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Archaeology Page

Sri Lanka


During the last one million years, when humans are known to have existed in various parts of India, Sri Lanka was connected to the sub-continent on numerous occasions. The rise and fall of sea level (due to cold/warm fluctuations in the global climate) determined the periodicities of these connections, the last separation having occurred at ca. 7000 BP. There is secure evidence of settlements in Sri Lanka by 130,000 years ago, probably by 300,000 BP and possibly by 500,000 BP or earlier. (Read More)

Related Articles:

1) Early Man and the Rise of Civilisation in Sri Lanka: the Archaeological Evidence

2) A Book: The Prehistory of Sri Lanka: an Ecological Perspective

3) Prehistoric basis for the rise of civilisation in Sri Lanka and southern India


5) Prehistoric and early historic burial sites of Lanka

6) The Lost Continent of Lemuria


Ancient Chinese Ceramics in Sri LankaNew

A significant collection of ancient ceramics ware from the periods of six Chinese dynasties has been unearthed in Sri Lanka. The earliest ceramics are from the period of Tang Dynasty (618-906A.D).  Ceramics remains from North Song, South Song, Ming, Yuan, and Qing dynasties and ancient Chinese coins have been discovered. Chinese inscriptions found in some of the ancient ports of Lanka provide valuable information on ancient Sino -Sri Lanka relationships and archaeological and historical values of Chinese ceramics found in Sri Lanka.  (Read More)

NASA Images find 1,750,000 year old man-made bridge between India and Sri Lanka
Space images taken by NASA reveal a mysterious ancient bridge in the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka. The recently discovered bridge currently named as Adam´s Bridge is made of chain of shoals, c.18 mi (30 km) long.This information is a crucial aspect for an insight into the mysterious legend called Ramayana, which was supposed to have taken place in tredha yuga (more than 1,700,000 years ago).In this epic, there is a mentioning about a bridge, which was built between Rameshwaram (India) and Srilankan coast under the supervision of a dynamic and invincible figure called Rama who is supposed to be the incarnation of the supreme. (Read)


Guharamaya: A cave of stone age man

About four miles to the north of Rambukkana,  is a curious structure of stone.  It is called by local folk, Maliyadeva Guharamaya, the dwelling of the last great Initiate of Buddhism in our island. The dolmen at Padavigampola is the only known example in Ceylon of structural work by Stone Age man. (Read More)



The ports of ancient Sri Lanka: Jambukola and Mahatittha

Jambukola and Mahatittha are two ports frequently alluded to in the Mahavamsa unfolding the earliest historical eras of the Island. Presumably the origin of these ports are not datable, however, it could be assumed without any predilection, that they were in existence long before the colonization of the Island by Aryans in the sixth century BC.  (Read More)

Related Articles:

1) Godavaya: glorious harbour in the maritime Silk Route 2nd century AD

2) Sea Ports in ancient Sri Lanka

3) Ancient ports of Sri Lanka



Pallemalala discovery: 

A major archaeological breakthrough on Lanka's pre-historic culture

This follows the discovery in late 1997 of a shell midden containing the skeletal remains and implements of stone age man in Pallemalala in the Hambantota district. The site, which may roughly be dated to about 4000 B.C. has furnished archaeologists with sufficient material to undertake a somewhat detailed study of this type of man and his culture. Preliminary observations indicate that this stone-age population are genetically related to the Veddahs with whom they share many physical characteristics and cultural traits. (Read More)

Related Articles:

1) Pallemalala: Several thousand years ago Here they lived and died

2) Walallawita: A 28,000 years old village

Humans lived in the Walallawita region as far back as 28,000 years ago. Unexcavated caves belonging to the Pahurakanda temple bear evidence to this, according to expert archaeologists.


Arankale has become an archaeological site, a biological hotspot and a garden of medicinal plants subject to the changing character of nature. The sight takes you 800 years back, when Arhath Maliyadeva, the last Arhath of Sri Lanka, spent his time meditating at Arankale. Huge trees, creepers and stone pillars scattered around Arankale speak of an intriguing civilisation, a bygone era, while rare species of insects, found in abundance, tell of a rich, biological heritage. (Read More)

Archaeological eminence of the Ramba Vihara A landmark in the contemporary history of Sri Lanka, Maha Nagakula was the capital of medieval Sri Lanka in 11th century AD. The Ramba Vihara was the temple of the Maha Nagakula city where a large number of artifacts have been found, leading to research studies The Ramba Viharaya was the Royal Temple. It was also the venue where King Vijayabahu I arrived at in the year 1055 and stayed for 15 years.

 (Read More)

Moonstones: first in a flight of steps leading to a Buddhist place of worship The Sinhala for the moonstone is Sandakadapahana (Sanda-Moon, Kada-Half, and Pahana-Stone). It is a semi circular slab of hard granite, gneiss or limestone, depending on ready availability and is the first in a flight of steps leading to a Buddhist place of worship. These are richly decorated in concentric semi circular bands of low relief carvings of flowers, creepers, birds and animals. Many scholars regard moonstones as some of the finest examples of the ancient Sinhalese artists, which is the reason for reference to them in the Mahavamsa itself. (Read More)

Ancient clay stamp seals and sealings of Sri Lanka: The world's oldest clay stamp seal had been unearthed in 1990 in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur. This city was situated in Southern Iraq along the river Euphrates, below present day Baghdad. The seal is attributed to a king of the 1st dynasty of Babylon circa 2550 BC. A clay sealing 32x30 mm bearing the legend 'Maharaja Gamini Tissaha Devanampiya' in Nagari Script was found by a villager cultivating his land in Akurugoda in Tissamaharama in 1989. It is attributed to king Saddhatissa 77 - 59 BC.  Read More


Archeological remains in Sri Lanka

Locating places mentioned in ancient chronicles is not an easy task. Where there is no scientific way of locating them on the ground except on the basis of physical evidence of stone inscriptions in situ or other archaeological evidence: often their locations have been based on informed gushes depending on the knowledge of the interpreter, but have not always stood the test of time.

Related Articles:





Maritime Archaeology in Sri Lanka

Divers at work in Galle Harbour: composite photo by Patrick Baker.Maritime archaeology Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is strategically located between Arabia and East Asia, at a natural crossroads of navigational routes, and has been a centre of trade and cultural exchange since ancient times. Sri Lanka's seafaring history, and the archaeological riches of her land sites, suggest that her underwater sites may prove comparably fascinating.A Maritime Archaeology Unit has been formed under the Mutual Heritage Centre, managed by the Central Cultural Fund in cooperation with the Amsterdam Historical Museum & the University of Amsterdam, and sponsored by the Netherlands Cultural Fund. The first major project is the excavation of the Avondster, one of several Dutch East Indiamen wrecked in and outside the harbour at Galle.

(Go to MaritimeLanka)


Dutch sailing ships of those seafaring days

( It was only recently that Galle was twinned with the beautiful city of Velsen in Holland. In the olden days, Galle received regular visits of Dutch sailing ships known as jachts belonging to the VOC. In fact, several VOC shipwrecks are known to lie at the bottom of the Galle harbour. According to Lieutenant Commander Somasiri Devendra, a Marine Archaeologist involved in a joint Sri Lankan-Dutch-Australian effort in maritime archaeology to study and excavate VOC-era shipwrecks, there are as many as 26 underwater archaeological sites including five ships somewhat larger than the Duyfken lying below the shores of Galle. )


Dutch Waterways in Sri LankaNew

( Having established Colombo as their capital the Dutch tried to grow paddy in the Muthurajawela marshes, but found, as the kings had done before them, that changing tides inundated the fields with sea water. Therefore, around the 18th century, the Dutch set up the structures, dams and water cuts which enhanced and developed the old system of waterways to siphon out salt water from the fields and transport cinnamon in barges to the nearest port. )


Salvage of 'De Avondster'

The Avondster was originally an English ship, captured and modified by the Dutch, relegated after a long career to shorthaul coastal voyages, and wrecked in 1659 while at anchor in Galle harbour. She lies close to shore, in only 5 metres of protectively murky water.She was captured by the VOC in 1953 and was renamed "Avondster". On the fateful night of June 23, 1659, when she was loading cargo for India anchored at Black Fort, Galle, she slipped her anchor, drifted off in the perilous rocky area and sank in the soft sand before anything was done.


