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 Post subject: The Balangoda man: He spared only bears?
 Post Posted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:55 pm 
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The Balangoda man: He spared only bears?

by Ifham Nizam
@ The Island

http://www.island.lk/2005/06/03/features3.html


Balangoda Man or the Early Man in Sri Lanka had eaten almost all the animals available at that time. However, there were no evidence of him, consuming bears.

This was disclosed to the Island by wildlife researcher Kelum Manamendra — Arachchi Kelum along with his Guru late Punchibanda Karunaratne did an analysis of food remains of the Early Man. Jude Perera of the Department of Archaeology, conducted analysis on bones.

Though their initial study lasted between 1985 and 1993 they never revealed their findings. However, the researcher was glad to reveal his findings to us.

Kelum went on say that of food consumed by the Early Man, majority consisted of toque monkeys and leaf monkeys. "They also ate giant squirrels and flying squirrels."



He also said that of the remains they didn’t get any fragment completely. He believes that they were either chopped or broken for convenience.

He also said that Batadomba — leana near Kuruwita cave was well preserved and it was easy for their research purposes.

Evidence also suggest that the Early Man preferred the Dry Zone than the Wet Zone. However, they left the Dry Zone during the hot seasons. "This was very clear from the food especially varieties of shells and techniques they used to capture animals at both zones."

They also found evidence that the Early Man did practice rituals, which was clear from the tools they used.

Their research also showed that the Early Man did have the tendency to be cannibalistic, which was clear when they analysed bone fragments, these bones were either chopped or damaged with tools.

He also said that there were no evidence of dog domestication by the Early Man.

Kelum said that according to the Consultant to the Government of Sri Lanka on Archaeology, Dr. Siran Upendra Deraniyagala the tool kit of Balangoda Man is distinguished by the occurrence of geometric microliths, comprising small — less than four centimeters long — flakes of quartz and — rarely — chart fashioned into stylized lunata, triangular and trapezoid forms — ibid.: 266-70, 688-94. Such geometric microliths have traditionally been considered the hallmark of the Mesolithic period as first defined in Europe.

Deraniyagala who is also a former Director General of Archaeology believes the earliest dates for the geometric microlithic tradition in Europe are around 12,000 before present. Hence it came as a surprise when such tools were found as early as 31,000 before present at Batadomba-lena, 28,000 before present at two coastal sites in Bundala and over 30,000 BP at Belilena.

Sri Lanka has yielded evidence of this sophisticated technological phase over 19,000 years earlier than, in Europe. However this apparent anomaly has been resolved by the discovery of geometric microliths in various parts of Africa from contexts in excess of 27,000 BP, thereby suggesting that Europe was late in manifesting this techno tradition due to as yet undefined reasons.



Apart from stone tools, artifacts of bone and antler are quite prolific from 31,000 BP onwards, notably small bone points (ibid: 278-81). Beads of shell have also been discovered from these, early contexts and the occurrence of marine shells at Batadomba-lena points to an extensive network of contacts between the coast and the hinterland. There is evidence from Belilena that salt had been brought in from the coast at a date in excess of 30,000 BP (ibid: 326).

Sri Lanka has yet to produce unequivocal evidence of the Stone Age art. The cave art observed in various parts of the Dry Zone are the works of veddhas, as demonstrated by ethnographers, although a certain proposition of it could conceivably be prehistoric (ibid: 465).

Similarly there is little evidence of manifestations of ritual. There are, however, clear indications that the norm was for Balangoda Man to inter his dead irrespective of age or sex as secondary burials within his camp floors, having selected certain bones for this purpose.



At Ravanaella cave and Fa Hient-lena red ochre had been ceremonially smeared on the bones. Both these practices have been matched by the mortuary customs of the Andaman Islanders, but not by those of the veddhas. It is possible that the latter, through a process of cultural retrogression, ceased to practice the more elaborate mortuary customs of their ancestors (ibid: 465-7, 696).

The Himalayan foothills of the Indian sub continent have yielded evidence of human having lived there around two million years ago: A though the earliest known dates for hominids in peninsular India are abut 600,000 BP, it is very likely that future research will indicate an age comparable to that of the Himalayan foothills, since there do not appear to have been any physical barriers to prevent humans from being present in Southern India contemporaneously with their occurrence in the northern part of the subcontinent.

The Iranamadu Formation, in the north and southeast of the island could be as old as 25,000 BP or even 700,000 — 500,000 BP. These deposits may contain evidence of human habitation, a prime research objective for the future.

It is estimated that during certain plural episodes in South Asia, as at about 125,000 BP, the population density in the Dry Zone of northern, Eastern and Southern Sri Lanka could have ranged between 1.5 and 0.8 individuals per square kilometre, whereas the Wet Zone in the West would have had densitities of 0.1 or less.

From about 37,000 BP onwards the prehistoric record is very much more complete. The information stems from a series of cave excavations in the low land Wet Zone in central and South Western Sri Lanka. The dating is based primarily on radiocarbon assays on charcoal, checked independently as against the theorem luminescence dating in the case of Beli-lena. There are over 50 such dates from various contexts at these sites and the chronological framework may by pronounced secure (ibid: 695-701).

Fa Hien-lena has yielded the earliest evidence at about 37,000 BP of anatomically modern man in South Asia, followed by Batadomba-lean at 31,000 and 18,000, Beli-lena 16,000, Fa Hien-lena at 6,900, Bellan-Palassa at 6,500 and Fa Hien-lena again at 4,800 BP.

According to Deraniyagala these human remains have been subjected to detailed physical anthropological study and it has been affirmed that the genetic continuum from at least as early as 18,000 BP at Batadomba-lena to Beli-lena at 16,000 BP to Bellan-bandi Palassa at 6,500 BP to the recent Veddha aboriginal population is remarkably pronounced (ibid: 486-9; Kennedy at about 1987; Hawkey 1998; Kennedy 2000; the earlier material from Fa-Hien leana LS too fragmentary from such comparative study).


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