The archaeology of southern India has long been dominated by cultural-historical paradigms, which have more recently become reliant on environmental stimuli to explain "culture change." This interpretive framework has created a relatively fixed set of relationships between the environment and past human societies that oversimplifies issues of agency and causation in largely deterministic terms. At issue here is a lack of adequate treatment for the sociopolitical complexity of human-environment relationships. In this essay we examine the relationships between emerging social differences and both stable and dynamic aspects of land use throughout the South Indian Neolithic (3000-1200 B.C.), Iron Age (1200-500 B.C.), and Early Historic (500 B.C.-A.D. 500) periods in the southern Deccan region of South India. In an effort to contextualize land use in wider sociopolitical realms, we focus on the empirical components of three aspects of the archaeological record - animal use, agricultural regimes, and monument production and maintenance - through a lens of political ecology. Accepting that land use is socially and culturally mediated, we suggest how sociopolitical distinctions emergent during these periods could be viewed in relation to the production of a landscape that differentially included wild and domesticated animals, cultivars, water reservoirs, irrigation agrculture, and monumental architecture. In this sense, we argue that the landscape itself could be seen as a social product through which sociopolitical differences were experienced and perceived, and that the historical development of the landscape is both the artifact and medium of sociopolitics in early South India. As such, the determinants of social history remain in social and cultural fields of action, though not removed from the ecological-material world of which people are a part.
- Political ecology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics