many great figures. In this blog series we’ll take a look famous Pakistanis who made a difference in their country and in the world.
Pakistan is the home of the prolific professor and archaeologist Ahmad Hasan Dani. A real-life Indiana Jones, Dani is unfortunately not well-known, but his work had a major influence on Pakistan and South Asian history.
Born in 1920, before India and Pakistan separated, Dani’s hometown was a small village in central India. The first to attend a university in his family, Dani was a spectacular student who always sought to learn more. At the young age of 24, he had already mastered five languages: Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic, and Persian. An amazing linguist and scholar, Dani would go on to learn a total of fifteen languages during his lifetime.
The first Muslim student of the Banaras Hindu University, Dani was already interested in history and archeology, participating in several digs immediately after graduating. He lived in East Pakistan for more than a decade, teaching at Dhaka University as a history professor. He also was the curator of the Dhaka Museum and, as if he wasn’t busy enough, also wrote a detailed PhD thesis on the ancient architecture of Bengal during his teaching career.
Not slowing down at all, Dani left for Peshawar University to create its first archaeology department, and became the University’s first professor. While there, he continued to write and study heavily, focusing for a while on Taxila, an ancient city in Pakistan that now lies in ruins. Dani studied in attempts to find and present proof that this part of the city was inspired partially by the Greeks, those who settled in the area after Alexander the Great’s troops passed through. Refusing to limit his studies to books alone, Dani always went on expeditions to sites in order to search himself. He traveled from the high Karakoram Mountains, to the hills near Islamabad, to the Silk Road in China.
In 1980, the professor reached retirement after more than 40 years of active scholarship. He didn’t let this stop him, though, and continued to follow his passion even after officially ending work. In 1993, he founded the Islamabad Museum to help teach others about history and how to preserve archeological findings. In total, Dani wrote and edited more than 30 books on Pakistan and South Asian history and archeology. His work varies in topic and is extensive in detail. Additionally, Dani debunked many a false claim through thorough research and determination.
At the age of 88, Ahmad Hasan Dani passed away, ending the life of a constantly curious man who lived his life to learn more and teach others.