The veddas are one of the most famous and least understood peoples in the literature of anthropology. James Brow substantiates this view with references to accounts of their royal and ‘demonic’ descent that abound with superstition and prejudice. The veddas were the subject of one of the pioneer works in social anthropology (Seligmann and Seligmann. The Veddas, 1911), but the authors were too involved with nineteenth-century concerns to abandon the conventional view of Veddas as either ‘pure’ (food collectors) or “degenerate” (cultivators).
Brow brings a more sophisticated and accepting point of view to his study of the Veddas. From his field work among them he gained an understanding of their culture that is carefully documented here, including an examination of bilateral societies and an analysis of the religion in terms of marriage, migration, and the history of the process. Case studies and figures illustrating marriage and development patterns are enhanced by photographs showing the Veddas engaged in various activities of village life. Primarily of use to social scientists, this book also will be of value to historians and to others interested in the culture and people of Sri Lanka.