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The Great Andamanese Past and Present

The Great Andamanese Past and Present


Item Code: NAB848

by Pratap C Dutta

Paperback (Edition: 2004)

Anthropological Survey of India

Language: English
Size: 9.3 inch X 6.3 inch
Pages: 88 (18 B/W Illustrations)
Price: $25.00
Discounted: $18.75   Shipping Free
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This small volume deals with the Great Andamanese one of the most primitive negrito groups of the world. Once more numerous, they now comprise 23 individuals. While we know about their present day culture, nothing practically is known about their past. Owing to overriding scientific concern, excavation in ancient kitchen-middens was undertaken to have light on their cultural history.

The first half of the book contains basic information about history of the islands and islanders, ecology, problem and design of work, and notably certain specific ‘material culture’ items discovered by excavations. In the second half, an attempt is made to provide answers to questions connected with part ways of life of the people.

The concept of ‘ethnological analogy’ is used as a model. The study claims a long term stability of culture in the Andamans for nearly part 2,000 years.

About the Author

Pratap C. Dutta, one of the senior scientists in the Anthropological Survey of India received his Master degree in Anthropology from the University of Calcutta in l953. He was later awarded Ph.D. and D.Sc. degrees by the same university on his contributions relating to the Andamanese and the ancient Harappans. He has experience over a wide range of anthropological and genetical studies, but has specialised himself in the field of skeletal biology and palaeo—anthropology.

As a delegate of the Government of India he visited Czechoslovakia in 1974 to acquaint himself with modern techniques in human palaeontology. He also visited other European countries including United Kingdom. He earlier received training in Field Archaeology from the Archaeological Survey of India during 1954-55.

Dr. Dutta has published more than fifty research papers and notes. Mostly in international journals. He is the author of The Bronze Age Harappans, and has co—authored Human Remains from Harappa (1962), Anthropometry in India (1966), and Ancient Human Remain (1970)

He was Associate and Assistant Editor of the Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society during 1966- 69 and is now in the editorial board of a leading professional journal. Anthropologie.


Although quite recently only a few scholars paid attention to the problem of reconstructing unknown past of primitive communities, none has per- haps broached it yet in the Indian context. Because of its over riding scientific concern, the present inquiry w as designed and initiated to unravel the past cultural history of the Great Andamanese Islanders. The Great Andamanese, who were once more numerous occupying most of the Great Andaman, are now being represented by only 23 souls awaiting absolute extinction.

To achieve the goal, explorations and excavations, which are the pre- requisites for such studies of ancient kitchen—midden sites in South Andaman were undertaken by me during the field season of 1959-60 as a project of the Anthropological Survey of India. The following pages are the product of my own analysis and interpretation of the material contents exhumed concerning the past society of the Great Andamanese, and also of the matrix in which these were discovered. Special emphasis is given here to document the results of systematic excavation of a site at village Chouldari in South Andaman con- ducted by me. But Mean while, some immediate but brief results, then in the offing, have already been published in some international journals like Nature (London), Wiener Volkerkundiche Mitteilungen (Vienna), Ethnos (Stockholm) And Current Anthropology (Chicago). I trust, this small but a comprehensive piece of work and also the question of the peopling of the Andamans dealt with here, will evoke interest in all those who are especially concerned with palaeoanthropological studies in India.

I wish to record here my gratefulness to the Professor M N. Basu, formerly Head of the Department of Anthropology. University of Calcutta for his interest and general guidance. I am particularly indebted to late Professor N. K. Bose, ex-Director of the Anthropological Survey of India. For initiating the work; to Professor Dr. N. C. Chowdhury, Head of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology. North Bengal University, for many wise suggestions; to Dr. Mahadeb P Basu for preparing the index; to Shri Dilip Kumar Chakraborty for permitting me to use some photographs incorporated in the publication; to Messrs B. N. Bagchi. S. K. Chattopadhyay and S. K. Sanyal for the drawings and photography; and to Mrs. Bharati Debi for much-needed general assistance. A special note of thanks is due to Dr. Anadi Pal for his constant and generous help in the excavation and also to Shri Rathindranath Ghose for his much-needed help in the preparation of the manuscripts. Shri J. R. Chakraborty of the Publication Section of this Survey took the full responsibility of going through the proofs. Lastly, it is my duty and pleasure, too, to express my indebtedness to my wife, Ruby, who had been in the excavation sharing the pains and pleasure of a hazardous life out in the Andamans.


Preface v
Chapter One Introduction: 1-12
The Problems, 1; History of Contact, 2; The Negrito Islanders, 3; Physical Environment, 7; Research Design and Model, 10
Chapter Two The Past Alive in Kitchen-Middens: 1340
History of Research, 13; Present Investigation, 16; The Lithic Industry, 25; Affinity and Dating of Beehive Artefacts, 32; Ethonographic Data, 36.
Chapter Three Reconstruction and Interpretation 41-56
The Andamanian. Niche, 42; Technology, 43; Economy and Subsistence Pattern, 47; Settlement Pattern, 50; The Peopling, 52.
Chapter Four Epilogue 57-60
References 61
Index 69
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