Balangoda Bunkum
Posted on October 18th, 2013

R Chandrasoma

Two propositions pertaining to matters historical (and anthropological) are widely held to be true by the literati of Sri Lanka. The first is that there existed in our fabled Island a distinctive‚  human type called ‘Balangoda Man’ – so named by its -Ëœdiscoverer-â„¢ -” Dr. P E P Deraniyagala. The second is that the Sinhala Race is, for the most part, descended from this ancient and distinctive archetype. Both propositions are false. There is no recognized human sub-species that is unique to Sri Lanka and has the warrent of physio-anthropological authentication. By this I mean the existence of osseous remains that have been exactly dated and found unambiguously exhibiting those anatomical featurers that are found in archaic humans. The existence of‚  supposed ancient artifacts and indicators of settled dwellings are no argument for the uniqueness of a human type. The plain truth is that we have no evidence that would satisfy a physical anthropologist or

‚ evolutionist that ancient and distinctive humans evolved on our little Island. Indeed, there is no evidence that the great land mass of India was a centre of anthropogenesis. Like Sri Lanka, India received its human types – both ancient and modern – from great theatres of anthropogenesis elsewhere (North Asia, the Middle East and the Indonesian complex of land masses,) We are, all, of course descended from African Primates. It is possible, of course, that there were -Ëœwaves of settlement-â„¢ in our corner of the world that brought in ancient peoples to Sri Lanka long before the advent of the Dark Caucasoids. Indeed, the Veddhas -” an ancient Australoid stock that entered our Island in Pre-historic times -” affords a good examle of the mixed heritage that has been bequeathed to us as occupants of a a vulnerable continental outpost.

Let us turn to the second erroneous proposition – that the Sinhala Race is genetically distinctive and owes its uniqueness to the existence of a defined ancestral stock in ancient Lanka – to wit, Balangoda Man. We have already dismissed the foundational story about Balangoda Man on account of its faliure as a scientific hypothesis. But the argument that the ‘Sinhala People’ constitues a geneticallly coherent ‘race’ derived from an identifiable ancestral stock is easily defeated by direct observation and experiment – there is no need to examine hypotheses about a putative common ancestor. The Sinhala people are mixed Dark Caucasoids of the kind widespread in South Asia. The contemporary Sinhala stock is a dynamic assembly of South Asian migrants with ocassional Nordic and Mongoloid infusions. Its gene-pool is constantly changing and it is difficult to predict the ‘profile’ of this supposed race in future decades. Unlike Esquimos, Mongols and African

‚ Pigmies we Sinhalayas hve no defining commonality in physical appearance execept, perhaps, the touch of the Veddha in our physiognamy. There is a direct and easy way of verifying this picture of dynamic mixing – the evidence given by the DNA which all of us carry as an indelible record of our total parentage. Needless to say, there is no DNA evidence to suggest that we (the Sinhalayas) are the unique offspring of a Balangoda ancestor.

It remains to state the obvious – that a ‘race’ is not defined exactly by genes or common physical features. Language, culture and religion are powerful bonds which unite genetically diverse assemblies of humans.The concept of a race as an aggregate of humans with‚  common beliefs and practices and – most importantly – speaking a common language is as good as anything narrowly based on hereditary descent. The Sinhala race is ancient and glorious when so defined and our ‘genetic mixedness’ is irrelevant. It is time to give up mythologizing on matters of race and descent to prove our cultural and historical unqueness. It is a weakness of the marginalized to seek glory in fairy-tales and imaginative fiction. As Sri Lankans we must repress this urge.


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