Social complexity in early Tamilakam : sites and ceramics from the Palghat gap, Kerala, India / Shinu Anna Abraham.

Abraham, Shinu Anna.
xx, 338 p. : ill., map. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- Anthropology. (search)
Anthropology -- Penn dissertations. (search)
This project is the first step in an effort to re-conceptualize theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of complex organization in a region of late Iron Age/early Historic South India known as Tamilakam. It has been argued that the time has come to rethink the nature of early Asian complex societies. After a half a century of archaeological investigations, virtually no new insights have been made about early South Indian social organization in the time period between 300 BC and AD 300---a shortcoming that may be attributed to two factors: (1) a tendency to use traditional hierarchical social classification schemes without first critically examining their relevance to the particular historical developments in early South India and (2) a preference for broad, regional interpretations of the material culture at the expense of finer scales of analysis. To counter these limitations, this study examines the suitability of alternative paradigms of complexity---specifically heterarchy---using a "bottom-up" approach. The hypothesis under investigation is that there existed in early Tamilakam a system of sub-regional localized communities that had would have been invisible in earlier region-wide interpretations of the material culture. The results of the fieldwork, based on two seasons of survey in the state of Kerala, suggest that this is indeed did the case, and that two key strategies led to these results: (1) a critical approach to the relationship between the historical and archaeological records from early Tamilakam and (2) a willingness to evaluate emergent Tamil social complexity using a definition of "complexity" that falls outside evolutionary stage models. The application of the heterarchical model to the archaeological data is supported by the Tamil documentary record, which describes a society structured around a series of physiographic zones, each with its own system of adaptation. This project concentrated on recovering the archaeological remains of one of these zones---the Palghat Gap, a mountain pass in Tamilakam. The findings support the argument that, while regional Tamil polities may have been structured loosely as hierarchical polities, these polities were rooted within a system of pervasive sociopolitical heterarchy at the local level.
Adviser: Gregory L. Possehl.
Thesis (Ph.D. in Anthropology) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2002.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 3072968.
Possehl, Gregory L., advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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