Galle- A Port City in History

Papers from the Seminar - Edited by Jeremy Green & Robert Parthesius


Galle - the historic port town

The port was in use in pre-Christian times, but gained in importance after the 12th century. By the 14th century it was arguably the most important port in the country, and it retained this preeminence until 1873 when an artificial harbour was built in Colombo.


Ship graffiti at Natha Devale in Kandy

The graffiti are found on the walls of a desecrated shrine located at the Natha Devale complex in Kandy. This complex, has a special significance in relation to the Kingdom of Kandy, the last independent kingdom of Sri Lanka, which came under British rule in 1815.


Waterways of Serendib

The system of canals dates back to the time of King Vira Parakrama Bahu VIII of Kotte, the country"s capital for some time in the 15th century. The canals led to Negombo on the Western Coast of Sri Lanka, then a busy seaport and there is evidence that countries such as China, Burma, Rome and Greece traded with the rulers of Lanka at that time.

Other Links
  • Shift of Sinhala Civilisation: From North to South (The civilisation lasted for about 1500 years and was initially centred in Anuradhapura. As a result of Dravidian invasions, the capital was later shifted to Polonnaruwa. Following the sudden collapse of this great civilisation then based in Polonnaruwa in the 13th century, the Sinhalese drifted towards the south-west with their rulers establishing capitals in major cities such as Dambadeniya, Yapahuva, Gampola and Kotte )
  • Medical feats of the ancient Sinhalese (The Sinhalese medical tradition harkens back to well over 2000 years. Besides a number of medical discoveries that are only now being acknowledged by western medicine, the ancient Sinhalese are perhaps responsible for introducing the concept of hospitals to the world)
  • Development of the guardstone ("muragal") in local sculpture New(THE guardstones or "muragal" were one of an association of three aspects of sculpture that adorned the entrance to buildings in ancient times, the other two being the moonstone and balustrade. The guardstones, which provided a support to the heavy stone balustrade, were plain in the beginning. Later they came to be sculptured with symbols significant of prosperity and protection.
  • Ancient Sri-Lankan trade and cultural links with China (The earliest authenticated reference to Sri Lankan links with China is made by the Roman historian and naturalist Pliny the elder who fell victim to the catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Pliny chronicles an account of a Sri Lankan embassy to Rome in the reign of emperor Claudius Caesar (10 B.C. - 54 B.C.))
  • China's ceramic trade with ancient Rajarata (By Prof. W. I. Siriweera: The earliest mission originated from China during the reign of Emperor P'ing (1-6 A.D.) of the Han Dynasty who sent a delegation of Chinese officials to several South Asian countries including Ssu-Cheng-Pu which can be identified as Sinhadipa, one of the ancient names of Sri Lanka. )
  • Small Tank Heritage of Rajarata New(Robert Knox (1681 ) gives a graphic description of ‘Every town (village) has one of these ponds (tanks) of which there is a great number, the banks of which are in length above a mile, some less - not all of a size ‘He does not mention sluices and spillways, but he states that they cut a gap in one end of the tank in order to draw water for irrigating the corn (rice).)
  • Dutch Forts in Sri Lanka:
  • The Dutch and the Portuguese Forts, Churches and Waterways in Ceylon ( The Portuguese built in 1560 the fortress of Nossa Senhora dos Milagres. Jaffna was the last place in Portuguese hands in Ceylon, they lost it in 1658 )
  • Virtual gallary of Lanka Coins (Coins from Sri Lanka (Ceylon)- By Kavan Ratnatunga)
  • Banknotes of Ceylon/Sri Lanka - Billets de Ceylan (A collection from 10 Shillings note issued in 01 May 1866 to all the rupee notes)
  • DIPAVAMSA AND MAHAVAMSA - A comparative study (By Aryadasa Ratnasinghe)
  • Road to Ramayana (When Ravana abducted Sita, it led to war. 200 million years ago, geologically Sri Lanka was linked with India, Madagascar, Australia and Antarctica, in a land mass known as Gondwana.Sri Lanka separated into a land mass known as Lanka Dvipa (Island of Lanka), and part of the land submerged into the sea. According to the Ramayana epic this took place because of the misdeeds of Ravana, but this seismic happening is confirmed by modern science.)
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