The overall objective is to train a chosen group of eight Sri Lankan archaeologists in maritime archaeological techniques. The ultimate aim is for Sri Lanka to have a group of skilled local people to manage the country’s maritime archaeological sites. This season’s work is being conducted over a six week period, a continuation of the training given in 1992/3. The programme aims to provide a basic and general understanding of all aspects of maritime archaeology, with exposure to the wide range of skills required.

In-water practical sessions are supplemented by tutorials, work shops and video presentations to explain various aspects of underwater archaeology.
The trainees are asked to develop a workbook covering all the exercises they have completed, and to write up the practical workshops in which they are involved. An individual assessment of each trainee’s skills in five categories is made progressively, with a final assessment at the completion of the programme. Participants are awarded a certificate of their participation in the training programme.

Assessment of equipment and in-water abilities

Advanced diver training Historical aspects Recording Search and survey above water Underwater search and survey (theory)                                                         Underwater search and survey (practical) Pre-disturbance survey (theory)                                                      Pre-disturbance survey (practical)—two dimensional survey Considerations before excavating 

Lodewijk J. Wagenaar
INTRODUCTION: Although the Galle peninsula and surroundings were inhabited before the colonial era, and although Punto de Galle was given its first European colonial shape by the Portuguese, this memo will deal mainly with the Dutch Period, and modestly with the British Period and the period after the colonial occupation, since most of the fortress, the buildings and the city grid dates from post-Portuguese years.

To understand the Fort of Galle as an organism one must understand the small city in its organic and functional aspects. In the Dutch Period (and similarly in the Portuguese Period) one may emphasise four main aspects:

In the British Period most of the maritime activities were transferred to Colombo, after the construction of the new harbour with its breakwaters and quays (before that time only the roadstead was in use). The emphasis on the cinnamon trade in the Dutch Period shifted to other agricultural crops serving new market demands (coconut, oil, rubber, and tea). The Dutch Burghers adapted well to the new British occupants and rose on the social scale; 19th and early 20th century society and daily life were strongly influenced by the Burghers. Since the late 18th century, a new town grew up outside Galle Fort. From 1800 onwards, more and more Singalese and Moslem people entered Galle Fort.

To avoid misunderstanding: Burghers were originally Dutch East India Company servants who obtained permission to leave the service to settle as private small scale entrepreneurs. Their children, many of them born of mixed relationships, automatically received Burgher status, although many of these Eurasians entered the service of the Company (VOC). Only later, in the British Period, all descendants of Europeans and Eurasians were categorized as ‘Burghers’, among them the so-called Dutch Burghers. Their way of life, of which the poffertjespan, the Broedercake and the verandah cum stoep are evocative, derived from the early Dutch Period. The verandah is an 18th century development, but the general layout of the Dutch Period house has early origins. It is remarkable to read in 18th century sources that many houses still had no tiled roofs, which were again and again ordered in city regulations to prevent fires. In marked contrast to Batavia, in Galle (and also in Colombo and Jaffna) the tiles in use were of Portuguese style, and not the Dutch ‘gulf’ tiles. Already in the Portuguese era the tiles were locally made.

Life in Galle was of mixed European–Asian character. In Holland one will look in vain for colonial structures such as these, which are similar to those on the Iberian Peninsula, and quite well adapted to the Asian situation. In Amsterdam land was scarce and every merchant wanted his warehouse close to the canals, so warehouses there were deep and high; in contrast the warehouses in Galle are lengthy and low. The fortifications too were different in the East: in Europe they had to cope with more sophisticated gunfire and techniques of warfare; in Asia the fortresses could make do with more basic structures. Only in the 18th century this changed, especially in Galle, Colombo and Jaffna. Documents in the VOC archives in Colombo and The Hague, as well as drawings and plans, make this perfectly clear.


In the long run it may be possible to have a series of places, buildings and houses showing different aspects of Period Daily Life. In the future one may acquire a Dutch period house to turn into a show house with period rooms, kitchen etc. Other buildings and places may be used to show aspects of daily life in the past, from various periods in the long history of Galle. However, since it is wise to start simply, it is advisable to begin with only one project, which has potential to combine several ambitions:

Black Fort is a suitable spot to start a project to materialise these ambitions. It is easy to link this place with the old Dutch Warehouse (to become a Maritime History Museum) and the Bay Area at the jetty-side. This could become a Nautical Quarter, as advocated long ago by Ashley de Vos, the Sri Lankan godfather of a new understanding of Sri Lankan architecture as being of ‘dual parentage’.

The Black Fort is the earliest fortress in Galle, with roots in the late Portuguese Period, showing strong Dutch influences but also traces of use in the British Period including the Second World War as well as of use in the post-colonial era. Thus the Fort is ideal to bring to life several aspects and periods. Cannons (replicas), other related equipment, tools and cannonballs may be placed, smaller structures may be erected which sheltered the gunpowder barrels, etc and guardhouses might show soldiers from different periods doing their job (that is: doing nothing but waiting). Volunteers or paid actors might do exercises at scheduled times to bring the history to life; however a permanent and noisy show like that in Williamsburg, USA should be avoided.

Reconstructed or conserved buildings within the Black Fort might be turned into museum-like places, offices, kitchens etc. At the lower level an extremely attractive restaurant could be located, with access to the jetty area. There the tiny shipyard could be brought back into life, to build dhows for harbour trips and fishermen. History can pay!

