by Ifham Nizam
Balangoda Man or the Early Man in Sri Lanka had
eaten almost all the animals available at that time. However,
there were no evidence of him, consuming bears.
This was disclosed to the Island by wildlife
researcher Kelum Manamendra Arachchi Kelum along with his Guru
late Punchibanda Karunaratne did an analysis of food remains of
the Early Man. Jude Perera of the Department of Archaeology,
conducted analysis on bones.
Though their initial study lasted between 1985
and 1993 they never revealed their findings. However, the
researcher was glad to reveal his findings to us.
Kelum went on say that of food consumed by the
Early Man, majority consisted of toque monkeys and leaf monkeys.
"They also ate giant squirrels and flying squirrels."
He also said that of the remains they didnt get
any fragment completely. He believes that they were either
chopped or broken for convenience.
He also said that Batadomba leana near
Kuruwita cave was well preserved and it was easy for their
Evidence also suggest that the Early Man
preferred the Dry Zone than the Wet Zone. However, they left the
Dry Zone during the hot seasons. "This was very clear from the
food especially varieties of shells and techniques they used to
capture animals at both zones."
They also found evidence that the Early Man did
practice rituals, which was clear from the tools they used.
Their research also showed that the Early Man
did have the tendency to be cannibalistic, which was clear when
they analysed bone fragments, these bones were either chopped or
damaged with tools.
He also said that there were no evidence of dog
domestication by the Early Man.
Kelum said that according to the Consultant to
the Government of Sri Lanka on Archaeology, Dr. Siran Upendra
Deraniyagala the tool kit of Balangoda Man is distinguished by
the occurrence of geometric microliths, comprising small less
than four centimeters long flakes of quartz and rarely
chart fashioned into stylized lunata, triangular and trapezoid
forms ibid.: 266-70, 688-94. Such geometric microliths have
traditionally been considered the hallmark of the Mesolithic
period as first defined in Europe.
Deraniyagala who is also a former Director
General of Archaeology believes the earliest dates for the
geometric microlithic tradition in Europe are around 12,000
before present. Hence it came as a surprise when such tools were
found as early as 31,000 before present at Batadomba-lena,
28,000 before present at two coastal sites in Bundala and over
30,000 BP at Belilena.
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 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.
Apart from stone tools, artifacts of bone and
antler are quite prolific from 31,000 BP onwards, notably small
bone points (ibid: 278-81). Beads of shell have also been
discovered from these, early contexts and the occurrence of
marine shells at Batadomba-lena points to an extensive network
of contacts between the coast and the hinterland. There is
evidence from Belilena that salt had been brought in from the
coast at a date in excess of 30,000 BP (ibid: 326).
Sri Lanka has yet to produce unequivocal
evidence of the Stone Age art. The cave art observed in various
parts of the Dry Zone are the works of veddhas, as demonstrated
by ethnographers, although a certain proposition of it could
conceivably be prehistoric (ibid: 465).
Similarly there is little evidence of
manifestations of ritual. There are, however, clear indications
that the norm was for Balangoda Man to inter his dead
irrespective of age or sex as secondary burials within his camp
floors, having selected certain bones for this purpose.
At Ravanaella cave and Fa Hient-lena red ochre
had been ceremonially smeared on the bones. Both these practices
have been matched by the mortuary customs of the Andaman
Islanders, but not by those of the veddhas. It is possible that
the latter, through a process of cultural retrogression, ceased
to practice the more elaborate mortuary customs of their
ancestors (ibid: 465-7, 696).
The Himalayan foothills of the Indian sub
continent have yielded evidence of human having lived there
around two million years ago: A though the earliest known dates
for hominids in peninsular India are abut 600,000 BP, it is very
likely that future research will indicate an age comparable to
that of the Himalayan foothills, since there do not appear to
have been any physical barriers to prevent humans from being
present in Southern India contemporaneously with their
occurrence in the northern part of the subcontinent.
The Iranamadu Formation, in the north and
southeast of the island could be as old as 25,000 BP or even
700,000 500,000 BP. These deposits may contain evidence of
human habitation, a prime research objective for the future.
It is estimated that during certain plural
episodes in South Asia, as at about 125,000 BP, the population
density in the Dry Zone of northern, Eastern and Southern Sri
Lanka could have ranged between 1.5 and 0.8 individuals per
square kilometre, whereas the Wet Zone in the West would have
had densitities of 0.1 or less.
From about 37,000 BP onwards the prehistoric
record is very much more complete. The information stems from a
series of cave excavations in the low land Wet Zone in central
and South Western Sri Lanka. The dating is based primarily on
radiocarbon assays on charcoal, checked independently as against
the theorem luminescence dating in the case of Beli-lena. There
are over 50 such dates from various contexts at these sites and
the chronological framework may by pronounced secure (ibid:
Fa Hien-lena has yielded the earliest evidence
at about 37,000 BP of anatomically modern man in South Asia,
followed by Batadomba-lean at 31,000 and 18,000, Beli-lena
16,000, Fa Hien-lena at 6,900, Bellan-Palassa at 6,500 and Fa
Hien-lena again at 4,800 BP.
According to Deraniyagala these human remains have been
subjected to detailed physical anthropological study and it has
been affirmed that the genetic continuum from at least as early
as 18,000 BP at Batadomba-lena to Beli-lena at 16,000 BP to
Bellan-bandi Palassa at 6,500 BP to the recent Veddha aboriginal
population is remarkably pronounced (ibid: 486-9; Kennedy at
about 1987; Hawkey 1998; Kennedy 2000; the earlier material from
Fa-Hien leana LS too fragmentary from such comparative study).