Asian Perspectives, vol. 42, no. 2 (2003): South Asia

GUEST EDITORS: Peter Johansen, Kathleen Morrison, and Namita Sugandhi


Channabasappa Soodayya Patil (1951–2001)
Carla M. Sinopoli and Kathleen D. Morrison

Dr. Channabasappa Soodayya (C. S.) Patil, Deputy Director of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Karnataka, India, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in October 2001. Dr. Patil was a gifted scholar of epigraphy, architectural history, and archaeology who, in 20 books and more than 100 articles, made important contributions to our understandings of the South Indian past.



Recasting the Foundations: New Approaches to Regional Understandings of South Asian Archaeology and the Problem of Culture History, 193
Peter Johansen

The archaeological record of South Asia’s rich and diverse past has been largely dominated by interpretational frameworks, which have the construction of culture histories as their core, if not their end. Normative and conservative understandings of culture implicit in the culture-history paradigm have resulted in the construction of static archaeological cultures coterminous with ethnolinguistic communities, races or ‘peoples’ from material culture trait lists. An understanding of culture that recognizes its contingent, dynamic, and categorical nature is required in order to approach the complex and unique sets of historical circumstances and relationships that have shaped South Asia’s past. Articles in this volume present new research and perspectives that pose a variety of new questions about the organization of social, political, and economic processes that push beyond the epistemic limitations of the culture-history foundations of South Asian archaeology.
Keywords: South Asia, archaeology, race, language, culture, culture history, diffusion.

Part 1: Regional Approaches to the Organization of Space in South Asia’s Past

Chera, Chola, Pandya: Using Archaeological Evidence to Identify the Tamil Kingdoms of Early Historic South India, 207
Shinu Abraham

For the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the most important documentary source for information on early South Indian culture is a body of prose poetry known as the Sangam anthology. These indigenous texts date to the first few centuries a.d. and comprise the earliest extant examples of Tamil literature. Not surprisingly, this is also the period to which can be traced the first indications of the concept of a ‘‘Tamil’’ identity in South India. Archaeologically, the Tamil Sangam era corresponds roughly to the late Iron Age–Early Historic period (c. 300 B.C. to A.D. 300), which represents a key stage in the development of South Indian material culture. Prevailing analyses of early Tamil society have relied heavily on the historical texts, often at the expense of critically examining the material culture from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. This study examines the relationship between South Indian archaeology and history and argues that any framework for interpreting early Tamil identity must acknowledge the important qualitative differences in the ways that texts and artifacts construct and reflect ethnic identity, and that archaeologists and historians must analyze their respective data sets within the larger social, political, and economic practices of early Tamilakam.
Keywords: South Asia, South India, Tamilakam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, history and archaeology, cultural-ethnic identity.

Context, Content, and Composition: Questions of Intended Meaning and the Asokan Edicts, 224
Namita Sugandhi

The Asokan edicts are a familiar and common form of archaeological and textual evidence frequently cited in discussions of the Mauryan polity. This paper is an attempt to move toward a more nuanced understanding of these inscriptions by examining earlier interpretations and previously held assumptions. One of the major assumptions questioned here is the way in which the edicts are frequently viewed as boundary markers of a uniformly administered empire. The focus here is on the edicts found in the southern Deccan; a region whose actual relationship with the northern-based Mauryas is little understood but an area that is often assumed to have been incorporated into their empire. This interpretation is primarily supported by the presence of eleven rock edicts in the modern-day states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. However, a closer look at the context, content, and composition of the edicts suggests that the relationship of this region to the Mauryan polity is not necessarily as clear-cut as previously believed. A structural loosening of the epistemological definition of empire has re-opened questions of what this relationship might have looked like and how it can be studied. A critically refined analysis of the edicts is useful in providing a starting point to this inquiry, particularly by examining the question of meaning. By adopting the use of multidisciplinary perspectives, this paper argues that a simultaneous analysis of archaeological context, historical content, and linguistic composition is a useful strategy for examining issues of intended meaning and audience through the more specific problems of visibility, address, and comprehension.
Keywords: Mauryas, Asokan edicts, southern Deccan, empires.

Subsistence Strategies and Burial Rituals: Social Practices in the Late Deccan Chalcolithic, 247
Teresa Raczek

Shifts in subsistence strategies during the transition between Early Jorwe (1400–1000 B.C. and Late Jorwe (1000–700 B.C.) periods of the western Deccan region of India have been the focus of much archaeological research. This article reviews the various theories proposed by researchers to explain transformations in subsistence practices at this time and suggests that these changes had multiple repercussions in the realm of social organization. These changes contrast markedly with a continuity in infant burial practices. Reconfirming burial traditions may have served to counterbalance the changes that occurred in daily practices. Even though burial practices were upheld over time, individuals and groups varied slightly in their interpretation of burial tradition, as well as their desire and ability to perform burial rites according to tradition.
Keywords: subsistence, burial practices, Chalcolithic, India, Deccan.

