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3,000 year old burial site unearthed in Sri Lanka

A clay cist burial site dating 3,000 years, back to proto–history has been unearthed from Ananda Maha Vidayala premises in Dewalapola, (2 kms from Naiwala) by a team of Archaeologists and researchers from the Kelaniya University.

3,000 year old burial site unearthed in Sri Lanka
Clay pottery herds unearthed at the site [Credit: Nisansala Dissanayaka, Daily Mirror]
Excavations started on Sept. 15 under the direction of Dr. Mangala Katugampola of Kelaniya University. Researchers suggest the site dates back to proto history, a transitional period between pre–history and history.

Clay potsherds, clay lumps and soil which were discovered at the site are to be sent to the United States for Carbon 14 dating. The exact dating can be stated after proper scientific examination. After the collected data is examined, a conclusive history of the life of inhabitants can be drawn, but this will take some time.

The old burial site consisted of two large clay cist burial urns. According to the researchers it appeared that the inhabitants had first dug the soil, smeared clay paste inside, burned it and placed the corpse there. After cremation, the remains were stored in clay pots and placed in cists and sealed pots by keeping round clay lumps on. All the pots have been smashed due to the weight of clay lumps.

3,000 year old burial site unearthed in Sri Lanka

By Wednesday evening the archaeologists had uncovered four clay pots and a layer of ash in cist two (C2).

“The pots have been made using potter’s wheel and by hand, which proves that, after the pre-history era people have practised pot making and they seemed to have known how to make pots by burning clay, thus proving that they had sophisticated technology at that time in Sri Lanka,” said Dr. Katugampola.

Researchers said that there was little knowledge regarding their social, economic and religious life. What they had found so far was only a large data collection, which has to be analysed and interpreted in the near future.

3,000 year old burial site unearthed in Sri Lanka
Dr. Mangala Katugampola – the excavation director [Credit: Nisansala Dissanayaka, Daily Mirror]
According to Dr. Katugampola there are two known megalithic sites in the Dry Zone -- Ibbankatuwa (B.C.E 730 – 740) and Kokebe burial site near Horowpatana (B.C.E 800) – as well as many others along the Yan Oya valley.

Those characterised as megalithic were made using four slates as tombs and kept a clay pot inside.

This site depicts another style of ancient burial. Even though researchers have found similar burial sites in the wet zone, this is the first time that this kind of clay cist burial site has been found. The director said that there could be geographical reasons to carry out burials using clay, as slates were scarce in wet zone. Maybe they used available resources in their environment for this purpose.

3,000 year old burial site unearthed in Sri Lanka
One of the coal lumps to be sent for Carbon 14 dating [Credit: Nisansala Dissanayaka, Daily Mirror]
Archaeologists have found similar sites in the wet zone in Gaspe, (a close proximity) which was excavated in the 1950’s by Dr. P.E.P Deraniyagala. One other burial site was accidentally found in Kalotuwawa in Varana area which dates back to 130 B.C. These types of sites were found in the intermediate zone as Ranchamadama and Haldummulla.

Dr.Katugampola, the director of excavations, named this excavation as a rescue archaeological project in which they have to preserve findings as they intend to precisely date the burial site, gather more and accurate information about their customs, social status and technology as well as sharing the knowledge gained about ancient humans 3000 years back.

The University of Kelaniya asked permission from the Archaeology Department to start excavations. Once this was done, it took four months to raise funds and prepare. Funds were provided by the Research and Publication Unit of Kelaniya University.

3,000 year old burial site unearthed in Sri Lanka
Clay cists – C1 [Credit: Nisansala Dissanayaka, Daily Mirror]
Senior Lecturer Ranjith Bandara Dissanayaka , Dr. Chandima Bogahawatta of Kelaniya University, two trained archaeological officers from the Central Cultural Fund, Archaeology officer T.G.M Priyantha of the Archaeology Department and students of Kelaniya University joined the team of researchers.

Excavations director said he informed all the schools in the area, inviting them to visit the clay cist burial before closing down. From where did they find clay? Did they put clay lumps on purpose? All above questions will be answered in future.

Author: Nisansala Dissanayaka | Source: Daily Mirror [October 03, 2016]

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