Prehistoric man emerges from Haldummulla
Posted on October 23rd, 2011

By Amal HEWAVISSENTI -courtesy Sunday Observer


Prof. Raj Somadeva

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.

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?

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).

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.

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…”

Homes

“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.

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.

Based on a discussion with Prof. Raj Somadeva

13 Responses to “Prehistoric man emerges from Haldummulla”

  1. AnuD Says:

    Was he speaking Tamil ?

  2. Dilrook Says:

    The drawing is highly misleading. Around 1750 BC humans had the same features of today. He was a homo sapiens sapiens. However, they didn’t evolve in Sri Lanka. They evolved in Africa and travelled to this country on land routes through the Middle East down India to the island. This took tens of thousands of years. People who came through the modern day Iran, Afghanistan, etc. region were known as “Aryans”. So this evidence does not prove they were not Aryans. They can well be “Aryans” who settled in Sri Lanka. Aryans certainly were the majority in Sri Lanka by the time Vijaya and 700 came. Otherwise there is no way a unique Indo Aryan language originated in and dominated the island. 701 persons could never have changed the ethnic composition of the island! Moreover, they brought down 701 Tamil women as wives from Southrn Mudura (Madurai?). So the Vijaya’s arrival didn’t change the ethnic balance as regards Tamil (south indian) verses north Indian. What mattered was the others who were already living in the island.

    Subsequent migrations to the region followed sea routes when humans successfully conquered the seas to a limited extent. Recent African origin people like Tamils followed these routes according to Tamil historical work that says Tamils came from “kumari kandam” a landmass in the Indian Ocean stretching to South India. This land mass was not a large island or continent but a series of islands that run from East Africa to South India.

    New research by Clyde Winters and others have proved South Indian customs, language, dancing, food, receipes, gods, practices, etc. are East African in addition to body features.

    At 2387BC Yaksha/Raksha king Ravana ruled Lanka. It was 637 years before these people in the article. It is accepted that Yaksha/Raksha, Naga, Deva, etc. are the ancestors of Sinhalas. All historical work pertaining to this story is written in a North Indian Aryan langauge that very closely relates to Sinhala than Tamil.

    Further evidence is found in Mahabharata that mentions about Sinhalas from Lanka around 1100BC as the Sinhala army participated in the Mahabharata war. From 1750BC to 1100BC there’s only 650 years and nothing much would have changed for 650 years at that time. So the people who lived at that time in Sri Lanka were Sinhalas. No doubt whatsoever.

  3. AnuD Says:

    I don’t know about Sri Lankan history except for what Tamils are teaching.

    According to Dilrrok, even at the time Of the Buddha Sinhala Army a existed. Am I correct ?. That ia approximately 550 years BC.

  4. Kit Athul Says:

    Not only he spoke Tamil, he also have written in Tamil, the same Tamil that they write in Tamil Nadu. He also has written it in a stone slab that he had to kill all the Sinhala when he came down from the hill. Sinhala were farmers living in Huldumulla. After that Tamil was the only language they could use. If any one spoke Sinhala, he killrd them and eat them.

  5. Geeth Says:

    Dilrook,
    Yes, contemporary version of Sinhala language is related to the main stream of Indo-Aryan languages. but what about their past? Can anyone explain what the root of Elu language is? That is the earliest recorded language that had been used in the island. Furthermore, language of all reservoirs related activities and paddy cultivation (වැව් ආශ්රිත ක්රියාකාරකම් වල භාෂාව සහ වී ගොවිතැන ආශ්රිත ක්රියාකාරකම් වල භාෂාව) don’t have any Indo Aryan language relations. These two activities believed to be flourishing here in the island millenniums before Vijaya’s arrival. I believe that was the language of even Ravana’s Lanka. Is ‘Elu’also an Indo-Aryan language or a unique language form limited to few islands in the Indian Ocean? To my understanding ‘Elu’ is not an Indo Aryan language. And it is not derived from Dravidian main stream either. So what is its root? Can their main landmass submerged at a point of the history? Can it be located somewhere within the triangle of Andaman Islands (they also have a language connected with Elu), Lakshadweep Islands (Elu related), Sri Lanka (Elu related).

