Revolution in South Asian history

It is an amazing ‘message’ that has lain buried in the sands of time in the ancient city of Anuradhapura. First brought to light in the late 1980s by Dr. Siran Deraniyagala of the Archaeological Department that early settlers in Anuradhapura communicated through the use of the Brahmi script long before the Ashokan period in India (during which time this script was earlier believed to have come into use), parallel evidence has now emerged in South India.

Dr. Siran Deraniyagala. Pic by Nilan Maligaspe

This changes the history of South Asia and is considered “momentous” since the discovery of the Mahavamsa.

Transfer of information depends on writing and here the Sunday Times details how this information technology revolution was unearthed in the 1980s in Sri Lanka and confirmed in research publications last year in India.

Archaeological research excavations were conducted in the ancient administrative centre, the ‘Citadel’, of Anuradhapura by Dr. Siran Deraniyagala of the Archaeological Department in 1988. They probed the origins of the settlement at Anuradhapura, at depths of nearly 30 feet below present ground level. Contrary to hitherto held belief, these beginnings were scientifically (radiocarbon) dated to around 900 BC, with a settlement area of as much as 35-65 acres, representing a large village. The associated cultural material comprised the use of iron tools, paddy cultivation, high grade pottery and the rearing of horses and cattle (Deraniyagala 1990, 1992; Deraniyagala & Abeyratne 2000).

By 700 BC the settlement covered over 125 acres, and by 500 BC a city of around 180 acres. Subsequently, in the 3rd century BC during the reigns of King Devanampiya Tissa and Emperor Asoka of India, the Citadel had reached its peak of over 250 acres.

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