Primordial Pondering

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By 2017-09-13

Several years ago, archaeologists unearthed an unusual abalone shell in South Africa. There was a red substance inside this abalone shell. After analyzing the mixture and stone grinding tools (which were found in close proximity to the abalone shell), the researchers realised that they had found the world's earliest known paint, which had been produced 100,000 years ago. The main ingredients were charcoal, crushed animal bones, iron-rich rock, and an unknown liquid. The abalone shell was a storage container – a prehistoric paint can.

A similar item was discovered in Sri Lanka not too long ago. However, this wasn't paint (which has been discovered on several occasions). This is the first time something like this has been discovered in Sri Lanka. It is basically a rock; but not any ordinary rock. This rock has a map on it.

Professor Raj Somadeva (a prominent figure in the field of Archaeology) claims that this map is around 5,000 to 6,000 years old, based on analysis that has been conducted on artefacts that were found in close proximity to this rock.
This ancient map was found in the Badhahena Cave by Professor Somadeva and three university students. The Badhahena Cave is located in a remote village in Balangoda.

Pockmarked Gneiss Rock Bed

The cave is situated on a precarious slope. One false move can send you tumbling down the cliff and into the gushing river below. The cave is situated 420 metres above sea level with no other entrance other than the 200-metre trek down the cliff face. The pockmarked gneiss rock bed, with a length of 3.05 metres and a height of 1.20 metres, is covered in 659 cupules. In archaeology, cupules are circular man-made hollows on the surface of a rock or a rock slab. All 659 of these cupules are a successful attempt to reproduce a basic display of the environment surrounding the cave, made using primitive tools to represent a significant location of the primitive landscape, which was seen by man during his excursions.

They've chosen this particular rock bed for a reason. They have not chosen any other. The shape of this rock is similar to the shape of the mountain in which the cave is located. Similarly, most of these cupules are situated on the side of the rock bed akin to all the caves and rock-houses on the side of these cliffs. These are the caves that were once inhabited by prehistoric groups. The map has indentations of various sizes; the largest are the caves while the smaller ones are valleys that these individuals used as summer camping areas. The map also portrays rock shelters which they had used as temporary shelters. The distance between these indentations and their depths are similar in some cases. This shows that they have had a basic understanding of mathematics.

Professor Raj Somadeva

Professor Raj Somadeva and his team have discovered new caves by analyzing this map. Natural forests, streams, and the river that runs below the cave are marked on this map. To mark the river they had used a natural gouge in the rock and had used tools to deepen the separation, creating a rudimentary channel that represents the river and its two riverbeds. Professor Raj Somadeva believes that the purpose of this map was to resolve conflicts which occurred due to limited resources. The leaders of the respective groups would have used the map to allocate resources and resolve conflicts.


How intelligent do you have to be to create maps? What kind of cognitive functions do you have to master in order to successfully resolve conflicts which occur due to limited resources, through open communication which is mandatory for negotiation and trade? Nowadays people struggle to navigate even after having access to Google Maps. Our diplomats and politicians worsen issues instead of resolving them. Our ape ancestors were quite intelligent. They didn't have access to technology, but they used their cognitive skills to survive. Even though we have access to technology and all the latest gadgets in the market, we are struggling to survive. It can be argued that technology has made our lives 'too convenient.' We have become over reliant on technology and as a result our cognitive skills have dwindled. When this is the case, how can we say that we have evolved? We call the primitive ape ancestor a simple creature, but are we any better?

Food for thought.
(Contact the writer at [email protected]) (Pic by Anuruddha Meddawattegedara)



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