Understanding Contribution & Limitations of Genealogies
Genealogies from ancient Indian literature is a signficant source of crucial knowledge in recognizing and researching antiquity of Indian civilization.
Variations in lists of Kings/rulers make us aware that no single list is complete. This also tells us that no matter how best our efforts, a timing of an ancient event so determined using ‘Geneolgies of Kings’ can at best provide us with an estimate for the timing of a specific ancient event. The evidence, so determined, can never be used to falsify a timing determined via another evidence/methodology. At the same time, ‘Genealogies of Kings’ are certainly capable of (with luck) corrborating a date, arrived via independent evidence.
Theory – Quick revisit
Let’s look at the mathematical formula (and associated theory) in application of evidence of ‘Genealogies of Kings’:
If we happen to know Number of Kings/Rulers (X), between Events A & B, who ruled on an average for years Y….
Estimated timing of Event A = X Multiplied by Y, Years before the reference event B.
Brief Summary of past Research
Doubts may be/can be raised against validity of any of these X, Y, and B employed in estimating timing of Event A. This is justified. What is not justified is arbitrary usage (i.e. without providing rationale and supporting data) and assumptions in modifying these X, Y and B.
Indologists have had field day in doing just this. Again, sincere vs. agenda-driven applications of this Genealogy evidence can be easily spotted, however I will leave that subject for another time.
Benefits and Limitations of this approach
(1) Great to know that excellent records of Genealogies of Kings of Ancient India were maintained
(2) The evidence is capable of corroborating a timing of specific event (only as weak secondary corroboration), so determined usign other independent evidence.
(1) The List of Kings will always be incomplete…and even if the list is complete, we will never know that it is complete. (If times perimits, I will illustrate what I mean).
(2) The evidence can NEVER falsify a date determined by another independent evidence.(This is also obvious, but may not be clear at a first glance. Some refelection and meditation will certainly help)
(3) The evidence can provide corrboration fro a date determiend by another independent evidence. Even then, such corroboration is to be considered only a weak corrboration, mainly due to limitation (1) and also next (4) limitation.
(4) While uncertainty always exists about number of kings in a list, their average years for rule (Y) is always going to be an estimate which in turn makes the evidence ‘an estimate’ with no addtional tools/data (Degree of Freedom) to estimate its errors.
I will begin with specific evidence, with next part of this series..