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In loving memory of Dr. Roland Silva, a pillar of Sri Lankan Archaeology

By Chryshane Mendis and Prasad Fonseka

Deshamanya Vidya Jyothi Dr. Roland Silva was one of the foremost experts in the conservation of historical monuments and sites and one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent archaeologists. He was the former Commissioner of Archaeology (1983-1990) and the pioneer Founder Director General of the Central Cultural Fund that implemented the UNESCO-Sri Lanka Project of the Cultural Triangle, former Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, former President of the World Body of Conservators, the first president of the of ICOMOS International (International Council on Monuments and Sites) from Asia (1990-1999), which is one of the three formal advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee function under  UNESCO, the pioneer in the establishment of the Post Graduate Institute of Archaeology and the pioneer founder President of The National Trust Sri Lanka. In addition he was a senior/honoured member of many other national and international professional institutions of Architecture and Archaeology.

Dr Roland Silva

Born in 1933 to a prominent entrepreneurial family in Giriulla, Roland Silva was the fifth in the family. His only brother was the eldest and there were three elder sisters and three younger sisters to Roland. He began school at St. Joseph’s College Colombo 10 in 1939 and was the youngest boarder at that time in the hostel, where he resided throughout his years at College. In 1942 when the Darley road premises were taken over by the military, the students were moved to three branches in Gampaha, Kelaniya, and Homagama. He continued his studies in Gampaha and then in Homagama, where he excelled in the second and third standards and received a double promotion to the fifth standard. Returning to Darley road in 1946, he took part in high jump and volley ball and finally captained the College Athletics and Volley ball teams. The late Dr. Carlo Fonseka who later entered SJC after having his early education in Mari Stella College was a classmate of his and were together in their years of schooling until they were separated in different streams. Due to his excellence in academic and the other activities, he was awarded the Head Prefectship by the Rector Rev. Fr. Peter Pillai, in 1951.

Young Roland Silva

In Senior Prep (Year 9), he chose Double Maths, Physics and Chemistry (for HSC) and after passing all the examinations, he was called for an interview for selection to University where he indicated his desire to study Architecture. As there was no course on Architecture in the University, the panel recommended him to discuss with the Rector and so the Rector communicated with the Architecture Association (AA) of England to secure a place in their School of Architecture.

Dr Roland Silva with Prof. Senake Bandaranayake, Dr Senarat Dissanayake, Prof. Anura Manatunga, Dr. Sirimal Lakdusinghe

Dr. Roland began his studies in London in 1954, and while there, he had received a letter from Rev. Fr. Peter Pillai about his visit to London to undergo surgery for nonalcoholic cirrhosis. Fr. Peter Pillai had requested his former student to arrange suitable accommodation and he was able to find a visitor’s room in the hostel where he was staying. He had also given his contact details to the Hospital as the emergency contact of Fr. Peter Pillai and tended to the needs of Fr. Pillai throughout his stay in London.

While studying architecture in London from 1954 to 1959, he became interested in  archaeology and thus he found time to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Indian Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London in 1958; and even at this young age, he demonstrated his skills in multi-tasking, which later became the hallmark of his career.

After his studies in London, he toured in Europe and North Affrica visiting archaeological sites and he collected his appointment letter as the Assistant Commissioner (Architecture) of the Department of Archaeology from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Egypt. He became an Associate Member of Ceylon Institute of Architects in 1960, Royal Institute of British Architects in 1962 He later went on to obtain a Postgraduate Diploma in Conservation of Monuments from the University of Rome in 1968 and his Ph.D. from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in 1988.

Dr Roland Silva

During his illustrious career of 30 years at the Department of Archaeology, Dr. Roland had the privilege of being the last Commissioner of Archaeology and its first Director General. During his tenure, he gave professional and scientific leadership for complex conservation works such as the restoration of the Maligawila Buddha Image and many historical Stūpas. Through his great vision and holistic approach to heritage, he was the pioneer and pathfinder for the UNESCO – Sri Lanka Project of the Cultural Triangle in 1980 and also for the inscribing of Sri Lanka’s first six UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In par with these international projects, he also set up the Central Cultural Fund for the financing and implementation of the project.

Dr. Roland Silva was the Founder President of ICOMOS – Sri Lanka from 1981 to 1990, and also championed for regional representation in ICOMOS International and was subsequently elected the first Non-European President of ICOMOS in 1990, which he held for an unprecedented three consecutive terms till 1999; during which he worked tirelessly to set up national committees of ICOMOS in African, Asian and Latin American countries to realize his vision of making ICOMOS truly a world body. His international work included chairing scientific sessions of UNESCO that listed 222 sites throughout the world and also advocated looking into Asian traditions in conservation and management with an approach to living heritage. He also chaired the international proceedings in Nara, Japan, in 1993 that led to the Nara Document of Authenticity, a landmark document in heritage conservation.

