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 Post subject: Fa Hien Cave (Pahiyangala)
 Post Posted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 3:47 pm 
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Fa Hien Cave (Pahiyangala)

Fa-Hien cave (site code YF), the largest known cave in Sri Lanka, is situated in Yatagampitiya village near Bulathsinhala in Kalutara District. It is popularly known as Fa Hien cave because of the popular belief that the famous Chinese Buddhist monk Fa Hien had stayed in the cave for a while on his pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak (Wijeyapala 1997).

Pahiyangala is a huge rock about 300 feet in height which has a flight of about 1000 steps. It is a wonderful creation of Mother Nature. It is a complex of interconnected rock shelters, eroded into almost vertical southwest-facing cliff in gneiss of the Highlands Complex (Cooray 1984). The humus- stained cliff that hosts the rock shelters drops from a forested summit to the banks of a small stream.

The first human burials in the cave were uncovered in 1968 by Dr Siran U. Deraniyagala (the Sri Lankan government department of archaeology), and he returned with an assistant, W. H. Wijepala, in 1988. The main finds consisted of microliths, the remains of ancient fires, and the remains of plants and human beings. Radiocarbon dating indicated that the cave had been occipied from about 33,000 to 4,750 years ago — from the Late Pleistocene to the Middle Holocene. The human remains from the different levels were taken to the Human Biology Laboratory at Cornell University, where they were studied by Dr Kenneth A. R. Kennedy and one of his graduate students, Joanne L. Zahorsky.[1]

The oldest fragments of human bone came from a young child, two older children, a juvenile, and two adults, and showed evidence of being secondary burials: that is, after death, the bodies were exposed, and after decomposition and the predations of scavengers, the bones were placed in graves. The later remains included those of a young child, about 6,850 years old, and a young woman (nicknamed Kalu-Menika by the archaeologists), about 5,400 years old. Both were also secondary burials.

The discoveries were important to archaeologists and palaeontologists because the earliest of the people buried in Fa Hien Cave lived at the same time as European Cro-Magnon man and other hominids of the Late Pleistocene around the world. Studies of the teeth found in the cave indicate that the population of Sri Lanka ground nuts, seeds, and grains in stone querns in the preparation of food, and that they continued to live as hunter-gatherers until about the 8th century BCE. Sri Lanka has yielded the earliest known microliths, which didn't appear in Europe until the Early Holocene.[2]
Other important Sri Lankan prehistoric sites at which human remains have been found include two other caves – Batadombalena (about 28,500 years old) and Belilena Kitulgala (about 12,000 years old) – and an open-air site, Bellanbandi Palassa (about 6,000 years old).

Fa-Hien shelter is credited with the oldest known burials in Sri Lanka. Archaeological finds include stone artifacts assigned by Wijeyapala to the Mesolithic, faunal remains, grindstones smeared with red ochre, and traces of five postholes. In particular, four individual burials were identified by K.A.R. Kennedy from the human remains excavated by Wijeyapala at the site.

The two deepest burials, Fa Hien 4 and Fa Hien 3, are described by Professor Kenneth Kennedy as the commingled remains of secondary burials. Both are buried in layers dated to 38,000 years ago cal. Fa Hien I is also described as the commingled remains of secondary burials, which include tow infants, a child, a sub-adult and a female adult. The only postcranial material was the seven cervical vertebrae of the child, suggesting burial of the child’s head with the neck still attached. Finally, Fa Hien 2 consists of the fragmentary skull and teeth of a child. The only useful anatomical information is Kennedy’s observation of severe wear on the adult’s teeth. In terms of mortuary practices, these earliest Sri Lanka human remains suggest a tendency to bury the head or parts of the skull.




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 Post subject: 'Ancient' skeleton excavated in Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 3:52 pm 
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'Ancient' skeleton excavated in Sri Lanka

BBC / 19 June 2012

A complete human skeleton - which could be the oldest found so far in South Asia - has been found in Sri Lanka, archaeologists say. It was excavated from a cave in western Sri Lanka. Officials say they will send it for carbon-dating and expect results in a month. Other items, excavated from the same layer as the skeleton, have been confirmed as dating back 37,000 years. Stone and bone tools were found with the skeleton.

The skeleton - thought to be homo sapiens - was found in Fa Hien Cave in the district of Kalutara, Western Province, Sri Lanka.

Human remains were also discovered at the cave in the 1960s and 1980s.

Archaeologist Nimal Perera told the Sri Lankan Daily News that the find - made a few days ago - proves that homo sapiens settled in Sri Lanka about 40,000 years ago.

He said the find is the first time that a complete pre-historic human skeleton has been unearthed in Sri Lanka, and more evidence is currently being unearthed about its eating habits, rituals and equipment made out of stone.

Some ornaments made of beads have also been excavated, as have weapons made of animal bone, Dr Perera said.


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