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Study of Holocene hunter-gatherers in Sri Lanka : towards a regional model

The archaeological project titled ‘Hunters in Transition’ initiated in the year 2009 focuses the Holocene adaptations of the prehistoric hunter-gatherers occupied in the deep mountainous hinterland in Sri Lanka. Three separate climatic regions i.e.  wet, intermediate and dry zone which are geographically adjacent to each other have been archaeologically investigated through a series of reconnaissance surveys and excavations.

A view of the Vavullena cave which is a large prehistoric occupation in Illukkumbura of Balangoda

Floral and faunal distribution in the sampled area were mapped against the dispersal of prehistoric sites. Six Spatio-temporal caves situated in the region; the elevation ranging between 900 and 300m msl. fall into the period between 9000 -3500 cal. BCE were probed to establish a spatio-temporal framework to the Holocene cultural development. All of the caves investigated are situated not very far from each other; the maximum distance does not exceed 20km.

Approaching the Vavullena cave in Paragahamaditta

Identification of a natural formation of a quartz deposit which had been extensively exploited for lithic manufacture (as suggested by the artifacts excavated)  suggests as one of the key attractors of the colonization of its surrounding landscape. 25 varieties of wild grass seeds, nuts together with an extensive index of small animals hunted suggest that the Holocene hunters-gatherers had shown a marked resilience to the new climatic regime. Some of the symbolic artifacts excavated evidenced the fresh approach of them seeing themselves and their external world.

A symbolic object (probably a female genital)
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Fishing Practices in Prehistoric Sri Lanka

A considerable amount of information on prehistoric culture has been gathered from various areas in Sri Lanka. Batadomba Lena Cave in Kuruwita and Bundala in the southern Sri Lanka are two prehistoric sites which are as old as 40,000 years and 125,000 years respectively. Several caves in the wet, dry and intermediate zones were excavated during the last 70 years and a large amount of evidence has been discovered from these sites, which could be used to explain the prehistoric culture in Sri Lanka. Archaeo-faunal evidence helped to describe the prehistoric man not only as a hunter gatherer but also as a fisherman in the floodplains, rivers and streams. The simplest form of fishing tools made out of bones were discovered from many prehistoric settlements in Sri Lanka, indicating that there existed a gradual development of fishing technique and related activities. In this synthesis, an attempt is made to discuss the probable fishing techniques practised in the prehistoric times in habitats such as flood plains, rivers and streams. In this regard, information on, 1) traditional fishing practices of native Sri Lankans; 2) fish guilds that are popular in the dietary habits of Sri Lankans; 3

) remains of fishes discovered from the prehistoric settlements; and 4) ecology of freshwater fishes was evaluated. Thirteen food-fish

guilds were recognized

in the dietary culture of Sri Lanka and were ranked considering the discount cialis relative importance in the human diet. The archaeologists have discovered nine fish species and two genera from the excavations so far conducted in prehistoric sites. All those species belong to the food-fish guilds of contemporary Sri Lankans.

Wasantha S Weliange PhD

Read the full paper

This article was first published in Festshrift for Professor S.B. Hettiarchchi. Essays on Archaeology, History, Buddhist Studies & Anthropology.

Weliange. W.S.2010. Fishing Practices in Prehistoric Sri Lanka. Ed, Perera P etal. Festshrift for Professor S.B. Hettiarchchi. Essays on Archaeology, History, Buddhist Studies & Anthropology. Sarasavi Publishers, 30, Stanley Tilakarathna Mawatha, Nugegoda Sri Lanka. 371p.

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