Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sri-Lankan Prehistoric Data

Sri-Lankan Prehistoric Data
Millions and millions of years ago, the continents of Antarctica, Australia, Africa, South America, and India formed a single landmass, situated somewhere near Antarctica. 

This landmass, named Gondwanaland, then broke up.
India with Sri Lanka and Madagascar attached moved upward into Asia.
My theory proposes a different context to the above mentioned statements.
Today, India and Sri Lanka stand on the same ocean shelf. The continental shelf has an average width of about 12 miles around the island, where the mean depth of water is only about 200 feet, beyond which there is an abrupt drop to 3000 feet roughly two miles from the shore. Within 10 miles it drops further to 6000 feet and eventually plunging deep to 18,000 feet.

About 12 million years ago, Sri Lanka started to separate from the Indian subcontinent  due to fluctuations in the sea level. Siran Deraniyagala says that the sea level would have dropped on at least 17 occasions within the last 700,000 years.

The last separation from India would have occurred about 10,000 years ago.

During the Stone Age, Sri Lanka was linked to India by a wide land bridge across Palk Strait. 
Today, the sea is barely 100 feet deep in the Palk Strait due to limestone deposition.

Prehistoric data are rudimentary in our context and a global picture cannot be made from the available archaeological data.

There are many reasons but for completeness, sake I would briefly mention only a few. 

Number one is we never had the scientific inclination to record events accurately. The period before 2500 years is only a folklore and romantic tales of many inaccuracies.

The prehistoric man probably lived in caves. They had to share these caves with the big cats, if there were any. It was probably the battle between the man and the beast. Probably the man won most of the battles due to their shear numbers and the winning outcome provided meat for subsistence.

When the last  of the colonizers arrived from India, there would have been pitch battles which were deliberately deleted from our history books. 

Probably our real ancestors retreated and few probably survived as Vaddhas in the jungles and caves. 

The colonizers probably brought in diseases with them including small pox, which would have wiped out many natives (almost to extinction).

I have some reservation about the current Veddhas.
There is hardly any difference from the main race except their rudimentary language. I believe they were drifters from the main stream who preferred hunting as opposed to rigidly imposed Buddhist way of life.

Then of course some of the Buddhist monks with the inclination for meditation practices occupied most of the accessible caves as their birth right.

They of course destroyed any evidence of or any remnants of prehistoric life for good.

Another conjecture here is that most of the caves of prehistoric importance have taken the name of Alu Lena meaning caves with ash. 
What it means may be that the prehistoric evidence were torched to ashes before converting them to temples by the occupants (mostly Buddhist monks).

I am puzzled why the new colonizers, the rulers, monks and civilians destroyed these artifacts.

One possibility was that they were scared of the demons in these caves and pulverized everything that was prehistoric. 

I do not want to believe that scenario since Buddhist monks have Pirith or vocal recitals to protect them.

I am inclined to believe the destruction of any artifacts left, going back to 10,000 years was a deliberate act to conceal or suppress the unwritten history probably, the most intense warfare  in Ceylonese history, the ancient man had with the new visitors from India. 

They would have left bony evidence of violence and multiple fractures and pulverizing them to ashes was the only option left for the victors.

When the colonizers of the West came in 2000 years later they did not have any on record of the ancient man to write about.

The  archaeological collections I have extracted from various sources are stated below.

One must take them with a pinch of salt.
The interpretations, if not biased may be largely exaggerated.

They are not my interpretations.

My Interpretations

However, I would like to go back to my theory of the Origin of Ceylon with some slant to the prehistoric findings.

There were evidence of sea shells found in the interior of the country such as Kitulgala (2000 feet above sea level)  and Balangoda (2000 to 3000 feet above sea level) plain.

If I repeat the three uplifts of the landmass of Ceylon, it would appear that present Kitulgala and Balangoda would have been under sea water many million years ago.

