12,000-year-old hidden village in Vavuniya

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By 2017-10-08

By Mullativu Shashikumar

Historical evidence of the human history of our country is traced only as far back as the arrival of the Buddha and later the arrival of Prince Vijaya. Most historical facts are drawn from stone inscriptions that are dated back to ancient times. However, most of these inscriptions don't go beyond 2,500 years. Hence, the discovery of evidence that tells of human activities that go beyond the recorded history of the country is of paramount importance.

It is in such a context it was reported that a group of Buddhist monks are engaging in excavation work in a remote village in Vavuniya, where evidence have been unearthed of a 12,000-year-old history and 1,300-year-old Buddhist history.

To reach the remote village of Kongrayamkulam one has to travel about 25 km from the Vavuniya town towards Settikulam Divisional Secretariat Division. From there it is a journey of about 16 km to the village. The excavation site is inside the jungle adjacent to the village.

When we got there, several monks attached to the Archaeology Department of the Bhikshu University of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura were engaged in the final excavation work.

Ven. Galwewe Wimalakanthi Thera, Lecturer and Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University, was leading the team of monks.

"We wanted to look into the activities of pre-historic humans who lived in the Dry Zone, particularly on the right bank of Malwathu Oya. We commenced this task with the belief that we would be able to find archaeological information on the activities of the pre-historic humans and their settlements in Sri Lanka. Very little attention has been paid to this site in the past. Now we have found out the historical significance of this place," the Thera said.

Stone inscriptions

He also said, "By now we have discovered seven ancient stone inscriptions, which can be dated back about 1,300 years. One of these stone inscriptions mentions a chaitya, halls of statues and Bodhi Mandapa as well as ruins of statues of the Buddha. Another stone inscription states 'batha giri thisaha lene', which means the cave of Ayushmath Giritissa Thera." The most significant discovery was inside the cave. There was enough evidence there to come to the conclusion that this was indeed a site inhabited by pre-historic humans of this country.

The monks engaged in the excavation activities said the images found on the cave walls tell of the life of pre-historic humans.

"The images can be dated back to 12,000 years. We can assume that the images of animals are the ones that these pre-historic humans had hunted for food," a monk said.

They have also found remains of various weapons, presumably used by the pre-historic humans for hunting.

Ven. Wimalakanthi Thera said, "This is a valuable archaeological site. We were able to find from one site evidence of ancient Buddhist worship as well as evidence of human settlement that goes as far as 12,000 years. With this evidence we can come to an idea how the pre-historic humans lived and hunted. We have already sent samples of these findings to an American Institute for carbon dating. Once we receive the report we will be able to publish the final findings by December.

According to Ven. Wimalakanthi Thera this is the first excavation of this scale that has been done in the Northern Province. "We have discovered weapons made of stone, some weapons made of animal bones and even small stone tools. Especially due to the absence of metal we can safely assume that these discoveries date back 12,000 years. Stone weapons are basically made up of kahanda and thiruvana. We also found two human bones. We believe that once carbon dating is finalized we can give an exact time frame to these findings."

Analyzing evidence

At the moment, the monks are engaged in dating the stone weapons. Apart from that they are also analyzing pottery fragments, bricks and roofing tiles. "We have already completed reading the stone inscriptions. In one inscription it says that King Bhathikabhaya made a donation to the chaithya."

It is also mentioned that there was a large aramaya in 300 BC, that is, subsequent to the arrival of Arhant Mahinda in the island.

"This is mentioned in seven stone inscriptions found in this site. We have also found Chaithya, Bodhighara, marble Buddha statues, monks' rooms, and alms halls. Unfortunately, treasure hunters have destroyed most of these. Although the historical value of this site is undeniable, this place has been destroyed by these treasure hunters."

Ven. Wimalakanthi Thera expressed gratitude top Mahopadyaya Professor Kanaththegoda Sadhdha Rathana Nayake Thera of the Anuradhapura Sri Lanka Bhikshu University for allowing them to carry out the excavation work.

If not for the devastating 30-year war, these discoveries would have been made much earlier. The war was the main reason why these places were destroyed. Now that evidence of pre-historic human settlements has been found in this remote village in Vavuniya, it can shed light on the evolutionary process of man from ape.

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