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Before Buddhism


Before Buddhism: some thoughts on transcendental beliefs in early Sri Lanka

  1. Prelude

The history of the transcendental beliefs in early Sri Lanka was first summoned by Paranavitana in his seminal essay published in late 1920s (Paranavitana 1929). He attempted to synthesize the historical information as much as possible thus providing an excellent narrative account. The chronological focus of that work was confined to the early historic period that stemmed from 600 to 250 BCE. It seems that Paranavitana’s objective was to elaborate on the religious conditions which prevailed before the introduction of Buddhism to the country with an intention of justifying the positive impact of an organized religion viz Buddhism on the historic society. His methodology of analysis was defining the proper names which appeared in the inscriptions and other historical sources associated with known religions and rituals that existed prior to the official recognition of Buddhism in c. 250 BCE. He concludes;

 ………it becomes clear that the great majority of the people worshipped nature spirits, called the yaksas, who were supposed to dwell in rivers, lakes, mountains, trees, etc. The worship of the sacred trees or groves was also connected with this primitive religion. The heavenly bodies received the adoration of the people, and to great extent influenced their everyday life…………..These conditions are, on the whole very similar to the state of religious beliefs prevailing in North India during the life time of the Buddha (JRASCB XXXI: 327).

In 1981, K.N.O. Dharmadasa has made another attempt to address the same issue in a slightly different manner (Dharmadasa 1981). The point on which his analysis diverges from that of Paranavitana is his inclination to refer to archaeological evidence. Even though some problems relating to the clarity of his argument developed upon the archaeological data, the use of the idea of megalithic burials reported from different parts of the island (e.g. Senevirathne 1984:237-307) reflects a fresh approach. The author has considered the megalithic burial practice as a depiction of a direct manifestation of a behavior of transcendental aspirations which diffused from South India where similar tradition existed since the first millennium BCE.

He states; ……..The megalithic burials recently unearthed indicate that there was ritualistic treatment of the dead. There have been deliberate interments of bones of more than one individual in a single grave representing family or clan burials. Also there is evidence to the practice of depositing food and utilization objects in the graves. These archaeological findings dated from about the 6th century B.C. to the 3rd century B.C. throw greater light on what has been said in the Mahavamsa regarding the pre[1]historic cults. They indicate funeral rites different from Brahmanism, Jainism as well as Buddhism. Another significant fact which has emerged from these archaeological findings is that these ritualistic burials have counterparts in the southern areas of the Indian peninsula. This probably indicates a cultural diffusion that took place in pre-Buddhist times. (1981:93).

The disadvantage of both attempts by Paranaviatana and Dharmadasa is the exclusion of the prehistoric period from their discussion, perhaps it was due to the lack of evidence unearthed during the period that those studies were carried out.

Recent archaeological investigations conducted in the mountainous hinterland in Sri Lanka have yielded evidence that could be classified in to a category of symbolic/ritual expression of the hunter-gatherer/foragers community since the 5th millennium BCE. This paper seeks to present that evidence in order to make an argument on the existence of a metaphysical beliefs system in Sri Lanka beyond the lower limit of the historical period. We used the notion ‘transcendental’ in the title of the paper because the date discussed here is proved to be manifested with certain symbolic expressions of an abstract thinking. They are abstract because most of the artifacts understudies are non-utilitarian objects. The timeframe of the present essay covers a period from c. 4th millennium BCE to the end of the 1st millennium BCE which predominantly represents the late prehistory and the first Iron using culture in the country.

2. Archaeology & religion: a dilemma

It is generally considered that the understanding of ancient systems of beliefs from the material manifestations is difficult for archaeologists. This comes to the surface when archaeologists are confronted with the problem of separation and identification of religious kind of practices from other secular activities in the past. The other constraint is the religiosity varies from society to society than we might realize. Our perceptions on the past is shaped and determined by our present experiences. Therefore the categories with which we set out to capture the behavioral facets in the past such as religion, symbolism etc. might push us into a number of interpretative limitations by our imperfect judgments biased by the present experiences (v. Renfrew 1994). What archaeologists can do is merely the recognition of ritual/cult practices in particular circumstances other than making inferences on the system of beliefs underlying them. The conception of religions function as a separate subsystem of the society is a fallacy. Especially in the non-literate societies, the cult practices operate as a part of the activities of their daily life. For instance, the annual ritual of kiri koraha dance by the Vädda aborigines in Sri Lanka is a symbolic performance of wish-fulfillment of their hunting success1 (v. Seligmann & Seligmann 1911:34). The stanzas chanted during this cult performance reflect their life experiences linking it with deceased relatives2 . The material repertoire used to perform kiri koraha dance consists of the essential items of their daily life including bow and arrow, axe, clay pots, necklaces and bangles , which shows the ‘embeddedness’ in the secular life in the cult practice replicated by the material expression. Haaland (2004) has discussed the cult practices and the social hierarchy of the Oska Dencha community in South-western Ethiopia which is associated with iron smelting is a similar example. Ritualistic composition includes sacrificing a goat, consumption of liquor and the somatic purification of the persons who attended to the smelting process.

Embeddedness might constrain some characteristic arrangements of artifact patterning in religious practices of the past in archaeological contexts thus preventing a generalized approach to the subject. Renfrew has reiterated the situation and states

………from the standpoint of the archaeologists, religious activities are potentially open to observation only when they might be identifiable as religions by an observer at the time in question (Renfrew and Zubrow 1994:47).

 How do archaeologists identify religious behavior from the material culture of the past? How can one distinguish mundane ritual behaviors of the past societies from other daily living activities of the people? Beyond the representations of organized religions3 , how are archaeologists able to recognize the cult practices of the non-literate societies? These are some among many questions still unanswered relating to the study of the metaphysical belief systems by archaeologists (cf. Bardsley 2004:17)..

3. The Sites

This paper focuses on eight artifacts excavated from three locations and two prehistoric cemeteries investigated. All sites referred to are geographically belonging to the mountainous hinterland and its adjacent area representing three climatic zones i.e, wet, dry and intermediate (see map.1). Chronologically the site falls into a period ranging from 4500 to 1000 BC.

Excavations carried out in a prehistoric cave dwelling called Hunugalge in Walmeetalava of the village Waeliya in Haldummulla of the Uva province has yielded an assemblage of phallic representations including two male phalluses (sand stone) three icons of female body parts (two are sand stone and one is gneiss stone ) with enhanced sexual organs and also an icon of a stone human head (gneiss).

Hunugalagala (lit. the rock of limestone) is a cave (721m MSL) situated in the Wa-eliya GS division of the Haldummulla Division Secretary’s division (6 42 29.3/80 53 04.8). This limestone formation resulted by the sedimentation of the eroded dolomite (crystallized limestone) sediment of the area. Several small caverns are discernible in this large limestone formation including the present cave which is the only habitable space. It is situated on a steep slope which terminates at the right bank of Weli Oya, one of the tributaries of the river Walave.

At the time of the first arrival to the cave for the excavation, the cave interior was filled with soil debris formed during the cave formation.. Thickness of the soil deposit resulted by the speleogenesis accumulated in the interior is 2.21meters. Cave interior is a dark and very humid space and the dimensions of the habitable space is 37.99m2 .

Artifacts were reported from the surface down to the limestone bedrock, except the layers formed by the decomposition of the fallen stalactites from the cave roof. The objects presented here were reported from the lower level of the stratigraphy (see plan 1).

A human face (quartzite) was reported from a cave in a village called Maddekanda in Illukkumbura of Balangoda, Sabaragamuva Province. The cave identified as Alugalge (lit. the cave of ashes) is a gneiss formation and subsequently a cavern was created through the

Map 1. The map showing the spatial distribution of the sites which symbolic objects and cemeteries discussed
in the essay

continuous erosion of the rock. The cave is situated on a steep slope. It had been used by the prehistoric communities as their dwelling at least on a seasonal basis. The dimensions of the habitable space of the interior are 43.58m2 .

Excavations were carried out in two seasons in 2016 and 2017. The icon of human face mentioned was found in level 6 (layer 4) of the trench opened in 2017. The associated artifacts are prehistoric

Stone implements (quartz), predominantly blades and the animal bones remained as food residues. The provenance is dated to the cal BC 3505 (Beta 448329).