The first peneplain formed after the original uplift due to the meteorite hit remained at 500 to 1000 feet.

This is probably the current lower plains of the coastal region from sea to the foothills.

The second uplift contributed another 1000 to 2000 feet making the second peneplain at a level of 1500 to 2500 feet. Kandyan Plateau at a higher level and Balangoda Plateau at a lower level.

The third or fourth uplift made the hills in the middle of the country with rugged peneplain that rose up to 8000 feet forming mountain ranges.

What it mean is that the final and the massive uplift due to the last meteorite contributed 4000 to 5000 feet of height to the landmass.

Now Kitulgala is around 2000 feet above sea level which is close to Ginigathhena Gap through which the road enters the hill country. This region could have been under water before second uplift of the landmass. The second uplift would have brought the seabed with it sea shells up and some of which got trapped between the two peneplains.

Kitulgala and Balangoda are located in the border zone where the gaps that leads to the upcountry are formed due to erosion.

Of course Ginigathhena was where the trade passed through from the coast to the upcountry. Any trader would have brought sea shells there. That is the explanation given by the archaeologists (see below).

My counter argument is by the time the sea shells were brought in from the sea (unless very well preserved) they would be rotten (once in Kitulgala). 

Far better one eats them where they originated, in the coastal zone, instead of trading with the hill country folks. 

Of course sea salt was one ingredient that came up through the pass even in the prehistoric time (for preserving food).

The word Bellan in Sinhala means shells.

The word Alu means ashes.

Archaeological excavations indicate that there were prehistoric settlements in Sri Lanka about 300,000 or even 500,000 years ago. There is firm evidence at present that there were prehistoric settlements in Sri Lanka about 127,000 years ago. The evidence comes from excavations in coast of Bundala, at Patirajawela, and Wellegangoda. Settlements of the prehistoric period, known as the Stone Age, dating between 125,000-1000 BCE, have been found at Pidurangala, Patana, Dambulla and Mapagala. Settlements of the proto-historic period known as the early Iron Age, dating from 1000-500 BCE have emerged at Ibbankatuwa and Pansalgodella. Other possible sites for early iron age settlements are Kadurugoda, Mantota, and Kelaniya. 

