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The dry tank : development and disuse of water management infrastructure in the Anuradhapura hinterland, Sri Lanka.

Gilliland, K. and Simpson, I.A. and Adderley, W.P. and Burbidge, C.I. and Cresswell, A.J. and Sanderson, D.C.W. and Coningham, R.A.E. and Manuel, M.J. and Strickland, K. and Gunawardhana, P. and Adikari, G. (2013) 'The dry tank : development and disuse of water management infrastructure in the Anuradhapura hinterland, Sri Lanka.', Journal of archaeological science., 40 (2). pp. 1012-1028.


We identify and offer new explanations of change in water management infrastructure in the semi-arid urban hinterland of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka between ca. 400 BC and AD 1800. Field stratigraphies and micromorphological analyses demonstrate that a complex water storage infrastructure was superimposed over time on intermittently occupied and cultivated naturally wetter areas, with some attempts in drier locations. Our chronological framework, based on optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) measurement, indicates that this infrastructure commenced sometime between 400 and 200 BC, continued after Anuradhapura reached its maximum extent, and largely went into disuse between AD 1100 and 1200. While the water management infrastructure was eventually abandoned, it was succeeded by small-scale subsistence cultivation as the primary activity on the landscape. Our findings have broader resonance with current debates on the timing of introduced ‘cultural packages’ together with their social and environmental impacts, production and symbolism in construction activities, persistent stresses and high magnitude disturbances in ‘collapse’, and the notion of post ‘collapse’ landscapes associated with the management of uncertain but essential resources in semi-arid environments.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Soil micromorphology, Optical dating, Irrigation, Cultural landscapes, Collapse, Buddhism, South Asia.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Archaeological Science. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Archaeological Science, 40, 2, February 2013, 10.1016/j.jas.2012.09.034.
Date accepted:26 September 2012
Date deposited:11 May 2015
Date of first online publication:February 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

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