Dr. Roland Silva was a consultant for World Heritage Site projects in many countries. One of his major contributions at the international level was serving in  the team of experts in the conservation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, which made the tower stable.  Roland Silva the architect, too was active, having assisted in developing the architecture education by setting up a course in architecture at the Colombo Campus and was thus an influential teacher to several generations of architects. The former Head Office building of the CCF, Polonnaruwa Site Museum, and the old site Museum at Sigiriya were all designed by him, evolving a specific architectural vocabulary with tradition.

He is a constant reference to any student of Archaeology in Sri Lanka, and his theoretical studies of ancient Buddhist architecture are now standard practices. Even at an old age, Dr. Roland was still involved in the heritage sector and attended to the affairs of The National Trust with great enthusiasm. His strong charisma was an inspiration to many and although his demise is a loss to Sri Lanka and the whole world, the legacy he left behind will last the ages where he will join the list as one of Mother Lanka’s greatest sons.

Dr Roland Silva with Prof. Gamini Adikari, December 2019

 

Special thanks gooes to Mr. IMS Madanayake and Ms Sonali Premarathne for providing photos for this article.

This article was published on arcaheology.lk on January 03, 2020

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New Light on The Decline of Polonnaruwa (1196-1215): The Tamil Pillar Inscription from Rankot Vihara

The Tamil Pillar Inscription at the premises of the Rankot Vihara was discovered during the course of an archaeological survey conducted by the Cultural Triangle in 1981, the presentation made here is based on the author’s examination of the copy of an estampage supplied by Prof. P.L Prematilleke, former Director of the Alahana Parivena Project of the Cultural Triangle, Polonnaruwa.

The text of the inscription is engraved in 10 lines on each side of a square stone pillar. The first half of the text engraved on two faces of the pillar is quite clear and the letters could be identified clearly. The portion of the text on the third face is not as clear as the estampage was not prepared with sufficient care and skill. The letters on the fourth face are completely worn out.

The inscription is not dated in the regional year of any king. On paleographical considerations it could be assigned to the early 13th century. In formation the letters represent a more advanced stage of development than those in the inscription of Parakramabahu I (1153-1186) and Nissankamalla (1187-1196). Dr.A Velupillai made a rather futile attempt at decipherment as evident from the text and translation of the inscription published by him. His failure to identify correctly the expressions in the first 12 lines has led to serious misunderstandings vitiating the importance of the record as a source of historical information.

On the basis of a careful scrutiny of the estampage, the first 12 lines of the text may be reconstructed as follows: “Kumalalapura parameciran kankai – kulottaman kaverivallavan nantikirincatan uttamacolan peral mantalanayakattukku utanpatu velaikkaran olaikkaran matevan ner anatti.

The first three expressions could be identified as epithets of Nandikkirincatan. He was obviously a Cola feudatory claiming descent from a lineage of the Gangas who had connections with Kuvalalapuram, the capital of the Western Gangas. In the 12thand 13th centuries the Gangas of Pankala-natu had these epithets. Besides, the text suggests that he was a Velaikkaranexercising some administrative functions under a king, who was later raised to the dignity of a chieftain of a region (mantalam). He was probably a Cola military leader who had come to Polonnaruwa as an accomplice of Aniganga who is said to have occupied Polonnaruwa with the support of a Cola army. The inscription testifies to the presence of a feudatory chieftain of Ganga lineage in Polonnaruwa as one holding a position of rank and authority during a period of turmoil.

S. Pathmanathan

Department of History, Faculty of Arts, University of Peradeniya

This abstract was first published in the Peradeniya University Research Sessions, 2004, Vol. 9, pp.31.

For more information please visit http://dlib.pdn.ac.lk/handle/123456789/2829

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International Workshop and Lecture Series on Recent Advances in Indian History and Archaeology and Sri Lanka- South India Relations

Introduction

India is the nearest neighbour of Sri Lanka and the greatest cultural inspiration of the Island nation. The historical and Archaeological evidence amply supports this assertion. Indian History and Archaeology is taught across universities in Sri Lanka to mark these obvious historical relations between the two countries. Great strides have been made in both disciplines in India and Sri Lanka in the recent past, which need to be reflected in the university curriculum and introduced to students and early career academics. Historically, academics across the Palk Strait have collaborated in training students and conducting research, which was impacted lately due to political sensitivity. Restoration of peace in Sri Lanka has once again created an excellent opportunity to revive these age-old academic relations.

Therefore, the aims of the International Workshop and Lecture Series are to provide a platform for Indian and Sri Lankan historians and archaeologist as well as students in the Special Degree Programmes in History and Archaeology and Early Career Academics and Professionals in Archaeology to meet and discuss recent advances in the said disciplines. It also aims to revive academic interaction between academic institutions and colleagues across Palk Strait and reread Sri Lanka- India relations in general and South India- Sri Lanka in particular. This meeting will also provide an opportunity for students and early career academics to establish contacts with Indian scholars for possible postgraduate opportunities.

