PREHISTORIC LANDSCAPE


This view of Ibbankatuva, an Early Iron Age site, illustrates a typical prehistoric landscape that includes:

(1) A source of lithic resources (rocks), such as the inselberg seen here;
(2) A source of water (in this case, runoff from the hill);
(3) Pastureland. The Early Iron Age in Lanka was introduced from India in about 1000 BC. Its cultural innovations included sedentism (settling down in villages, which replaced the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle); plant and animal domestication; small-scale irrigation; stone- and metal- work; production of pottery and beads; and new burial rituals (next page).

Cist Burials
  Ibbankatuva, Sri Lanka
Early Iron Age people buried their dead in lidded chambers called cists that were constructed from slabs of stone. These are secondary burials. The body would first be buried in soil, and allowed to decay naturally until only its skeleton remained; its bones would then be collected and reburied in a pot within the cist, along with a variety of grave goods such as food, beads, and weapons.
 
The burials at any given location, such as this one, would typically belong to a single family group (lineage). A lineage symbol is often carved onto the capstones. Preliminary unpublished (2008) work also suggests, excitingly, that these cists and their burial pots may align astronomically, to the equinoxes.

Chieftain's Grave
Ibbankatuva, Sri Lanka
Professor Sudharshan Seneviratna, of the University of Peradeniya, discusses a cist grave, whose intact capstone bears a lineage symbol (horned square) and whose grave goods included carnelian beads, gold, and mica. The richness of this burial suggests that an important personage, possibly a chieftain or lineage head, was interred here. Prof. Seneviratna is Director General (2008) of the Central Cultural Fund, which is the custodian organization for all UNESCO-registered World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka.
 
 
Multiple Burial
  Ibbankatuva, Sri Lanka
While most cists at Ibbankatuva contain only a single burial, the one shown here is a rare multiple burial, where the cist chamber has been divided into two compartments. The contents of this and the other graves have, of course, been removed to the site museum for conservation and display.

Megalithic technology in Europe dates back to the Neolithic (4th millennium BC). However, in South Asia this technology appears only much later,
in the Early Iron Age: there is no Neolithic period, as such, in South Asia. In particular, the cist burials at Ibbankatuva are dated by radiocarbon analysis to the 6th century BC.

Source: - www.art-and-archaeology.com/lanka/ibbankatuwa/ib04.html
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