Chitradurga: Spatial Patterns of a Nayaka Period Successor State in South India, 267
Barry Lewis and C. S. Patil

South Indian historical accounts, inscriptions, and literature describe many attempts at state formation and political independence by local elites between the collapse of Vijayanagara control of its heartland in the sixteenth century and the eighteenth century rise of British hegemony in the south. Most of these elites, known variously as ‘‘little kings,’’ nayakas, and poligars, did not survive long in the political turmoil of the era. Those that did endure into the early nineteenth century were soon marginalized or removed from power by East India Company policies and direct military intervention. Archaeological site surveys, guided by contemporaneous East India Company manuscript maps, fort inventories, building plans, and other records, enable researchers to reconstruct and interpret major spatial patterns of the cultural landscapes of these small polities. This approach, which the authors are currently applying in their investigations of the Mysore kingdom, yields a fresh perspective of South Indian little kings and chiefs that complements the work of historians and contributes significantly to the understanding of the nature of these polities. This article describes a case study of the major spatial patterns of the Chitradurga poligars of central Karnataka, as they were in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The results provide a fresh perspective on this poligar province and illustrate the significant interpretative value of contemporaneous colonial documents for archaeological site survey and spatial analyses in India.
Keywords: India, Mysore, Nayaka period, poligars, spatial analysis, colonial archives, archaeological site survey.

Part 2: Epistemic Approaches to Material Culture and Regional Organization in South Asian Prehistory

Understanding Hearth Function: An Approach from Harappa, 287
Jonathan Cody Meyer

Hearth features possess potential for providing valuable archaeological data on past cooking and heating practices. Ethnographic study demonstrates a relationship between hearth morphology and function in rural Punjabi homes. Preliminary work from the nearby Indus civilization site of Harappa suggests a relationship between hearth content and morphology. If hearth contents reflect hearth function, future research may provide further insight on archaeological hearth use in conjunction with hearth type.
Keywords: Indus civilization, Harappa, hearth features, ethnoarchaeology, experimental archaeology, palaeoethnobotany.

Representing the Indus Body: Sex, Gender, Sexuality, and the Anthropomorphic Terracotta Figurines from Harappa, 304
Sharri R. Clark

Despite significant theoretical advances, there is still no universally accepted paradigm for the investigation of sex and gender and little critical research on the subject in South Asian archaeology. Without deciphered texts, artifacts such as figurines that provide body imagery are invaluable in understanding these conceptions in ancient societies. This paper is a critical examination of representations of the body in the Indus civilization, focusing on the anthropomorphic terracotta figurines from Harappa and using more flexible notions of sex, gender, and sexuality to explore Indus conceptions of sexual difference as it relates to other aspects of social difference and identity. The meaningful combinations of the attributes of the represented Indus body may reflect complex and fluid concepts of sex, gender, and sexuality in Indus society that differed from later traditions and varied beneath the cultural veneer of the Indus Civilization with its unique ideology.
Keywords: archaeology, Indus civilization, Harappa, terracotta, figurines, sex, gender, sexuality, sexual di¤erence, life cycle, social difference, body.

Skeletal Variation among Mesolithic People of the Ganga Plains: New Evidence of Habitual Activity and Adaptation to Climate, 329
John R. Lukacs and J. N. Pal

Rethinking new perspectives in South Asian archaeology necessitates wider appreciation for insights derived from the bioarchaeological analysis of prehistoric human skeletons. Since the 1970s, Mesolithic sites near Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) have yielded abundant well preserved human skeletons permitting a bioarchaeological approach to past life-ways. Prior research on human remains from Sarai Nahar Rai and Mahadaha is supplemented by this analysis of human skeletal variation in 47 specimens from Damdama. This report examines skeletal variation in muscle attachment sites (entheses) and musculoskeletal stress markers, prevalence of osteoarthritis, long bone dimensions and proportions, and estimates of stature for the human skeletons from Damdama. The objective of this study is to better understand habitual activity patterns, variation in stature, and adaptation to climate among Mesolithic foragers of North India. Standardized methods of palaeopathology, osteometry, and stature estimation were used. While most entheses displayed a ‘‘normal’’ range of development, those associated with bipedal locomotion and overhand throwing were especially well developed. Extreme hypertrophy of the soleal line indicates repetitious and forceful plantar flexion as in walking long distances, up hills, or with heavy loads. Hypertrophy of the supinator crest suggests forceful overhand throwing as in launching spears or projectiles. Osteoarthritis is unusually low in frequency, though spinal osteophytes and arthritis of the hand and elbow were observed. Stature is tall at Damdama, a trait shared with inhabitants of Sarai Nahar Rai and Mahadaha. Collectively, North Indian Mesolithic groups are significantly taller than Eastern or Western European Mesolithic samples. Long lower limbs may be an adaptation to locomotor efficiency, but may also reflect adaptation to high seasonal temperatures. Indices of distal to proximal limb segments for both upper and lower extremities conform to physiological principles of thermoregulation and suggest biological adaptation to a hot, arid environment.
Keywords: bioarchaeology, entheses, osteoarthritis, stature, limb proportions, climate adaptation, activity pattern, Mesolithic.

