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1 November 2011
Prehistoric man emerges in Sri Lanka

A team led by Professor Raj Somadeva has recently made finds supporting the theory that Sri Lankan Culture is not borrowed from any other country or region, as has long been supposed.
     The expedition is excavating a site near Haldummulla town, 835 metres above sea level on the Southern Platform of central hills - the oldest recognisable human settlement in Sri Lanka at a significant altitude.
     According to Somadeva, considerable evidence of a well organised prehistoric hunting culture and civilisation were earlier found in minor excavations and caves.
     Somadeva says this represents the transition from hunting to agriculture around 3000 years ago. The stone tools and graves uncovered in Ranchamadama and Haldummulla represent more or less the same period, yet the fragments of pottery and stone tools and other archaeological evidence discovered in Ranchamadama in 2009 prove that Sri Lankan prehistoric man migrated from higher Haldummulla to lower Ranchamadama later.
     As Somadeva points out, the Horton Plains which the prehistoric Sri Lankan people are believed to have inhabited is a further 600 metres above Haldummulla, itself a mountainous region. People living in the hills gradually migrated to lower plains around 5000 BCE, probably owing to the widespread drought which hit the highlands during that time. In their journey to the lower regions of the island, the people found some special stones with a high concentration of iron, trapped in the precipices, and it is these stones that have been found deposited in the graves.
     In 2010 the team excavated graves on the way to Tamil Mahavidyalaya of Haldummulla - the highest elevation thus far. There they unearthed three large funeral vessels of clay resembling boats, each the size of a human body and containing burnt earth, as well as fragments of pots made with the potter's wheel and filled with funeral ashes, and tools made of the special iron-rich stones. Remains of human habitation adjacent to the graves included tools and pottery similar to that found in the graves.
     The practising of funeral rites and the employment of potter's wheel were the distinctive marks of the primitive agricultural society. The remains uncovered in Haldummulla signals prehistoric man's transition from hunting to agriculture, however excavations are still at a experimental stage.

Edited from Sunday Observer (23 October 2011)

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