Early presence of humans in Sri Lanka and continuum of their existence towards Holocene

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A research grant awarded under the discipline of Indigenous Knowledge titled “Climate change and the human adaptations in the early and the middle Holocene in Sri Lanka,” was successfully completed in 2018. The Research Team consisted of Prof. Raj Somadeva, Dr T R Prematilleke and Dr Nimal Perera of the Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology.

 This research project was aimed at studying the human existence and its continuity in Sri Lanka during the Holocene geological epoch. Early presence of humans in Sri Lanka during the middle and late Pleistocene has already been proven by archaeologists and physical anthropologists. However, the continuum of their existence towards Holocene has not been scientifically proven.

During the investigations done in the two-year period, five prehistoric cave occupations in and around Balangoda, associated with three distinct climatic zones, have been observed. Six excavations carried out during the project period have yielded a fairly large assemblage of artifacts which reflect the behavioral traits of prehistoric communities who occupied the investigated locations. Scientific dates (AMS) obtained have proven that all the caves excavated were inhabited by the prehistoric communities during the Holocene. Most striking evidence unearthed was a collection of plant residues (charred seeds) that has been dated to the mid-Holocene (4500 - 3450 BCE). Evidence reflecting an emerging new materiality of those prehistoric communities was identified. The sites and the artifacts together with Carbon-14 dates reiterate the fact that the hunter-gatherer/ foragers of the mid/late Holocene had been receptive to the climatic changes of the contemporary period and the adaptive response is reflected in their material culture.

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