ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Paw Prints in Antiquity

Rediscovering Ancient India’s Faunal Past

Mega Mammals in Ancient India: Rhinos, Tigers, and Elephants by Shibani Bose, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2020; pp 360, 1,495.

In Mega Mammals in Ancient India: Rhinos, Tigers, and Elephants Shibani Bose attends to an unattended realm of scholarship in ancient India. Taking off from the vantage point of environmental history and more specifically faunal history, Bose examines and maps the vastly underexplored area of early India’s faunal past. Given the lack of faunal evidence and the remoteness of the period under consideration, she taps a wide range of sources traversing disciplinary boundaries to piece together the faunal life of ancient North India.

Navigating through a millennium and the vast territorial expanse of prehistoric and early northern India, Bose centres her study on three large mammals—the rhinoceros, tiger, and elephant—within the distinct ecologies they inhabited. Her cho­ice of the tiger and rhinoceros is based on the “scant attention” they have rece­ived in comparison to the “iconic status” enjoyed by elephants (p 3). Elephants in Indian history have symbolised valour, victory, imperial power as well as sacredness. They have been feared, revered, tamed, and tied by humans and have had a more enduring presence in historical narratives than the former. The author brings together the destinies of these three large faunal species in ancient North India to reveal how they thrived or declined in the specific habitats to which they belonged. A major concern of the book is to construct the ecological landscape through traces left behind by these animals in archaeological, visual, and literary evidence. This methodological approach is both innovative and commendable.

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Updated On : 4th Mar, 2022
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