  6. Dilrook Says:

    Geeth,

    In my view Elu (and Hela) language is what is known as Sinhala today. In the entire South Asian region there are 1.5 million (>85%) talking an Indo-Aryan language compared to just 215 million Dravidian language speakers. Sri Lanka is/was no exception. Look at it another way. All the south Asian nations (Sri Lanka – > 80%, India – >80%, Pakistan – > 95%, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan – >90%, Maldives – 100%) have a vast majority of Indo-Aryan langauge speakers individually. This region has a very old history which started in prehistoric times. So it is impossible to change the language of use dramatically until very recently. In other words, ancient Lankan people ought to have spoken a language that was well connected to this large landmass.

    Ancient Greek geographers >3000 years ago referred to people in the island as “Paliputra” (men who spoke Pali language). This is further proof of an Indo Aryan language in the island as far back as then.

    There is no proven scientific evidence of a sizable landmass that was submerged in the Indian Ocean. Continental drift theories perfectly prove this point. All the pieces of the large single continent is accounted for with the existing land of the world. Lanka and India separated from Antarctica 250 million years ago, separated from one another and drifted northwards (it is still happening).

    It is very unlikely a language could have originated in a small island/group of islands and moved to larger islands/larger landmasses. It has not happened anywhere. The oppositte is what happens.

    On human migration, people ought to have come through India at that time, not have sailed the seas. Just thinking logically.

  7. Geeth Says:

    Dear Dilrook,
    You have said… “In other words, ancient Lankan people ought to have spoken a language that was well connected to this large landmass.” So these early languages of this large land mass must have left some tangible links among contemporary languages of the region. But this link is missing in the earlier versions of language used in SL but only found in later developments in Sinhala language especially in post Vijaya era. If the early language based on Elu in SL where is the link in other parts?

    If we take current status of language use in south Asia that is dominated by Indo-Aryan languages as our starting point for this investigation, then I don’t think we can find the truth. It is similar to that of finding the history of man in Americas and Australia someday in future based on their existing language use.

    Yes larger migration must have been occurred in our region millenniums ago. That must have changed everything else but language of some of the oldest activities, namely paddy cultivation and hydraulic engineering. But if the pre historic man in SL was an Indo Aryan origin, then why other peoples of Indo Aryan origin who also involved in same activities such as paddy cultivation and irrigation in other parts of the subcontinent do not use the same language for same activities like Sinhalese do? If words of these activities are derived from Indo Aryan languages, then there must be some traces in other parts. But we do not find any.

    In fairness to your argument, if we assume that the Aryans were originally inhabited in the entire South Asia and then happened to be separated and concentrated into different parts, or their migration was occurred in pre-historic times such as Bronze Age, then we must be able to trace Elu language links even in North India. Because we cannot assume that they never had the language tool in such complexity of Bronze Age production. However we cannot find any early link why? Then the only conclusion that we can have is to believe that man in South Asia migrated before they began to live domestic life in permanent settlements and before they invented paddy cultivation and irrigation. Is that what you are suggesting? To prove this concept we must be able to find similarities in other practices such as burial practices and other rituals in north India and Sri Lanka relating to same ages. But I do not think we have found any such similarity yet.

    There is another thing. Yes scientifically there is no proof of a submerged landmass. But we must understand that there was no such large scale underwater research was taken place in this part of the world yet. That is one reason why I suggested having an ocean research institute in Sri Lanka in some of my earlier articles.

    The limitation of present day science doesn’t make our current beliefs of pre-historic Aryan connection tangible either. But there are some evidences that have found in the ocean close to Western Ghats of some submerged land mass and some sunken old cities. We do not know who build them yet. But we know one thing though; that Western Ghats of India and Sri Lanka’s wet zone has striking similarity in terms of geology. Their flora and fauna are also similar.

