sábado, 29 de octubre de 2011

ArchaeoHeritage - Prehistoric man emerges from Haldummulla

A special team led by Prof. Raj Somadeva recently made spectacular findings on a series of excavations which underpin the idea that Sri Lankan Culture is not something borrowed from any country or region. The excavations carried out in Haldummulla and Ranchamadama of Embilipitiya on Walawe valley offer a convincing but rather unexplicit picture of prehistoric man's transition to agricultural mode from hunting culture. 

Some microlithic implements excavated from the burials [Credit: archaeology.lk]

According as Prof. Raj Somadeva says, the generalised view that the arrival of Aryans in Sri Lanka served as the perfect recipe for Sri Lankan culture falls to complete refutation as marks of a well organised prehistoric culture and civilisation begin to come- out from the earth. Considerable evidence of the hunting life of prehistoric man were earlier found in minor excavations and caves at Belilena, Pahien lena of Bulathsinhala, Batadomba lena of Kuruwita etc. What made him to leave high lands (such as Horton Plains) and settle down in lower regions of the country? 

Haldummulla - the focal point  

Dr. Shiran U. Deraniyagala believes that Horton Plains where Sri Lankan prehistoric man had inhabited was hit by a large scare drought that virtually left Horton Plains scorched and rendered it unfit for human habitation. The man migrated to the lower regions such as Haldummulla and Ranchamadama of Embilipitiya - regions which from time to time presented archaelogical riddles but concrete proof that prehistoric man lived there. 

The expedition headed by Prof. Raj Somadeva is excavating in a site near Haldummulla town - a few metres off the Tamil school in Badulla district. This freezing region of excavation is situated 835 metres above sea level on the Southern Platform of central hills and is the oldest recognisable human settlement at a geographically staggering height. The generally accepted view that foreign Aryans fully represented the Sri Lankan culture is challenged by the arguments formulated by Shiran Deraniyagala and Raj Somadeva on the evidence of the prehistoric man's existence with a certain culture. If Aryans symbolised the civilization in Sri Lanka, what could really have happened to the prehistoric man who had excelled in bronze technology? 

Excavation of a burial [Credit: archaeology.lk[

However, since recently successful researches into the lifestyle of Sri Lankan prehistoric man have been unravelling interesting things which have thus far remained under a blanket of mystery. The archaeological study on the prehistory of Sri Lanka commenced with the excavations in Ranchamadama Upper and Ranchamadama Lower in 2005. In the course of these careful probings, the team managed to see more and more human remains being unearthed. They uncovered prehistoric graves and human settlements on the Walawe Valley. 

Currently the team are excavating sites in Haldummulla as their focal point of research and have succeeded in discovering earliest graves and tools same as what was found in Ranchamadama. 

Migration from highlands 

According to Prof. Raj Somadeva, this evidence represents the man's transition to agricultural lifestyle from hunting in stone age and what has been unearthed, will create a cross-section of man's evolution with social customs around 3000 years back. 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 (dating back to 1129 BC) and other archaeological evidence that were discovered in 'home excacations' in Ranchamadama somewhere in 2009 prove that Sri Lankan prehistoric man migrated from higher Haldummulla to lower Ranchamadama later. 

As Raj Somadeva points out, the Horton Plains which the Sri Lankan prehistoric people are believed to have inhabited is situated some 2000 feet above Haldummulla which itself is a mountainous region. Therefore, people living in the hills gradually migrated to lower plains around 5000 BC probably owing to the widespread drought which hit the highlands specially Horton Plains during that time. In their journey to the plains, or lower regions of the island, the people found some special stones with a concentration certain metal in them. (These stones were found trapped in the precipices). 

Burial which has been partly destroyed by the treasure hunters [Credit: archaeology.lk]

It was these stones that were found deposited in the graves. The team have managed to unearth some tools that have been produced precisely in line with advanced bronze technology in the course of excavations in Ranchamadama. This clearly shows that prehistoric man's hunting life drastically changed when they discovered bronze. 

It is the professor's firm conviction that the nature of fragments of pottery, stone tools and bronze tools discovered in excavations in Haldummulla, and Ranchamadama of Embilipitiya is the best proof of conclude that Sri Lankan prehistoric man has been instrumental in establishing Sri Lankan culture, not foreign migrants. The team led by Prof. Raj Somadeva unearthed a prehistoric grave on the old road from Haldummulla town to Soragune Devale. The excavated site which had been exploited as a crematorium for dead people offers a glimpse of the human society and social customs of the prehistoric man in Sri Lanka. 

Remains of a house [Credit: archaeology.lk]

Comments Prof. Raj Somadeva further, "We excavated the graves on the way to Tamil Mahavidyalaya of Haldummulla in the year 2010. We managed to unearth three large funeral vessels of clay resembling boats made of clay. There were pots filled with funeral ashes which we traced back to 1750 BC. We wanted to explore more about the human group who had used these graves and crematorium. Above all, these finding belong to a period some 3750 years ago. This is the grave discovered from the highest elevation thus far (near the famous world's end). However, the excavated grave provided limited picture of the human settlement as it revealed only the facts about funeral rites. We excavated the sites in Haldummulla and found remains of human habitation which lay adjacent to the graves and which included tools and pottery resembling to what was found in graves..." 


"These houses have been built on foundations made of unhewn stone. The foundation had long been covered by a huge stones that had rolled down from atop the mountain. On the excavations of these houses, we found painted pots, some tools of iron, a ring and some beads made from clay. These remains speak volumes for the prehistoric man's enthusiasm for fashionable living. At the sametime, the prehistoric man has skillfully used iron for various purposes. They have uncovered blackish red fragments of pottery and stone tools among the remains..." 

The graves 

"We have found several crematoriums constructed together. We have named them funeral boats". This complex of funeral boats has been constructed on a dangerously precipitous area and have been planned to suit the size of average human body. The burnt earth inside these funeral boats shows that there has been a certain burning inside them. 

Locations of the excavated burials [Credit: archaeology.lk]

The makers of the funeral boats have been particularly attentive to the physical nature of the land probably because of the dangerous sloppiness of the area. They have selected places of hard soil and rocky spots to construct the funeral boats in order to protect them from wash away violently. 

The most striking finding inside these funeral boats was fragments of pots made with the potter's wheel and tools made of stones which had a higher concentration of iron in them." 

"We can guess that prehistoric people in Sri Lanka had the practice of burning the deceased member of their family after the dead body has decayed in the pit in the ground. It appears fair to say that they have brought the decayed bones flesh and skin that were taken out of the pit into a crematorium and burned everything there. The ashes seem to have been deposited in the funeral boats. This practice is assumed to have taken root because of prehistoric man's need to establish the ownership of property by their families or generation..." 

Professor Raj Somadeva identifies the powers and levels of status attributed to certain families in overall organisation of the prehistoric society. 

He is of the view that the fundamental factor for building a civilisation is the knowledge of bronze technology and the works of prehistoric man uncovered in the Haldummulla excavations proves prehistoric man's expertise in bronze technology. 

The practising of funeral rites and the employment of potter's wheel were the distinctive marks of the primitive agricultural society. Therefore, as Prof. Somadeva aptly points out, the use of funeral boats clearly displays a social custom during the period in question and funeral rites were observed with religious connotations. The remains uncovered in Haldummulla signals prehistoric man's transition from hunting culture to the agricultural lifestyle. However the research excavations are still in experimental stage.  

 Sunday Observer 

Source: The Archaeology News Network

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