Search billions of records on

Is Lankan civilization the oldest in South Asia?

by P. D. A. S. Gunasekera, Ratnapura group correspondent: DN 2004

The evidence of a rich civilisation in ancient Sri Lanka, mentioned in the Mahawansa, had gathered momentum in the pre-millennium decades, with the archaeological evidence unearthed by the excavations, under Dr. Siran Deraniyagala, the former Archaeological Commissioner, in the 1980s, at Batadomba Lena, in the Ratnapura district, conclusively proving, that 'Balangoda Man' had actually lived in Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of years ago.

The material evidence examined and tested at Cornel University, USA, by Prof. Kennedy had confirmed that the civilisation, represented by the 'archaeological findings' ran back to 29,000-30,000 years, when the civilisation of the sub-continent India had, according to archaeological evidence dated back only to 10,000 years, giving the 'lie to' the claims that Sri Lanka had derived her civilisation from India.

Those, together with the untested evidence from the rest of the country including Vaulpone Caves in Balangoda, Fa-Hien Cave in Matugama, Beli Lena in Kitulgala, Batatota Lena in Kuruwita, Manil Lena in Ayagama (according to archaeological sources) where official excavations had not been undertaken, but 'fossils' of a distant age comparable with those tested found, left no doubt that Sri Lanka had been blessed with a superior civilisation when the rest of South East Asia, including India, lay under a mass of bare rock and earth.

Besides, a few decades ago, 1986 to be exact, the specimens including 'finger-bones' and the 'jaw bone' of a female, from the collection of Dr. Deraniyagala's 'finds', examined by Prof. Kennedy, had been pronounced as belonging to a woman who had lived 29,000 years ago, in Sri Lanka and certified as the oldest specimen of the kind found in the whole of South East Asia.

The female considered as the spouse of the 'Balangoda Man' had been named 'Nimali' by the Dept. of Archaeology, that year. (Vide DN 1986.10.04 for more details by the same writer).

A great deal of valuable evidence in the reconstruction of the ancient civilisation has been lost to posterity due to the 'handiwork' of vandals and treasure hunters, as well as thoughtless persons through their ignorance.

Thus at 'Batatota Lena' in Kuruwita, where 'fossils' on the surface soil, covering a wealth of ancient evidence of the Balangoda civilisation had been removed with the earth, to build a Viharaya on the site, thereby destroying all traces of history, according to Dr. Deraniyagala.

The fixing of the age of the Balangoda Man and his spouse named 'Nimali', following the investigation in the laboratory of the famous Cornel University, due to the efforts of the former Archaeological Commissioner (Deraniyagala) has, confirming the theories that Sri Lankan civilisation was three times older (30,000 years) than the civilisation of India (10,000 years) and the oldest known female, in the whole of South East Asia had lived in Sri lanka (with exception of the women from South Africa 50,000 years old) has exploded the age-old theory that Sri Lankan civilisation had its origin in India, from where it proceeded to our shores, thus changing the current history of the nation.

In this context, extending the theory based upon the 'unshakable evidence' that Sri Lankan civilisation was the oldest known in the SEA, it could be held without any fear of contradiction, that it had spread and taken root in other countries of SEA down the ages long before they were officially discovered by the Western nations.

The speculation if some of the earliest stock of Sri Lankans had found their way to the East might find the answer in the claim of the profound scholar, thinker, educationist and patriot, Munidasa Kumaratunga, who, with 'admirable penetration' saw by anticipation, what we see today backed by concrete scientific evidence that civilisation had proceeded to the East, centuries ago, from Sri Lanka.

Civilisation is the starting point of the true history of any nation. But Sri Lankan history is still based upon a civilisation proved erroneous by authentic evidence.

For our children still learn, in school and out that Sri Lankan civilisation came to Sri Lanka from India when in fact, it is the other way about.

The historian and the educationist should take steps, even at this late stage to remedy and rectify this absurd situation, by promoting authentic history and educating posterity on the true concept of Sri Lankan civilisation, based on archaeological evidence, without forgetting, that 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'.