The Uninvited Skeleton at the Archaeological Table: The Crisis of Paleoanthropology in South Asia in the Twenty-first Century, 352
Kenneth A. R. Kennedy

Emerging from the philological-historical approaches of the eighteenth-century Orientalists, the scientific study of the hominid fossil record and prehistory of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and their borderlands) has a history of over two centuries. Today Western and South Asian scholars offer new answers to old questions about the origin and antiquity of the earliest hominids in the subcontinent, the beginnings of the Indus civilization, archaeological and skeletal interpretations about the reputed Indo-European-speaking Aryans of the Vedic tradition, biological affinities of ancient and modem populations, and palaeodemographic profiles of health and disease status, traumatic and developmental modifications, and population sizes and densities of earlier peoples in this part of Asia. At the beginning of the third millennium we respond to these issues in ways that modify or repudiate earlier theories and interpretations of archaeological and palaeontological data, e.g., a present-day recognition that hominids were present in the northwestern sector of the subcontinent during the geological period of the Pliocene-Pleistocene transition, the establishment of the roots of the Indus civilization in cultures established by 7000 B.C. and long before the period of the third millennium B.C. settlement and cultural diffusion, the fall of the Aryan migration myth and its racial and caste implications, and a reevaluation of population genetic affinities using DNA and more powerful statistical types of analysis of the skeletal record. This paper summarizes these and other recent advances in South Asian palaeoanthropology by noting transitions in scientific perspectives and present-day issues of research, and discusses prospects for the development of palaeoanthropology in South Asia at the dawn of the new millennium in the light of specific crises that will be encountered by its future practitioners.
Keywords: Iron Age, skeletal biology, South India, megalithic burials.


Indian Beads: A Cultural and Technological Study by Shantaram Bhalchandra Deo
Distinctive Beads in Ancient India by Jyotsna Maura
Amulets and Pendants in Ancient Maharashtra by Jyotsna Maura, 368
Reviewed by Peter Francis Jr.

A Peaceful Realm: The Rise and Fall of the Indus Civilization by Jane McIntosh, 376
Reviewed by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer

India, An Archaeological History: Palaeolithic Beginnings to Early Historic Foundations by Dilip K. Chakrabarti, 380
Reviewed by Heidi J. Miller

Development of a Field Petrographic Analysis System and its Application to the Study of Socioeconomic Interaction Networks of the Early Harappan Northwestern Indus Valley of Pakistan by Graham M. Chandler, 383
Reviewed by Heidi J. Miller

Maritime Archaeology: Historical Descriptions of the Kalingas by Sila Tripati, 386
Reviewed by Berenice Bellina

Anuradhapura: The British-Sri Lankan Excavations at Anuradhapura Salgaha Watta 2, Volume I: The Site by Robin Coningham, 389
Reviewed by Shinu A. Abraham

Indian Archaeology in Retrospect, Volume 1, Prehistory—Archaeology of South Asia edited by S. Settar and Ravi Korisettar, 391
Reviewed by Dilip K. Chakrabarti

Indian Archaeology in Retrospect, Volume 2, Protohistory—Harappa edited by S. Settar and Ravi Korisettar, 395
Reviewed by William Belcher

Indian Archaeology in Retrospect, Volume 3, Archaeology and Interactive Disciplines edited by S. Settar and Ravi Korisettar, 398
Reviewed by Seetha N. Reddy

Indian Archaeology in Retrospect, Volume 4, History, Theory, and Method edited by S. Settar and Ravi Korisettar, 401
Reviewed by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer

The Archaeology of an Early Historic Town of Central India by Monica Smith, 405
Reviewed by Himanshu P. Ray