Three burial grounds of prehistoric origin have been excavated in two occasions in 2007 and 2012. The first was the burial ground situated at the government school premises in the village Ranchamadama in Rathnapura district of the Sabaragamuva Province (Somadeva 2010). The excavated burials are free-standing structures of clay follow an elliptical ground plan erected up to an average height of 75 centimeters. Nine individual burials were opened. Sizes (length & width) of each vary and had been utilized to deposit the corporeal remains (ash) of the deceased. Skeletal remains were cremated inside the clay structure using a pile of wooden logs deliberately laid out on the interior floor. After the cremation, the ashes were collected and interred in clay pots. Several such clay-pots had been deposited in a single structure and the number varies from5 to 30. This burial ground was dated to 1350 BC.

Plan. 1 The stratigraphy of the Hunugalge cave excavated in Iconic objects were recovered from context 19 (drawn by
A. Wanninayaka)

Habitation of the community who utilized the cemetery in Ranchamadama was recovered from location about 2.5 km south west (ibid: 186). It is situated on a small hill called Uda Ranchamadama. In 2009, this location was excavated and resulted in the discovery of a rubble floor of a wattle and daub hut. Excavated artifacts from the interior including earthenware sherds, metal objects (iron) and a few lithic implements suggest that it was a domestic dwelling place. Backyard of this dwelling place has yielded 2 grind stones with pestles and the hearth. The special artifact recovered was a terracotta icon (see, section 6 below). This site is dated to 1125 BC.

In 2012, two similar burial grounds were excavated in Haldummulla in the Badulla district of the Uva Province; one recovered from the minor road leading to the government Tamil school of Haldummulla and the other from a gravel road leading to the village Kalupahanawatta of Beragala. Further survey has revealed two other similar sites in Haldummulla which is about 3 to 5 kilometers away from the excavated burials. Those two burials have been dated to 1750 BC and 2400 BC respectively.

3.1 A Pubic triangle

A triangular shaped stone object measuring (L) 62.28mm, (W) 42.93mm, (T) maximum 30.12mm was found at a depth of 2.5 meters below the surface of the cave floor. It is a small block of stone (gneiss) that had been purposely converted in to a triangular shape on one surface. On the surface, a linear groove was engraved projecting from the mid-point of the base line of the triangle extending towards slightly more than its half way. This groove was hewn into a certain depth. At the time this object was found this linear groove was filled with red colored powder, probably red ocher. Two characteristics viz. (i) the triangular shape that has a linear groove in its center and (ii) the portable size of the object suggest that it is much closer to a symbolic representation of a female reproductive organ. The linear groove could be considered as an attempt to elaborate the labia majora.

The intended meaning of filling the linear groove by red color powder is not clear. One of an Ola-leaf manuscripts4 bears a text that describes the teachings of traditional medicine, contain a word that describes a special insanitary condition suffers by the females pertaining to their reproductive system i.e, ‘kili māle’ 5 which literary means ‘uninterrupted pour of blood’. The word ‘kili’ or ‘killa’ is still used in the rural villages to give the meaning of ‘impure’ or ‘impurity’. Females are considered ‘impure’ during the period of menstruation and do

Fig.1 the excavated stone object which is supposed to be a symbolic manifestation of a pubic triangle
(pic. author).
Fig.2 A nude icon of a female torso recovered from a limestone cave in Walmeetalave in Haldummulla of Uva
Province (pic. author

not allow them to attend any folkloristic ritual performances even today. In the colloquial use of the Sinhala language, the word ‘māle’ is generally means the ‘necklace’ but it is also used to denote the meaning of ‘continuity’ or ‘flow’ which passively narrates the morphology of a necklace. We think this folk idea furnish us a clue to understand our object. Perhaps, the red color application of the artifact may symbolize a flow of blood; which signify the menstruation taken as a functional metaphor of representing the female sexual organ.

3.2 A Female torso

This is a female torso characterized by the enhanced breasts. The dimensions of this sand stone sculpture are (L) 86.52, (W) 62.90, (T) 41.37. It is a manifestation of highly abstracted aesthetic formula. The outline of the breast was first demarcated on the surface of the stone and subsequently lower part of the stone surface had been removed to enhance the depth of the intended area. The depiction of two breasts was elaborated by two lines etched using a sharp tool at the middle of the enhanced area. Detailing the feature was not attempted.