Deadline For Registration: August 28, 2018

Confirm Your Participation On Or Before August 30, 2018

Lecture Series And The Workshop

The lecture series and hands-on training in stone knapping (stone tool production) will be conducted by reputed academics and researchers from India and Sri Lanka.

Registration And Applications

Applications are called from students in the Special Degree Programmes in History and Archaeology and Early Career Academics and Professionals in Archaeology.

Registration, attendance at lectures and workshop and conference material, lodging and food are totally free. Early career academics and professionals may need to find accommodation for a night.

For more information please visit this site.

 

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Archaeology.lk interviews Dr. H. Nimal Perera

Dr.H. Nimal Perera

Dr. Nimal Perera

Halawathage Nimal Perera, born on the 23rd of December 1953 is a prominent prehistorian of Sri Lanka and was the former Director of Excavations and Acting Deputy Director-General of Archaeology; he is currently the Director of Sabaragamuwa Province of the Central Cultural Fund.

He received his BA in Archaeology from the University of Peradeniya in 1979 and went on to receive his Masters from the Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute of the University of Pune, India in 1992 and his PhD in Archaeology and Paleontology from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia in 2007. His area of expertise is in the pre-proto and early historic archaeology of Sri Lanka and stressing on prehistoric human ecology and is the country’s expert on lithics analysis.

He joined the Department of Archaeology of the Government of Sri Lanka in 1982 as a Technical Assistant in Excavations and rose up the ranks to Director Excavations. He was trained intensively and supervised by Dr. Siran Deraniyagala, the then Director-General of Archaeology and also was trained by foreign scholars such as the late Prof. V.N. Misra of India in analysis of stone tools and Prof. Salle of France at the excavations of Mahasthan, Bangladesh. He has directed a number of excavations in the late Pleistocene, early Holocene rock shelters and open air sites such as Batadomba Lena and Bellan-bandi Palassa where he pioneered application of geo-archaeological and bio-archaeological methods.

Out of his many publications, what could be considered his magnum opus is his Prehistoric Sri Lanka in the British Archaeological Report series (Oxford) which was the most important research publication on Sri Lankan archaeology during the first decade of this century. His other notable works are ‘People of the ancient rainforest: anatomically modern late Pleistocene foragers at the Batadomba Lena rockshelter, Sri Lanka’ in the Journal of Human Evolution Vol. 61 (3) which ranks in the 10th position of the top twenty articles in the World which awarded him the National Research Council Merit Award for Scientific Publication 2011, ‘First technological comparison of African Howieson Poort and South Asian Microlith Industries: an exploration of inter-regional variability in microlith assemblage’ in the Quaternary International 2014 which he Co-authored, and ‘Bone technology in South Asia from late Pleistocene rockshelter Deposits in Sri Lanka’ in Osseous Projectile Weaponry: Towards an Understanding of Pleistocene Cultural Variability VERT series, New York.

Dr. Nimal Perera at Deccan College India (seated first from right) with the late Prof. V.N. Misra (seated second from left) and Dr. Vasant Sinde (standing third from left) who is the present Vice Chancellor of Deccan College of the University of Pune, India.
Dr. Nimal Perera at the Australian National University.
Dr. Siran Deraniyagala (left) and Dr. Nimal Perera
Supervising excavations at Mahasthangarh archaeological site in Bangladesh, 1994

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Postgraduate Courses in Archaeology – Heritage – Museology at PGIAR

The Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology (PGIAR), University of Kelaniya is calling for applications for following postgraduate courses for the next academic year. Continue reading Postgraduate Courses in Archaeology – Heritage – Museology at PGIAR

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Aboriginal Ecology; finding missing link between prehistoric man and the modern man

 

 

Abstract

Veddah is the last remaining group of people in Sri Lanka who believed to be the descendents of the prehistoric man. Therefore in evolutionary point of view Veddah could be the true survivals of the fittest present in Sri Lanka. A new project is launched under the auspicious of the Post Graduate Institute of Archaeology of University of Kelaniya in order to obtain information from the Veddah particularly for the reconstruction of the prehistoric life style and to characterize the artifacts found in the archaeological excavations. This attempt viagra canada would be successful and efficient if the life and culture of the Veddah’s is known better, because Veddah it is hypothesized in this project that the Veddah would be the last remaining link to the prehistoric man in Sri Lanka. Once a month for one complete year Dambana and surrounding Veddah villages would be visited to observe how environment, ecology and human behavior changes in an annual circler. Those three dimensions would be studied by living with them and from formal interviews. Basically three topics have already been identified for further studies such as hunting practices, aboriginal taxonomy and fishing practices.

Read the full paper

Weliange W.S1, A.S Dandeniya2, Prageeth Elgiriya1, B. Nalin Deepal Munasinghe3, Gamini Adikari1 & Nimal De Silva1

1Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, 407, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka
2BGJF

Consultancy Services, 35A ½, Sunethradewi Road Kohuwala, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka

3Vanneale-eththo Heritage Center, Dambana

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