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Passage to India? Anuradhapura and the Early Use of the Brahmi Script

  • R.A.E. Coningham (a1), F.R. Allchin (a2), C.M. Batt (a1) and D. Lucy (a1)

The island of Sri Lanka, situated off the tip of southern India, is often perceived as the recipient of material culture diffused from more northerly regions. This article counters this model by suggesting that Sri Lanka may have played a pivotal role in the development of Brahmi, South Asia's earliest readable script. Sherds inscribed with this script, recently found at Anuradhapura, with dates of the beginning of the fourth century BC, now represent its earliest dated examples anywhere in the subcontinent. By analyzing the sherds' archaeological and scriptural context it presents a tentative mechanism for Brahmi's development and spread through South Asia and concludes by discussing the dynamic relationships between scripts, langtiage, material culture and ethnic division within Sri Lanka.

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F.R. Allchin , 1989. City and state formation in Early Historic South Asia. South Asian Studies 5, 116.

F.R. Allchin , 1990. Patterns of city formation in Early Historic South Asia. South Asian Studies 6, 163–74.

F.R. Allchin & K.R. Norman , 1985. Guide to the Asokan inscriptions. South Asian Studies 1, 4350.

R.A.E. Coningham , 1995a. Monks, caves and kings: an archaeological reassessment of the nature of early Buddhism in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). World Archaeology 27.2, 222–42.

R.L. Kirk , 1976. The legend of Prince Vijaya — a study of Sinhalese origins. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 45, 91100.

A.K. Roychoudhury , 1984. Genetic relationships between Indian populations and their neighbours, in The People of South Asia: the Biological Anthropology of India, Pakistan and Nepal, ed. J.R. Lukacs . New York (NY): Plenum Press, 283293.

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Cambridge Archaeological Journal
  • ISSN: 0959-7743
  • EISSN: 1474-0540
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-archaeological-journal
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