3.3 A Female lower body part

A block of a sand stone was shaped in to a sculpture representing the lower part of a female body. It shows the area below the lower abdomen and above the thighs. An attempt has been made to slightly enhance the pubic triangle. It seems that the intension of the sculptor was to show the reproductive organ of a female. This attempt differs from the pubic triangle described above (fig.3) on the contextualization of what the sculptor has wished to elaborated; the sexual organ. Instead of cropping the part of the body from its natural setting, this sculpture brings the total somatic landscape of the object focused.

3.4 Male phalluses

Two objects made out of sand stone recovered are linear, stick like 3 dimensional representations. This object has differing width which the lower part is greater than it’s upper. It also shows a slanted line engraved in slightly enhanced manner at a position close to one of its ends. The lacks of any characteristic sign of the usage of these objects propose their symbolic nature. The two similar occurrences of having slanted line on those stick like objects are not a random occurrence. Visually it gives us an impression of a penis. Perhaps the slanted line exemplifies the margin of the exposed glans visible when the prepuce is retracted during the full erection of the organ.

Fig.3 A sandstone sculpture of a cropped female body part showing the region of the reproductive organ (pic.
D. Devage)
Fig. 4 An elongated stone object (sand stone) with an enhanced upper part close to its distal end recovered
from Hunugalge cave in Haldummulla (pic. author)

4. Anthropomorphic icons

Two objects viz. a human head and a human face are characterized in this group. The human head was excavated from the limestone cave in Hunugalagala. It is a three dimensional stone representation of, probably a male (H) 172mm, (W) maximum 115mm). Contours of the area between the neck and the chin of the icon were skillfully enhanced using a sharp tool. The other improved part is the margin separating the head and the forehead. Entire face was left void without indicating any facial feature. The physical appearance indicates that the intension of the sculptor was to create a profile view of the head.

5. A human face

The human face (stone) recovered from the Alugalge cave is a mask type relief (H) 80.10mm, (W) 63.18mm, (T).maximum 46.24mm. It is a half-completed work and the incisions of the sculptural effort still remained on the object.

The sculptor had selected a yellowish-red color quartzite pebble and made an attempt to convert one of the surfaces into a human face. It was intentionally brought to the cave from a seasonal watercourse that flows about half kilometers west to the cave. Brow-ridges and the eye-lids were carefully outlined. Right upper lip was also demarcated. To maintain the vertical symmetry of the face the excessive part of the stone on the right side had been flattened through rubbing the stone in a rugged manner. When initiating the enhancement of the nasal area, the stone seems fragmented due to the irregular crystal pattern of the stone. Then the stone was intentionally discarded.

5. Zoomorphic icons

This three dimensional icon representing the head of a dog was reported from the prehistoric level in Aluglage. The dimensions of this feature are (H) 55.75mm, (W) 45.10mm. It is a crude manifestation of that creature that had been molded by couple of free finger movements. The careful curation of the icon is depicted by the application of a thin lime coating on its exterior surface.

6. A terracotta icon

A free-standing three dimensional icon made out of burnt clay (terracotta) has been recovered from an ancient house floor excavated in 2010. Dimensions of this object are 65.86mm. It has a stem like portion and two arms projected upwards from its centre. The arm in the right side was broken at the time of the object was recovered. The flat bottom of the stem suggests that it was vertically fixed into another

Fig. 5 A stone sculpture (gneiss) depicting a human head recovered from Hunugalagala cave (pic. author).
Fig. 6 An attempt to make a human face using a water worn pebble (quartzite) 3rd millennium BCE. recovered from Alugalge in Illukkumbura of Balangoda (pic. D. Devage)

surface. Despite the usage of unprocessed clay to manufacture this icon, its symmetry and the well maintained contours of the surface suggest a careful treatment held during the fabrication. The remaining arm is becoming thin at its distal end like a horn. Similar object has been reported from the proto historic context in Kayatha, Central India (cf. Sankalia 1974:433, fig.140). It was identified as a stylized depiction of a bull. But it is doubt that whether such an identification could be assigned to the present object.

