This is the second part of our series about the Sri Lankan pre-historic inhabitants. If you have not read the first part of the series, you can read that through this link.
Features of the settlements in the pre-historic era
As the indigenous people of Sri Lanka, as we mentioned, lived scattered throughout the country in small groups, they tend to choose locations that had the most natural resources possible.
That being said, the best choices for them were, the lowland rainforest areas, arid forests,
Coastal lagoons and willows and also hill country grasslands. It has also been proven that prehistoric people had lived in those areas. In addition to that, they also preferred areas with resources to make stone tools which they used back in those times. (Hence the name Stone age).
They lived in open areas throughout the dry season and switched to caves when the rains started and throughout the rainy season. We have mentioned some identified locations where pre-historic people lived.
- Coastal Locations: Minihagalkanda, Bundala, Pathirajawela
- Lowland wet zone caves: Pahiyangala, Batadobalena, Kithulgala Belilena
- Lowland Arid Zone Caves: Sigiriya Pothana, Aligala
- Wet Zone Outdoor locations: Bellanbadipalassa
- Hill Country Hunting Zones: Bandarawela, Horton Plains
The lifestyle of the People
People of this age collected natural foods by hunting mainly and lived a nomadic lifestyle without sticking to a permanent residence. Therefore, they were traveling most of the year. In the rainy seasons, they chose natural caves to live in.
They lived in small groups where 15-30 people were included in a group. It is believed that at most there were 50 people in a group.
Normally a family of five people requires around 50 square meters to live. The pre-historic settlement found in Bandarawela Church Hill consisted of 150 square meters. It is assumed that around 25 people lived in the area. The area where prehistoric people lived in Bellanbadipalassa is said to be 120 square meters. Historians have found 30 human skeletons in that area.
The diet of the people of this era depended on the location they lived in and the resources available to them. Historians have said that on average a prehistoric person walked around 7km to find food for a day.
As they were constantly on the move, there has been evidence where these people buried the dead inside of the caves they lived in. On some occasions, they dug holes using either a wood stick or an animal horn. Next, they placed the dead body inside and covered the hole with garbage and leaves. Research has led to 12 such-buried bodies in the Kithulgala Belilena. In a cemetery in Bellanbadipalassa, historians have found 30 prehistoric human skeletons.
Diet of the stone age
Most evidence related to this topic is found in the Lowland Arid Zone and the Lowland Wet Zone.
Based on the proof so far, Ceylon Gaur (extinct now), cattle, black bear, wild boar, sambar deer, dotted deer, porcupine, rabbits, Giant squirrel, monkeys, roosters, thalagoya, and also meaty freshwater fish were the most popular food around that time. In addition, they also had small fish in inland water bodies like small lakes and ponds as food.
Ceylon breadfruit and wild plantain are the main plant foods they had to gain starch. Historians have found evidence of breadfruit seeds that were roasted and eaten around 12,500 ago. In addition, they also preferred to eat snails and oysters. Especially, in the lowland wet areas, there are many pieces of evidence where they have eaten oysters.
They have traveled great lengths in order to find salt which was required to season their food. The oysters found in the Kithulgala Belilena had sea salt within them. They were lagoon oysters and the prevalence of sea salt proves that prehistoric people traveled to find salt for their food.
Technology in the Prehistoric era
The usage of technology was limited in this era. The only evidence regarding the technology in the stone age is obviously stone tools. Even from them, which were found from the gem mines in Rathnapura, Srilanka, and the Iranamadu Formation (as mentioned in part one) a complete picture of the technology in the prehistoric era cannot be formed. The main reason for that is the limited findings of these alleged stone tools.
Archaeologists have found small, and geometrical stone tools belonging to this time period. These stones are the main source of information regarding the technology in the stone age. As mentioned earlier these tools have geometrical shapes and were made from stone chips. They are not longer than 4.5 cm. These tools were used to hunt animals, cut, bruise enemies or hostile animals, and dig. Apart from those, hammers built with granite were found in pre-historic locations as well.
Nature of bodies in the prehistoric era
The skeletons found till now help to make a clear picture of how people might have looked like back in the day. Normally, a grown man had an average height of 174cm. A grown woman was around 166cm in height. The teeth of the prehistoric people were considerably large and they had a broad chin and a broad nose.
The volume of a grown man’s brain was measured to be 1600 cubic centimeters. While a woman had 920 cubic centimeters as the volume of their brain. The lifespan of a prehistoric person is said to be 35-40 years at the most.
Magical Practices and superstitious beliefs
The only source of evidence for the beliefs in the stone age is the art of burying the dead. Such a way of burying the dead has been discovered in the Rawana Alla Cave situated in the Badulla District. That method requires a lot of time and effort and with that, we can assume that prehistoric people followed this as a tradition.
The excavations in that cave have presented us with a skull that has two holes (man-made holes). These holes divide the skull by two. The rough edges of the skull had been smoothened out by scrubbing on a rock. In addition, one side of the skull has been painted with red color. More skeletons like this were found from the Pahiyangala cave as well.
This has proven that the pre-historical people had buried the dead first, and when they are decomposed, they retook the skeletons and then proceeded with the above-mentioned tradition. The skeletons found from the kuruwita batadobalena were bent and buried. The indigenous people in the present (The Veddas) and the prehistorical people have a lot of common among them according to the researchers.
As always we will continue the series in the next post, until that, share this with your friends and family.
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