Friday, 10 June 2022

Delft Island Archaeological Heritage

Delft Island Archaeological Heritage
Located next to the Island of Punkudutivu, the Delft Island (Tamil: Neduntheevu) is the second-largest island in the Jaffna Peninsula extending into an area of 48.05 square kilometres (Dias et al., 2016). During the Portuguese period (1597-1658 A.D.), the island was called Ilbadas Vacas (Dias et al., 2016). However, Delft is the current name of the island and it is of Dutch origin. There is a town in the Netherlands by the same name and scholars in the opinion that the Dutch gave that name because the physical characteristics of this island are similar to that of the Dutch town (Dias et al., 2016). 

Compared to the other islands in the Jaffna peninsula, the Delft Island is a prominent place in respect of the presence of archaeological artefacts. Ancient Stupas including Buddhist ruins, remnants of Hindu temples, Meegaman Fort, Baobab TreeDutch Stable, hospital, court, Pigeon Nest, cemetery, Queen's Tower are several such artefacts and monuments yet visible on the island.

Buddhist ruins
Main article: Stupas on Delft Island

A site with the remains of an ancient Buddhist temple has been discovered in the north-western part of Delft Island and the area is presently called Vetiyaracan Kottai by locals (Devendra, 1969; Dias et al., 2016; Goonatilake et al., 2013; Ragupathy, 1987; Wijebandara, 2014). The definitive evidence about the construction of these Stupas is obscure to date (Dias et al., 2016; Wijebandara, 2014). Sri Lankan chronicles reveal that there were several Buddhist temples in the Jaffna Peninsula during the Anuradhapura Period (Goonatilake et al., 2013). According to the view of Ragupathy, this site is possibly a place of Buddhist warship patronized by the ancient traders (Ragupathy, 1987). It could have been abandoned after Hindu influence that took place intensively during the time of the Jaffna principality (Ragupathy, 1987). The site was declared an archaeological protected site in 2007.

Location: 9°32'17.8"N 79°39'10.3"E

Sivan Kovil
There are remaining of the Antaralaya and the sanctum of an ancient Sivan Kovil on Delft Island. The Dutch-built road constructed beside this ruined building indicates that the temple had been built before the Dutch Period (1640-1796 A.D.). Having features of the medieval Dravidian architecture, the Sri Lankan and Indian coins discovered in the surroundings of this temple ensure that this temple belongs to the 10-11th centuries A.D. (Wijebandara, 2014).

Location: 9°31'30.6"N 79°39'25.5"E

Baobab tree

Baobab trees have been a significant tree among tourists and archaeologists due to their origin and antiquities. According to Vandercone et al., there are about 40 baobab trees survive in Sri Lanka (Vandercone et al., 2004). They are mostly found surrounding of forts, merchant cities, harbours, and ancient trading centres. The baobab tree on Delft Island is presently a protected archaeological monument. The tree was designated as an archaeological protected monument in 2011.

Location: 9°30'45.0"N 79°42'55.0"E

Delft Island Fort
Main article: Delft Island Fort

This donjon constructed by the Portuguese for the defence was converted into a fort with two bastions by the Dutch. However, local Tamils attribute this fort to a king named Meekaman, a native leader of the fisher caste [(Karaiyar) Lewis, 1909]. The fort has been constructed out of limestone and brick and the present structure is about 30 m long and 26.5 m wide (Wijebandara, 2014). In 2011, the fort was designated as an archaeological monument by the government.

Location: 9°31'39.7"N 79°41'59.5"E

The stable

The remains of an old stable are found located in Sarappiddy village. During the Dutch Period, the Delft Island was an important administrative centre and the Dutch are said to have constructed horse stables to keep their horses brought from foreign countries (Wijebandara, 2014). The present ruins at the site reveal that it was a horse stable of about 150 m in length and 10 m in width (Dias et al., 2016; Wijebandara, 2014). The stable and several other ruins (such as old wells) located nearby were designated by the government as archaeological protected monuments in 2011.

Location: 9°31'00.3"N 79°39'28.6"E

Old hospital
This building on Delft Island was originally designed for medical purposes in the Dutch Period. It was converted into an administrative centre during the British Period. Coral had been used in its construction with the roof tiled having the year 1865 engraved on them (Dias et al., 2016; Wijebandara, 2014).

Location: 9°31'37.0"N 79°42'09.8"E

The pigeon nest

The Dutch used pigeons to send messages between the islands, ships, and the mainland. Therefore, they created nests to keep the birds. The only such nest for pigeons on Delft Island is made out of coral. It is of a square section of sides 1.6 m in length resting on a square pedestal with 15 pigeon holes on each side (Dias et al., 2016; Wijebandara, 2014). In 2011, the nest was protected as an archaeological monument by the government.

Location: 9°31'39.4"N 79°42'09.3"E

The courts
The British emblem bearing the year 1905 confirms that this court building was constructed during the British Period. The remains of the present building indicate that it had consisted of a prison, a chamber for advocates, and a residence for the Justice.

Location: 9°31'39.7"N 79°42'10.1"E

Old Christian cemetery
Located behind the Dutch fort, the cemetery has several old tombstones with Christian insignia of the cross (Dias et al., 2016). Some of them are huge and carry various inscriptions in English (Dias et al., 2016).

Location: 9°31'42.2"N 79°41'58.0"E

Queen's tower

The Queen's Tower is an old measurement tower located on the southeastern coast of the island of Delft. was erected by the British (British Ceylon: 1815-1948) as a trigonometric point and a light navigation point for diurnally operated ships. However, an incorrect opinion suggests that this tower had been used as a lighthouse. The tower is about 55 ft tall and has been built with cubic shape cut limestone rocks. The tower was designated as an archeological monument in 2011.

Location: 9°28'30.9"N 79°43'12.0"E

1) Devendra, D.T., 1969. A ruined Dagaba in Delft. The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 13, pp. i-iii.
2) Dias, M.; Koralage, S.B.; Asanga, K., 2016. The archaeological heritage of Jaffna peninsula. Department of Archaeology. Colombo. p.213-218.
3) Goonatilake, S. de A., Ekanayake, S., Kumara, T.P., Liyanapathirana, D., Weerakoon, D.K., and Wadugodapitiya, A. 2013. Sustainable Development of Delft Island: An ecological, socio-economic and archaeological assessment. International Union for Conservation of Nature, Colombo, Sri Lanka & Government of Sri Lanka. pp.29-30.
4) Lewis, J. P., 1909. Notes on Delft. The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland.Vol. 21, No. 62 (1909), pp. 341-360.
5) Ragupathy, P. 1987. Early settlements in Jaffna, An archaeological survey. Published by Mrs. Thilimalar Ragupathy. Madras. pp.17-22.
6) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. no: 1486. 23 February 2007. p.129
7) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1716. 22 July 2011. p.512
8) Vandercone, R., Sajithran, T.M., Wijeyamohan, S. and Santiapillai, C., 2004. The status of the baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) in Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. Current Science, pp.1709-1713.
9) Wijebandara, I.D.M., 2014. Yapanaye Aithihasika Urumaya (In Sinhala). Published by the editor. ISBN-978-955-9159-95-7. pp.59-78.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 10 June 2022
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