Accepted paper:

The Vedda of Sri Lanka: cranial diversity and affinities


Samanti Kulatilake (Mount Royal University)

Paper short abstract:

Cranial diversity among the indigenous Vedda population of Sri Lanka is analysed within the context of population trends. The idealized representation of a pristine Vedda population with distinct biological traits is examined by comparing their affinities between select circum-Indian populations.

Paper long abstract:

South Indian indigenes and the Vedda of Sri Lanka have often been collectively referred to as 'Veddoid' peoples in anthropological literature. The diversity seen among these South Asian indigenes is a result of their ancestor-descendant links to early migrants to the region, combined with other evolutionary mechanisms. The Vedda of Sri Lanka represent the aboriginal population of the island. Today they speak an Indo-European language and the majority of people who self-identify as Vedda, do not subsist on hunting and gathering. There has been considerable admixture between the Vedda, Sinhala, and Tamil populations throughout historic times and no clear boundaries exist, morphologically, linguistically or culturally. Further, support for the representation of the Vedda people as a unique hunter gatherer population is diminishing due to their rapid urbanisation and cultural assimilation over the past two centuries. Craniometric data on a sample of Vedda crania is the focus of this study. Univariate and multivariate statistics on cranial traits affirm that the Vedda are very similar to the rest of South Asia's regional populations. This study also explores the affinities and distances between the Vedda and selected circum-Indian Ocean populations, based on cranial diversity. The Vedda cranial morphological pattern fits best with that of the other South Asians in the sample. They share some traits with Australo-Melanesians, but are distinct from the Andaman Islanders' pattern. The Vedda cranial characteristics strongly suggest that they can no longer be seen as morphologically distinct from other regional populations of India and Sri Lanka.

panel BH16
Osteobiographies: studies from ancient human skeletal remains