RESCUE ARCHAEOLOGY AT THE RUHUNA VEHERAGALA HYDRAULIC PROJECT*
By- Dr, D.K. Jayaratne.
Director, Archaeology - Sigiriya project.
The Back-ground and Aims:
The Veheragala Reservoir was constructed by “Manik Ganga” within the Yala sanctuary in order to supply water to the Lunugamvehera Reservoir which was generally prone to be starved of a full water capacity. The new project is expected to inundate about 3,000 acres of the sanctuary which is expected to contain a considerable amount of archaeological artifacts. In order to recover and study these artifacts the Tissamaharama project of the central cultural fund commenced this project in October 2007 as a rescue attempt.
This Project is aimed at;
i. Documentation of archaeological information about this area.
ii. The conservation of the artifacts that way be found.
iii. To collect material for the Kataragama museum expected to be constructed as part of the Tissamaharama project.
iv. To train student in archaeology and
v. To gain experience is rescue archaeology.
The Veheragala project was authorized by the Department of Archaeology under the patronage of the Central Cultural Fund, the Irrigation Department and the Netherlands Cultural Corporation programme. It was headed by the CCF Tissamaharama project, and the Archaeology graduates of the Universities of Sri Jayewardenepura, Peradeniya, Rununa and kelaniya and the CCF participated. It functioned from 28th October to 25th December 2007.
Recent evidence indicates the occurrence of pre-historic humans in this locality 125,000 years ago. In the Bundala region (between Hambantota and Tissa) and within the perimeter of the Yala sanctuary (in Minihagalkanda) there lived
’s most ancient humans. The Veheragala area is not too far from those sites. In addition, proto-historic settlements have been located in Allengala, Tambarava and, Akurugoda; and burial ground pertaining to that era were discovered at Kataragama, Mahapalassa, Mahagal Vava, Habaratteva, Tambarava, Bambava and Ranchamadama. Historic artifacts such as pottery, coins, metal object, bead etc., and evidence of hearths and furnaces, and inscriptions are not unknown here. Some of these, no doubt, point to relation with other countries, with Godavaya being on record as a sea port.Earlier, Magama was the focus of human habitation which appear to have shifted to wards the South owing to contemporary environmental and other changes. Demographic shift towards the SW during the 13th century and after turned the Raja Rata into a desolate wilderness. Ruhuna faced the same fate. Until recent settlements occurred during the 20th century these historic regions were less occupied by humans and more by wild beasts. Sri Lanka
It was to large an area for a survey with very limited time, and hence, only a few places were chosen at random, specially points at which large excavators had removed the top - soil. There artifacts could be picked up with relative ease. In the preparation of maps, the GIS method was employed. With the help of 1:50,000 survey maps printed by the Survey Department and the use of the ARC GIS 9.2 soft-ware the identification of places was facilitated. The open excavation method was employed for the excavation of the chosen sites.
Through the surveys conducted in the Veheragala region 12 archeological sites identified.
In settlement No. 01 located about 50m. to the East of the Manik Ganga, an area of about 500sq.m. building artifacts were found.
In settlement No: 02, an area of about 250sq.m. mainly earthen-ware found. In the settlement No: 03 is a location from which earth has been removed for the construction of the Veheragala Reservoir.Within an area of about 300sq.m. earthen-were artifacts were found.
In the settlement No: 04 The Gonagam Ara, a tributary of the River, has on item right band, an area that provided earthen-were artifacts.
In the settlement No: 05 is located on the left bank of the River, 500m. away, from which bits of tiles and bricks in considerable quantities were found.
In the settlement No: 06 were earthen-were remains along with thecoin, a flat bead and a fragment of an iron tool.
In the settlement No: 07, which evidently has been a large habitation, were found fragments of clay pipes, and fair amount of iron slag likely connected with an industry.
In the settlement No: 08, are the remains of a monks’ abode, and this is located on the right bank.
In the settlement No: 09, a location which would be submerged by the Reservoir, two rock structures enciveled by a wall is evident.
In the settlement No: 10, located on the right bank, is solitary building.
In the settlement No: 11, are the remains of what may be suspected as a bodhigara or a asanaghara.
In the Lunugamvehera Reserve Varaluvapudama were the remains of a shrine room, a stupa and other ruins, and is identifiable as a centre of worship in the past. From Mahakemgala two Brahmi inscriptions were found. It is evident that a tank-based agricultural community lived in the area under study from the remains of pottery, iron producing sites, ruined land sites, etc. The pottery was found to belong to the 7th and 8th centuries. This study of the region of Manik-ganga indicates that the upper and lower regions would have had a developed civilization and therefore, these regions must be investigated in the near futures.
Ven: Pathberiye Gnanaloka thero - Project Manager,Tissamaharama Project.
Dr. D.K. Jataratne - Department of Archaeology,
P.B.N.Abewardena - Department of Archaeology,
T.M.C.Bandara - Exploration Officer, Department of Archaeology.
Lakshman Chandana - Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund.
R.Upul Nisantha - Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Abayagiriya Project.
T.G.S.A. Gamage - Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Tissamaharama Project
Sumedha Priyantha - Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Tissamaharama Project
P. Pushpa Kumara -Training Research Officer, Central Cultural Fund. Tissamaharama Project
Thilina Pallethenna -
. University of Peradeniya
Thusitha Herath -
Sandhya Nawarathna -
Manjula Karunathilaka - University of kelaniya.
Sarojani wijenayaka - University of kelaniya.
Plans - Dammika Siriwardena, Central Cultural Fund.
Photography - Suresh Sanjeewa , Central Cultural Fund.