An Evidence-Based Anthropological Exploration of Lanka's People
Keywords:Sri Lanka, anthropology, archaeology, South Asia, demography
Sri Lanka’s rich palaeoanthropological and archaeological record as well as the present demographic aspects have much to offer in aiding our understanding of the island’s ancient past and recent population structure. Sri Lanka has yielded skeletal evidence for the earliest anatomically modern humans from South Asia indicating very early settlement of the region. Following early hunter-gatherer dispersals over 50,000 years ago, agricultural populations expanded to the region with historic settlements and urbanisation creating complex societies in the last three millennia. Through circum-Indian Ocean trade networks in historic times and colonial expansion in the last 500 years, population diversification has continued with groups of multiple genetic and ethno-linguistic backgrounds arriving and settling in the island. These early and later migrants share a gene pool that connects them to descendants of today, who form Sri Lanka’s multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multi-religious society. Using an anthropological perspective, this article investigates how complex societal and biological diversity would have developed over time in island Lanka. An appreciation of deep time, beyond historic records, helps us recognize that human evolution and diversification has been shaped over thousands of years, while an evidence-based, scientific approach is proposed to eliminate flawed ethnocentric interpretations.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Samanti Kulatilake
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