Sunday, October 3, 2010

A New View of Ancient India

Natural history includes the older history of our species before what we could call civilization was invented, as well as our interaction with the natural environment and its development over time.

Most history books today overlook the natural history of our species, which goes back tens of thousands of years before recorded history. This can have misleading consequences, particularly relative to the origins of civilization that depended upon earlier advances in agriculture, language and social interaction in the prehistoric era.

History books similarly ignore the importance of the natural environment as the prime factor in shaping culture and look upon political or economic factors as more significant. Yet floods, droughts and other natural calamities are usually more significant for beginning, ending or radically altering civilizations than simply internal social struggles.

Culture and civilization are primarily the human response to the natural environment and its changes. History is the record of this response. What we call history is but a phase in the natural history of our species and its greater development. Such a more 'ecological approach' to history is necessary in the current ecological age when we are again recognizing the importance of nature in shaping who we are. Human beings are part of the planet and cannot be looked upon as a species existing in isolation. Our activities affect and alter our ecosystems in ways that determine what our culture will be and how long it is likely to endure. This means that the natural history of India is the best context in which to start out examination of the human history of the region.

The natural history of India, meanwhile, is most closely related to that of Greater India(South East Asia), which has a similar pattern of mountains and monsoons in a tropical region. Therefore, one of the most significant consequences of this orientation to India's natural history takes us away from the focus on Central and West Asia as the basis of Indian civilization that has for too long dominated the discourse. This has particularly important consequences relative to the natural history of both regions over the past more than 10,000 years.

Questionable racial and linguistic theories, like the Aryan Invasion, either not based upon or even contrary to archaeological and other scientific evidence, have dominated the discourse. Or Marxist theories based upon modern ideas of politics have been imposed on ancient peoples, ignoring the natural setting in which they lived. It directs us to Greater India.

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