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 Post subject: Prehistoric Beli Lena Caves
 Post Posted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 3:28 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2005 12:54 pm
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Prehistoric Beli Lena Caves

There have been human settlements in Sri Lanka dating back 25,000 years, according to archaeologists. The ape man known as Balangoda Manawaya had lived in caves in many parts of Sri Lanka; Beli lena, Batadomba lena, Bellanpendipellessa and Pahiyangala are some of these. About 15 years ago, archaeologists found the skeleton of a child dated as being 28,500 years old.

The Beli lena caves (cave of shells) also known as Balangoda Manawaya's caves reveal an important landmark in the history of human paleontology as they reveal remains of primitive man.

Beli lena caves

Prehistoric Beli Lena Caves lies upon a steep path on the hillside inside from a ledge that looks down over a breathtaking view of rubber plantations of Kitulgala estate close to Kitulagala, 2000 feet above sea level. This Huge Cave has been home to the prehistoric 'Balangoda Man' (Homo sapiens balangodensis) where 16,000 year old skeletal remains have been found. Fa Hien-lena has yielded the earliest evidence (at ca. 37,000 BP) of the 'Balangoda Man' followed by Batadomba-lena at 31,000 and 18,000 BP.

These caves have also yeiled other artifacts such as prehistoric tools belonging to the 30,000 BP. Batadomba-lena caves have yeiled tools going back to 31,000 BP. These are important findings to whole of Asia as these tools are considered to have first originated in Europe around 12,000 BP. But these finding have proved that the Sri Lankan 'Balangoda Man' has been at the same stage od deveopment 19 ,000 years before the Europeans.

According to S. U. Deraniyagala, ex Director-General of Archaeology, Sri Lanka

... The tool kit of Balangoda Man is distinguished by the occurrence of geometric microliths, comprising small (less than 4 cm long) flakes of quartz and (rarely) chert fashioned into stylised lunate, triangular and trapezoidal forms (ibid:266-70,688-94). Such geometric microliths have traditionally been considered the hallmark of the Mesolithic period as first defined in Europe. The earliest dates for the geometric microlithic tradition in Europe are around 12,000 BP. Hence it came as a surprise when such tools were found as early as 31,000 BP at Batadomba-lena, 28,000 BP at two coastal sites in Bundala and over 30,000 BP at Beli-lena. Sri Lanka has yielded evidence of this sophisticated technological phase over 19,000 years earlier than in Europe. However this apparent anomaly has been resolved by the discovery of geometric microliths in various parts of Africa, such as Zaire and southern Africa, from contexts in excess of 27,000 BP, thereby suggesting that Europe was late in manifesting this techno-tradition due to as yet undefined reasons.....

Beli Lena Cave at Kitukgala was scientifically excavated and researched between the years 1978 and 1983 by the Archeological Department of Sri Lanka. Twenty five radiometric tests dated the cultural deposits to 30000 - 9000 years before present. A rich assemblage of cultural, faunal and human remains were excavated. These included geometric microlithic stone tools which, at 30000 years old, are among the earliest in the world; and bone tools and evidence of the use of fire from 30000 years ago onwards. The site yielded numerous remains of animals that had been used for food such as sambhur, pig, barking deer, monkeys, porcupines, giant squirrels and an assortment of reptiles and fish. The smaller mammals and aquatic and tree snails were prominent in the diet of Balangoda man, as were food plants such as wild breadfruit and canarium (Kekuna) nuts. An exchange network in salt from coastal lagoons some 80 Km away had also been established by 30000 years ago. Rubble foundations dated to 16000 years before present constitute the earliest evidence of subtantial structures in South Asia. The skeletal parts of several humans were found in the 16000 years old level. These have been intensively analysed by an international team of Anthropologists. They are invaluable for unserstanding of the physical anthropology of Balangoda man. Beli Lena occupies a very special place in the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. It awaits further investigations by future generations of Sri Lankan archeologists with progressively sharp analytical skills. As such, the site has been declared Archelogical Reserve of the Archeological Department under the Antiquities Ordinance.

To Reach Belilena turn at Kitulgala Temple on Iyanwatta road to reach the school. You need to treck about 1 kilometre to reach the cave.

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