This Black Fort Project, part of the greater Galle Heritage Project, can easily be linked with the other Galle-linked project, the Galle Harbour Project, aimed at the identification and research of shipwrecks in the Galle Harbour. The laboratory at the jetty can be a temporary information centre for the two projects. Video films and other vivid information will make this information centre a lively and interesting one, and during underwater excavation the work in progress can be shown on a monitor. Objects undergoing conservation may be shown, and after treatment they will be on display in the Maritime Museum of Galle. A very interesting result of this Galle Harbour Project is that ship parts have been identified from early times. Ancient stone anchors of Arabian pattern and the Sung dynasty Chinese bowl found in the harbour prove the continuity of maritime history in Galle Bay.

As the Batavia Wharf in Lelystad, Netherlands, has already proven, the interest of the general public in research and exhibits of this type is tremendous. Without doubt, history can offer interesting financial returns.

To start with it is suggested to conduct research in the VOC archives in Colombo. Maritime history, economic history, and the history of building and maintenance activities are fully documented as far as the 18th century is concerned. For earlier periods, VOC documents in the General State Archives, The Hague, Netherlands, have to be studied. The National Archives in Colombo however give good possibilities for a start. The documents there from the VOC settlement in Galle give ample information, especially the monthly reports and the yearly compendia of the various VOC departments (the smithy, ship repairing and building departments).
Most movements of ships have been recorded, not only of the great East Indiamen, but also of the smaller ships: not only Sri Lanka based VOC ships, but also ships arriving from other ports of the VOC trade empire. Even movements of ships owned by Moslems and Burghers have been recorded and mention has been made of visits by other European ships.

The building history of the Dutch Forts is well recorded. Weekly and monthly reports on the maintenance, complete with lists of used materials and labour give wonderful information. Special reports give information on the state of the forts, related with the wars in Asia between France and Britain (eg the Seven Years War, 1757–1763) or with the aftermath of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780–1784), in which the French were also involved. In 1795, another war broke out between the Dutch and the British, who then took over Galle in February 1796. A report from 1795 states that the forts in Ceylon were so badly maintained that even saluting with the cannons proved ruinous to the structures.

Students from Holland may make an overall review of these reports, so that the Galle Project Team can translate this into the conservation, preservation and reconstruction programmes.

To get the programme started it might be considered appropriate to appoint four officers:

These positions are not necessarily full time. There will probably be possibilities to combine some of these functions in one person. The tasks and responsibilities should be clearly defined, as should the relations between the several managers.

The Black Fort Project might function as a pilot study, to be used for other projects of the chain. By training craftsmen, students, staff, contractors, etc, experience will be built up, which may be used for other projects, even for projects in other parts of Sri Lanka. As far as cooperation with universities is concerned, it might be advisable to create pairs of Dutch and Sri Lankan students who work together on the same (sub)project and to link them with a span of Sri Lankan and Dutch specialists as tutors, thus ‘sandwiching’ them to guarantee the most efficient way of getting the desired results. To start with, a workshop could take place, where the identified projects can be worked out, with time-frame and management planning. Within five years the Fort of Galle could operate as a world-famous example of how to enjoy the past in the present, with attractive effects on job creation and on the welfare of the inhabitants of Galle and the region. The year 2002, four hundred years after the visit of Joris van Spilbergen and the foundation of the VOC, might be an extra incentive for sponsors and investors.


An enterprise like the Black Fort Project should be split up in smaller projects, to make it easier to realise. For the British Period cooperation with the Imperial War Museum in London and with the St. George Fort Museum in Madras would be interesting. As far as the Dutch Period is concerned, the Army Museum in Delft and the Vesting (Fortress) Museum in Naarden should be considered. The National Archives in Colombo and the General State Archives (ARA) in The Hague will be partners; universities in Sri Lanka as well in the Netherlands, Leiden (RUL) and Amsterdam (UvA) might cooperate in sending experts and trainees; museums like the Amsterdam Historical Museum, the Maritime Museums (Amsterdam and Rotterdam) and the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam) could be involved. The Netherlands Department for Conservation (RDMZ, Zeist), ICOMOS (Netherlands), the Dutch Department for Education, Culture and Sciences (OCW) and the Culture Section of the Dutch Embassy in Colombo could be important counterparts, because they will be interested in giving structure to training programmes to foster preservation and conservation, the transfer of experience and know-how, directed to stimulate cultural tourism, which might generate funds for implementation of the plans (hardware, staff, training) as well for maintenance of buildings and fortifications. The Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS, Rotterdam) will be an attractive partner to train staff in organising and executing new tasks, which like those of the scholars and architects will be interdisciplinary, even ‘cross cultural’.

The Dutch counterparts may be asked to consider co-financing the costs of Dutch trainees and specialists/consultants, training programmes, etc. The ‘hardware’ itself, conservation, preservation and reconstruction will be for the greatest part the responsibility of the Galle Heritage Foundation and other Sri Lankan institutions (Ministries, Departments, UDA, Southern Province, Southern Development Authority, Municipality of Galle, etc). However, financial partnership in the form of private/public investment might create real possibilities for private investors and sponsorship. Legal aspects of this are worth separate study.  NEXT PAGE

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