    In conclusion, if inhabitants of Lanka were Indo-Aryans, it is very hard to believe that people of Rama would have considered Lankans as demons. There in the Ramayana, we can trace a very strong attempt of “othering” in the entire epic. And we also must take into account that whatever the incident occurred and recorded in Ramayanaya was historically epochal and apocalyptic for both sides, like discovery of Amerindia by Columbus and Australia by Captain Cook that d hachanged entire lives of those peoples. The magnitude of the destruction that had brought upon Lanka by Rama never allowed it to return back to its previous state. That would have been the end of one civilization and the beginning of another. That is may be the reason why Ramayanaya has been so important for Indian civilization; because that may be their beginning.

    Our knowledge about this part of the history is very limited, therefore only i wanted to point out some key elements that deserves investigation.

  8. Dilrook Says:

    Dear Geeth,

    Very good points to investigate.

    1. “If the early language based on Elu in SL where is the link in other parts?”

    There was no language replacement. There is evidence of Pali Prakrit evolving into modern Sinhala, bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Divehi, etc. A Pali prehistoric inscription was found in Sri Lanka centuries before Asoka’s famous inscriptions. This is clear proof of language evolution than replacement.

    And it also proves that the local language was shared with North India even at that time.

    Also consider the other proof I provided before including Paliputra, Mahabharata references, etc.

    Mahabharata references are third party evidence that proves the existence of Sinhala (Hela or Elu) in prehistoric times.

    2. Burial rituals are common to many people across the world. That is not a good way to catogorise groups of people (although this is done). Tropical climate also plays a part in it.

    3. Yes there is evidence of submerged small landmasses by the coast but evidence is there to prove there was no large submerged landmass in the region. Please have a look at the continental drift maps. All land (except a very small extent) are accounted for. That is why mainstream scientists are not keen on this idea.

    4. “In conclusion, if inhabitants of Lanka were Indo-Aryans, it is very hard to believe that people of Rama would have considered Lankans as demons.”

    No. Raksha was a North Indian sect just like Yaksha, and Naga (yes including naga)! All these fellows were related proving that they belonged to the same large group. Differences were not based on ethnic group but on “politics” and small tribal variations within the large society using the same language.

    You may find that Yaksha, Naga, Deva, Raksha, Kinnara, etc. were settled in many north indian places too. The fact that history records Lanka was also habitated by them proves the commonality of ehnicity between north india and Lanka. This is what evolved to the similarities between Sinhala, Divehi, Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Urdu than Tamil, Malayali. It is very easy for a Sinhalese (especially if you are familiar with literature) to understand Hindi, Bengali but it is impossible to understand Tamil without specifically learning it. Further proof of concurrent langauge evolution stemming from a common source of the majority (87%) of the South Asian people.

    5. Buddhas visited Sri Lanka many times the last being in the 6th century BC by the Gauthama Buddha. Previous Buddhas also visited the island. From a practical point of view, He spoke in the language of the people of the island. Sorry, without disrespecting anyone’s views, I don’t believe in magic when it comes to science.

    6. Within a very short time, Sri Lankan Buddhist monks mastered the Buddha Dharmaya. Not only that they documented it for the first time in the world (89 BC?). If Pali was not widely in use in Sri Lanka as in north India, this would never have happened.

    Even today Pali chantings are easily understood by both north Indian and Sinhala people even by non-Buddhists, but not by south Indians.

    7. The Aryan invasion theory has fallen apart today. Instead now it is believed that Aryans concurrently emerged across a large land area from the people who migrated through the “Aryan heartland” in Iran, north of Iran, etc. This migration took over 20,000 years enough to engrain beliefs, languages, etc. So in Sri Lankans who thus migrated via this area held on to their customs, beliefs and langauges. Subsequent migrations were much faster and even took the fast sea route (you cannot dwell anywhere for years in the sea route unlike the land route). This is further corroborated by the fact that South Indians are more sea faring than north indians and even Sinhalas (despite living in an island).

