Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The beginning

How did prehistoric societies change? If you Wikipediate this you will see that over the years archeologists went through 3 theories to explain this. First they thought that prehistoric societies changed due to invasions. Invading hoards would come, wipe out or marginalize the existing native population and occupy the land and start a new chapter. Apparently this invasionist approach was discredited as unrealistic around 1960s when archeologists started asking themselves whether pre historic people were really that bloodthirsty. So they went for the migrationist approach; slow, for the most part peaceful, long term migrations into the land, settling among the native population, gradual interbreeding and the populations merging. Even this approach is now outmoded by the latest interesting theory; of packets of ideas traveling over distances through social and economic links bringing about the changes reflected in the archeological evidence. According to Wikipedia “Many of the changes in British society demonstrated in the archaeological record are now suggested to be the effects of the native inhabitants adapting foreign customs rather than being subsumed by an invading population”.

I don’t know if these idea evolutions actually had any effect on the way people looked at our own prehistoric incident; the Indo Aryan migration. But I have met people even recently who thought that Sinhalese were Indian invaders and I have seen web comments from people who thought the Sinhalese came from somewhere in India but they have now disappeared from India and are to be found only here and also web commenters who thought the Sinhalese are still there in India somewhere but because India is so large they haven’t been found yet but it’s only a matter of time before they are found.

It’s not that in Britain they don’t think the Anglo Saxon mass migration hadn’t happened. They have analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of the population, which is DNA you get exclusively from the mother and found that 21% and 51% of maternal lines in modern Britain came to Britain in the pre glacial and late upper Paleolithic periods respectively.

That’s because normally waves of migrations tend to be men mostly who find their women in the place they migrate to. So for evidence of mass migrations/invasions you have to look among the exclusively male Y chromosomes of the population. A study of modern British Y chromosomes has shown that a 50% to 100% mass migration of males have occurred in Britain during the past 2500 years. This is supposed to correspond to the Anglo Saxon invasion/migration because further studies have found that it’s only in Wales that a significant pre-Anglo Saxon Y chromosome population can be found and the English Y chromosome was indistinguishable from the Friesland chromosome in the Netherlands.

Fascinating to think what sort of secrets modern Sinhalese and Tamil populations must be harboring within their mitochondria and Y chromosomes. Then again I think they are not harboring secrets at all and what they can tell us has already been told to us by other things; archeological, inscriptional, linguistic and literary evidence. After all, the British didn’t need DNA evidence to tell them about the Anglo Saxon mass migration. It merely confirmed what was already known.

Early in the 20th Century at a time when DNA analysis of the population to investigate our migratory and prehistoric heritage was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, two gentlemen, Mudaliyar Rasanayagam and S. Gnanapragasar came out with theories that modern Sri Lankan Tamils are descendents of some of our prehistoric tribes. Regarding this Prof Nalin de Silva quotes extensively from Prof. Karthigesu Indrapala’s thesis in his article ‘TULF, BUDGET AND THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE’

"It has been claimed by certain writers on the history of Jaffna that the people of northern Ceylon at the time of the earliest Indo-Aryan settlements, called Nagas in the chronicles, were Tamils. ( S. Gnanapragasar, Ceylon originally a land of Dravidians) Some others have claimed that these Nagas were Tamil in culture and language, although ethnically they were not Dravidian.( S. Rasanayagam, Ancient Jaffna) These conclusions, as we shall see presently, are based on the legendary accounts of the Nagas in the Pali chronicles and the Tamil Buddhist epic Manimekalai as well as on the erroneous identification of some of the place-names mentioned in early Tamil literature. Gnanapragasar, a leading proponent of the theory that the Nagas of the Pali chronicles were Tamils, has put forward four main arguments in support of it."

To be Continued..