People first settled in the coastal zones, and then moved up to fertile tracts and to locations, in the central hills where there were mineral resources.
Evidence of settlements could be found in Kitulgala, Karadupone and Ravana Ella, all entry points to the hills.
The central hills were mined for gems in the prehistoric period. There are remnants of camps, and caves in the wet zone. The camps were small, suggesting occupation by not more than a couple of nuclear families at most. Almost all were close to a stream or spring or were at the confluence of the tributaries with the main river. The network of footpaths that link the existing Purana villages today, pass through most of the sites identified. So it is possible that many of these footpaths were in existence during early times. The earliest villages may have been about 3 hectares each.
The occurrence of marine shells at inland sites such as Batadomba Lena (Diva Guhava) points to an extensive network of contacts (Batandomba lena is a pre historic cave system in Sudagala, 5 km away from the town of Kuruwita) between the coast and the hinterland. There is evidence from Belilena that salt had been brought in from the coast at a date more than 32,000 years ago.
The earliest form of cultivation was chena and kurakkan was the earliest food. Kurakkan came here in 10,000 BCE. It is a very hardy grain and was used as a substitute for rice.
There were many varieties of kurakkans.
Rice cultivation can be seen from about 250 BCE. Wetland rice cultivation in its early form was an indigenous development.
Excavations at Fa Hien Lena near Bulathsinhala, Batadomba lena, near Kuruwita, Belilena, at Kitulgala (Belilena is a famous large cave in Sri Lanka. It is located 8 km from the town of Kitulgala. It holds evidence of a lost generation of Sri Lankans some 12,000 years old.), Alu lena at Attanagoda near Kegalle, Bellan Bandi Palassa near Embilipitiya and Bandarawela, provided information on the early settlers and their habitat.
Fragmentary remains of an extinct race of Neanderthal Man were found. Fa Hien Lena yielded the earliest evidence of anatomically modern man in South Asia.
He was labeled Balangoda Man.
Balangoda Man was at an estimated height of 174 cm for males and 166 for females. The bones were robust, with thick skull bones. The teeth were conspicuously large. Balangoda Man appears to have settled practically every nook and comer of        Sri Lanka ranging from the damp and cold high plains such as Maha Eliya (Horton Plains) to the and lowlands of Mannar and Wilpattu and the equatorial rain forests of Sabaragamuwa.
The camps were invariably small thus suggesting occupation by not more than a couple of nuclear families at most. They have eaten a very wide range of food plants and animals. They ate wild breadfruit and wild bananas.
They have gobbled up every conceivable animal, from elephants to snakes, rats, snails and small fish. Tortoises and terrapins probably had been consumed. The diet has been well balanced judging by the robust skeletal remains.
Balangoda man, like stone age man elsewhere, had succeeded in domesticating the dog, about 7500 years ago.
Remains of early iron age man had been found in just one site, Pomparippu. The biological anthropology of this Early Iron Age man is different to that of Balangoda Man.
Fossils of animals and plants from the Jurassic period (I have my doubt about dating this far into 65 million years) have been found at Tabbowa wewa. Fossil bones of rhinoceros were found in Ratnapura. Tigers inhabited Sri Lanka about 135,000 years ago. Their bones and teeth were found at Batadomba Lena recently. Fossils of hippopotamus, the ridge browed elephant, the Asian elephant, the buffalo, the gaur, (The gaur, Bos gaurus, also called Indian bison, is the largest extant bovine, native to South Asia and Southeast Asia)and the rhinoceros have also emerged.
The island appears to have been colonized by the Balangoda Man (named after the area where his remains were discovered) prior to 34,000. They have been identified as a group of Mesolithic hunter gatherers who lived in caves.
Fa Hien Cave has yielded the earliest evidence (at 34,000 years) of anatomically modern humans in South Asia.
Several of these caves including the well known Batadombalena and the Fa Hien Cave have yielded many artifacts that points to them being the first modern inhabitants of the island. There is evidence from Beli-lena that salt had been brought in from the coast earlier than 27,000 years.
Several minute granite tools of about 4 centimeters in length, earthenware and remnants of charred timber, and clay burial pots that date back to the Stone Age Mesolithic people who lived 8,000 years ago have been discovered during recent excavations around a cave at Varana Raja Maha vihara and also in Kalatuwawa area.
The skeletal remains of dogs from Nilgala cave and from Bellanbandi Palassa, dating from the Mesolithic era, about 4500 BCE, suggest that Balangoda People may have kept domestic dogs for driving game. The Sinhala hound is similar in appearance to the Kadar Dog, the New Guinea Dog and the Dingo. It has been suggested that these could all derive from a common domestic stock. It is also possible that they may have domesticated jungle fowl, pig, water buffalo and some form of Bos (possibly the ancestor of the Sri Lankan cattle which became extinct in the 1940s).
The Balangoda Man appears to have been responsible for creating Horton Plains, in the central hills, by burning the trees in order to catch game. However, evidence from the plains suggests the incipient management of Oats and Barley by about 15,000 BCE.
The transition in Sri Lanka from the Mesolithic to the Iron Age has not been adequately documented. 

A human skeleton found at Godavaya in the Hambantota district, provisionally dated back to 3000 - 5000 BCE was accompanied by tools of animal bone and stone.

Iron Age

A large settlement appears to have been founded before 900 BCE at the site of Anuradhapura where signs of an Iron Age culture have been found. The size of the settlement was about 15 hectares at the beginning but it expanded to 50 hectares, to a 'town' size within a couple of centuries.
A similar site has been discovered at Aligala in Sigiriya.

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