    8. Ancient Lankan language was very closely connected to the ancient langauge used by Romani people (who also originated from north india and had Aryan origins) in addition to other similarities. It was published in the Nature mag in 2003. Aparently the two groups split aroung 15,000 years ago in north india.

    Agree we need more investigations into this. But they must leave politics aside. Politicians (especially powerful ruling ones) want homogeniety in everything so they commission acts that prove their version not the truth.

  9. Dilrook Says:

    AnuD,

    Yes. Sinhalaheritage.org (among others) has exerpts from Mahabharata.

  10. ranjith Says:

    Dilrook,

    ///Even today Pali chantings are easily understood by both north Indian and Sinhala people even by non-Buddhists, but not by south Indians.///

    I lived among North Indian and Pakistani scholars for a long time in a foreign country. They never knew even some words of Pali.

    If we, Buddhists don’t study Pali, how could we understand Pali. Without studying Pali, no one could understand even some words of Pali. Sinhala non-Buddhists do not know anything about Pali.

    Even the Brahmins i.e. North Indians too do not know Pali or Sanskrit. If they do not study, how they could understand. That is why majority of the Hindus do not know what is their religion itself.

    ///It is very easy for a Sinhalese (especially if you are familiar with literature) to understand Hindi, Bengali but it is impossible to understand Tamil without specifically learning it.///

    Sinhalese who studied Sinhala literature too cannot understand Hindi and Bengali. We have to study Hindi and Bengali separately. Then only we could understand.

    ///He spoke in the language of the people of the island. Sorry, without disrespecting anyone’s views, I don’t believe in magic when it comes to science.///

    If you don’t believe in magic, how could you believe that the Buddha spoke in the language of the people of the island.

    It reminds me that a true Christian believer could speak in foreign tongues, according to Bible. Whether he learnt or not? Up to now, no true Christian believer dare to speak in foreign tongues for 2000 years, without getting knowledge of other languages.

    ///There is evidence of Pali Prakrit evolving into modern Sinhala, bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Divehi, etc.///

    Pali evolved into Urdu, Divehi? Please do not tell Indians, Pakistanis or Maldivians.

    Even many Hindu scholars deny about Mahabharath.

    After all, Paliputra was only a place. Not the people of Paliputra spoke Pali.

    Finally, you struggled very hard to prove that we, Sinhalese are Aryans. It is totally ridiculous.

    Was Buddha an Aryan?

    Neither Aryans nor Dravidiyans are superior. They are only humans.

  11. Dilrook Says:

    ranjith,

    No ethnic or religious group is superior than another. It was not inferred.

    In my experience, I have reasonably good understanding of Hindi without learning it. Some of my friends from UP and Punjab understand Sinhala words. Not many day to day words but the words that relate to classical works.

    It is the Sinhala language that is Indo Aryan not modern Sinhala people. This is an accepted scientific fact.

  12. ranjith Says:

    Dilrook,

    Even if you haven’t inferred, your main theme is Aryan.

    Even thousands of Sri Lankans who employ in Middle East, speak and understand Arab very well without any Arabic instruction. Jaffna Sinhalese are too well versed in Tamil without learning. Kerala people are mostly fluent in Tamil in Sri Lanka. These are different matters.

    Do Sinhala, Divehi, Urdu, Hindi, etc. evolved from Pali? Definitely not! May be some words have mixed one another. Those are negligible!

    Actually, Aryans are foreigners who came to India and conquered Dravidians. India belongs to Dravidians. Nowadays, less than 25% North Indian Aryans dominate entire India. Prime Minister’s office too filled with Arya Brahmins. From Hindi filmstars to Indian cricketers are so called upper class Aryans.

    Sri Lanka doesn’t belong to Aryan or Dravidians.

    Sri Lanka belongs to only Athivaasis who were neither Buddhists nor Hindus and neither Sinhalese nor Tamil.

    They had a separate identity, language and culture.

  13. geoff Says:

    You cannot engage in any constructive discussion with this “ranjith”. Stop wasting time.

    Here is proof.

    http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2011/10/22/white-flags-in-libya/comment-page-1/#comment-13416

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