7. Burials

Excavated burials show several characteristics that could be identified as the representations of a conscious symbolic behavior. Prominent among them is the burial architecture. Each burial is an open container constructed by clay walls up to approximately a height of 0.75m. Such structure have rectilinear ground plan and the four corners of the wall has been smoothly curved. The walls are deliberate pile-ups of thin

Elongated sun-dried mud-bricks tightened together by a clay plaster. Such burial structures had been used for dual purposes i.e., (a) to cremate skeletons and (b) the repositories of corporeal remains (ash) of the cremated skeletons. The signs of limited distribution of heat through walls of the burials prove that a high temperature which is required to burn a human body of a deceased had not existed during the cremation. Ashes remained after the cremation of the body was interred inside clay pots with lithic implements and beads. Finally the burial was covered by soil.

Exhumation to obtain the skeleton and burning it in a specific place is undoubtedly a ritualistic act performed towards the deceased. Presence of burial goods (lithic implements and beads) is further indicators of that ritualistic thinking. The earliest burials of such an organized manner that were reported in Sri Lanka are those clay structures and according to the 14C dates, this practice existed in the 2400 BC in the hilly tracts of the hinterland areas. Total number of such burial grounds that has been reported to date from that area is 7 and more to be found in the future investigations.

The practice of constructing clay burials was later replaced by the stone made cist burials of megalithic tradition (768-383 BC). This is very clearly shown by the existence of a clay burial6 among the majority of stone cist burials in Ibbankatuva excavated for 4 years since 1988. More than 50 megalithic burial grounds reported from all over the country suggest that the ancestral cult held a dominant place in the protohistoric period in Sri Lanka. The dates revealed from the excavated megalithic burials advocate that it was prominent even at the time Buddhism was officially introduced to the country in the third century BC.

Fig. 7 A terracotta head of a dog (Canis sp.) recovered from Alugalage (3rd millennium BC) in Illukkumbura of Balangoda (pic.
D. Devage).

revealed from the excavated megalithic burials advocate that it was prominent even at the time Buddhism was officially introduced to the country in the third century BC.


The provenance of the icons depicting the sexual body parts found in this case has not been dated due to the absence of any datable materials existed. But the surface of the immediate surroundings of the cave has yielded an assemblage of artifacts including finely made stone blade implements (quartz and chert) pitted hammers, grind stones/ pestles and few threshing balls (stone) suggest that the exploitation of seeds ; most probably the wild varieties, in an intensive scale, was present among the contemporary hunter-gatherers. More than 15 pitted-hammers reported within an area of 400m2 have strongly propose a relatively long-term stay in a single location. It is reasonable to argue that the decision made by the hunter-gatherers to reduce the regular behavior of their mobility for food quest may have been influenced by the abundance of wild-grasses and other kind of floral resources like nuts (eg. Canerium zeylanicum) and wild berries (eg. Ziziphus sp.) in the vicinity of the settlement.

Paranavitana also dealt with the ancient phallic worship prevailed in Sri Lanka on the basis of literarily references. He attempted to identify a phallic cult which he himself believes as related with Hinduism i.e, the practice of worshipping Shiva linga.

The excavation of Lunugalage cave situated in the village Illukkumbura of Balangoda, approximately 20km south west to Hunugalagala, has yielded a collection of charred seeds containing 25 individual varieties (cf. Somadeva et al. 2017) together with prehistoric blade implements, pitted-hammers and animal bones. The cave front was fortified using stone rubble pasted by a layer of lime-rich soil (see, plan 2). A remnant of a similar wall was reported from the entrance of the Hunugalagala cave as well thus highlighting the shared cultural characteristics between both sites. The Alugalge cave, where the stone face has been recovered also contained charred seeds with the association of prehistoric lithic implements and land snail shells. The AMS dates of Lunugalage (cal BP 6270, cal BC 4320 Beta 422151)) and Alugalage suggest that an intensive scale exploitation of floral resources was initiated by the hunter[1]gatherer communities in a period not later than 4500 BCE.

It is an alarming gesture that, as shown by the archaeological evidence unearthed from three caves, there was a tendency of hunting-foraging transition among the mid Holocene hunter gatherers. This idea has been reiterated to some extent by others elsewhere (Perera et al 2011).

Fig.8 A terracotta icon (1125 BC) recovered from an ancient house floor excavated in Uda Ranchamadama of the Sabaragamuva
province (pic. author).

