Sunday, January 24, 2021

Beli-lena

Belilena
Beli-lena is a large (ca. 30x15 m) prehistoric cave situated in Kitulgala in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka. It is considered as one of the most important prehistoric sites in the country, with evidence of human presence dating back to over 31,000 years B.P. (Kourampas et al., 2009). However, evidence that confirms the presence of humans as early as ca. 45,000 cal. BP. has been found in recent studies (Wedage et al., 2020).

A few Buddhist structures of the 20th century are also found in the shade of the cave (Kourampas et al., 2009). 

The location
Beli-lena cave is situated in the island’s lowland Wet Zone with a mean annual precipitation between 2500 and 3500 mm (Kourampas et al., 2009; Wedage et al., 2020). 

Excavations & findings
Belilena
The cave was first investigated in 1960-1961 by P.E.P. Deraniyagala and the excavations done by him revealed historic and prehistoric archaeological materials (Wedage et al., 2020). Systematic excavations were commenced at the site in 1978 by the Department of Archaeology under the supervision of S.U. Deraniyagala and they were continued in 1979, 1983, 1985, and in 1986 the site was investigated under the guide of W. H. Wijeyapala (Kourampas et al., 2009; Wedage et al., 2020). These excavations sampled about 3 m of cultural deposits, spanning the time from over 31,000 to 7880 yr cal B.P., as inferred from 25 radiocarbon dates (Kourampas et al., 2009). The excavation led by Oshan Wedage in 2013 revealed a total of 25 radiocarbon dates, indicating a chronology extending back to ca. 31,000 cal years BP (Wedage et al., 2020).  

An enormous quantity of food remains, both faunal and floral and fragmentary remains of human individuals interpreted as fractional burials have been recorded throughout the studies carried out at this site. Microlithic tools dating from ca. 24,700 cal B.P., have made this site one of the oldest reliably dated sites with microlithic industry in South Asia. 

A protected site
The pre-historic cave site of Belilena situated in Kitulgala village in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Yatiyantota is an archaeological protected site, declared by a government gazette notification published on 22 November 2002. 

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References
1) Kourampas, N., Simpson, I.A., Perera, N., Deraniyagala, S.U. and Wijeyapala, W.H., 2009. Rockshelter sedimentation in a dynamic tropical landscape: Late Pleistocene–Early Holocene archaeological deposits in Kitulgala Beli‐lena, southwestern Sri Lanka. Geoarchaeology: An International Journal, 24(6), pp.677-714.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1264. 22 November 2002.
3) Wedage, O., Roberts, P., Faulkner, P., Crowther, A., Douka, K., Picin, A., Blinkhorn, J., Deraniyagala, S., Boivin, N., Petraglia, M. and Amano, N., 2020. Late Pleistocene to early-Holocene rainforest foraging in Sri Lanka: Multidisciplinary analysis at Kitulgala Beli-lena. Quaternary Science Reviews, 231, pp.1-19.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 24 January 2021
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

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