The name Paleolithic simply means the Older Stone Age. As stated in the first article in this series, several periods within the prehistoric period can be identified. The common feature of these periods is the use of stone implements. In this way based on the development of stone implements, several periods could be identified. Accordingly the Paleolithic period can be identified with the early developmental stage of stone implements. This article would deal with this first prehistoric period and its development in Sri Lanka.
At 65,610 km2 Sri Lanka is one of the large islands in the Indian Ocean and during the Pleistocene epoch studies have shown that the island was joined to the mainland of the Indian Subcontinent. Due to the cold temperatures of this epoch the scattered glaciers caused the water level to fall and thus much of the places under water today was land during this time. Due to the drop in sea levels Sri Lanka and India was combined for the last time about 7,000 years ago. During the last 500,000 years the island was joined with the Indian mainland several times. According to some scientists during the past 1 million years the two lands were one landmass for most of the time. When the sea level fell approximately 70 meters, Sri Lanka and India was connected by a land bridge of about 100 km in width. Thus this land bridge caused species to inter-migrate between the two lands.
Fa Hien-lena, one of the largest habitable rock shelters in Sri Lanka, is situated in south-western Sri Lanka, at Yatagampitiya of the small township of Bulathsinhala near Horana in the Kalutara District, approximately 75 km southeast of Colombo (80 12’ 55” E 6 38’ 55” N). Popular belief has it that the famed Chinese Buddhist monk Fa Hien sojourned there while on his pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak.
When looking at the history of prehistoric research in Sri Lanka, the last stage could be considered as the modern period which began from 1969. When going through the prehistoric explorations conducted during this period and their findings, it could be stated as the golden age of prehistoric research in Sri Lanka. The archaeological excavations and analysis methods was revolutionized by Dr. Siran Deraniyagala in 1969 with the excavations of the near Image house (Gedige) of the Citadel area of Anuradhapura, which could be seen as the inaugural step into this modern period.
Chandima Bandara Ambanwala
Department of Archaeology & Heritage Management, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, Mihintale.
Translated by. Chryshane Mendis
It is a known fact that different approaches need to...
When studying about the prehistoric man under archaeology, just as looking into the cultural features, the Archaeologist should also look into the environmental features around. Although the prehistoric man built a culture, as he too is an animal who depends on the environment and the culture he built is also based on environmental facts, the natural environment therefore, is important.
As such the period before writing or the period before the historic period is known as the Prehistoric period. Though the Deepavamsa, Mahavamsa and other literary sources stats briefly of this period, the information given cannot be believed or understood properly. Certain sources describe Yakshyas (demons) and Nagas (snakes) like humans living in the island.
This article series would cover the entire scope of the prehistoric man of Sri Lanka beginning with a clear introduction into the historical setting with an overview to the terminologies and the known knowledge to the novice mind. Then with an overview of the origin of the geology and geography of the island in order to better understand the natural environment of the prehistoric man and then on to the extensive studies conducted on prehistoric archaeology from the late 19th century to the present by both foreign and local scholars.
Fig 1.1 The sites mentioned in the textRaj Somadeva1 and Sudevi Ranasinghe2
1Senior Lecturer, Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, Colombo, 2Researcher, Department of Archaeology, Colombo.
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