Historical Development of Sinhala and Scripts

Vinod Moonesinghe

Victor Gunasekera, in his comment on an article entitled 'Historical Development of Sinhala and Scripts', says that

'The earliest piece of Brahmi writing discovered does not date prior to the era of the Buddha. By this time many languages stemming from the Indic stream of the Indo-Iranian family were well established in India and had many compositions of a religious and literary kind."

However, Siran Deraniyagala (The Prehistory of Sri Lanka) details the discovery in Anuradhapura of clay sherds dated back to c. 500 BCE, on which are inscribed Prakrit words in Brahmi script characters. There are also some sherds with characters of an unidentified script.

This suggests that the 'Vijayan' Indo-European language speakers who settled in Anuradhapura (itself dated back to 900 BCE) may have introduced the Brahmi script to India and not vice-versa. The Ancient Egyptians were using cinnamon (the land of origin of which is Sri Lanka) in c. 1500 BCE, so there must have been trading between the Middle East and Sri Lanka quite early. Thor Heyerdahl posited that the Ancient Egyptians reached Maldives, and we know from the Old Testament that Solomon used Phoenician sailors to travel to Ophir and Tarshish (whence came Peacocks and gems), c. 900 BCE. Couldn't the Egyptians or Phoenicians have introduced writing to this island?

Incidently, the evidence is that the Dravidian languages only reached South India after the Indo-European-speaking settlers arrived in Sri Lanka. I do not know what the South Indians spoke before then.




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