Creation of symbolic objects is an inherent characteristic of the genus Homo and the early attempts of such could well be assigned to the Paleolithic period (e.g. Clottes 1990; Chauvet et al. 1996; Mellars 1989; Boyer 1994; Mithen 1998). This capability had reached its zenith after the domestication of plants and animals culminated in Neolithic. Finding of symbolic objects are a frequent experience in most of the Neolithic sites investigated all over the world. Phallic objects and human figurines and zoomorphic icons are the common items of Neolithic symbolism. Different theories have been presented to explain this new symbolic behavior which is unique to the humans. The underlying reasons of creating such have been assigned to the appeal of the success of reproduction and fertility (cf. Hutton 1996; Meskell 1995). This has now been academically discredited and instead some alternative explanations derived from inter-disciplinary studies are grounded. (eg. Haaland and Haaland 1996; Hamilton 1996; Marcus 1996; Ucko 1996; Silverman 1999; Lesure 2002; Bailey 2005).

Fig 9. One of the clay burials excavated in the prehistoric cemetery in Ranchamadama dated to 1350 BC. (pic. author).

Recent advances in archaeology of symbolism have much reliance on the psychological aspect of human behavior. Bailey (2005) has made a fascinating synthesis on the representation of figurines found in Neolithic sites in Europe and the greater part of his work has echoed the combination of psychology with the subject. He refers to the ideas of Acconci7 (1985) while emphasizing that the miniature symbolic objects like dolls, generate an idea of hierarchy related to power in the mind of the viewer. It is an experience of contrasting scales. For instance, when a child has a Doll, then he/ she feels that the Doll in his/ her hand is smaller than the proportion of his/her body. This leads the child to manipulate the Doll on his/her desires shows child’s power on other humanoid form. The Doll again reiterates the fact that there are things that are larger than the child and the Doll. In such a way the child becomes aware of the things in his world that are larger and smaller than him/herself. Furthermore the Doll reaffirms the autonomy of a child over humanoid representation through manipulation of its body and its anatomical parts. Therefore Dolls help children to learn not only about their own personality but also their relationship with the surrounding world he/she grows.

Plan. 2 The ground plan of the general setting of the Lunugalge and its premises (drawn by A. Wanninayaka)

Acconci’s ‘Doll analogy’ may help us to understand the purpose of the miniature anthropomorphic representations belonging to the past societies. They serve as a medium to restate power and identity of a person or a group of persons. The term ‘power’ in this case functions in individual as well as community scales. Most of the gods in Vedic literature are personified natural phenomenon resembling wind, rain and fire and alike that had been venerated by the communities8 (cf. Winternitz 1990ed). And also most of the Saints in Christianity are individuals in living experience and they were later elevated to the divine state. Visual representations of both scales functioned as high esteemed religious objects.

As Debord (1967) aptly pointed out that the frustration generated by the existing realities experienced in the daily life leads people to search for alternative realities. To accomplish to reach alternative realities they end up with producing representations of the real things (1967:12). Miniature icons are one among the different categories of such representations. Miniaturism allows viewers to contract the large realities into a manageable proportion that generate a feeling in the viewer’s mind as he/ she becomes a giant in front of it. It builds a confidence in the viewers mind that he/she is capable of dealing somehow with that reality. The discourse between the viewer and the miniature object is a ‘virtual space’ (cf. Mirzeoff 1999) that insists the viewer’s mind to reduce the stress which he/she suffers.

As we indicated above, the creators of the miniature icons introduced in this essay, might have experienced a series of challenges produced by the decision they made to intensify the exploitation of floral resources. Unpredictable circumstances in the environment, harvesting, processing and storing the floral yield may have asked for gender and age differences in labor investment and negotiating identities. The friction between the wishes of the individuals and the inefficiency of the existing realities to cater to such allows making a void in the individual’s mind. People create alternative realities to mange this anxiety and most of them appeared as to be practices of a metaphysical stance.

The argument built in this essay is an attempt to elaborate the prehistoric figurines and burials found in Sri Lanka as an explicit archaeological manifestation of showing the earliest evidence of metaphysical thinking prevailed in the country.

Acknowledgements: The excavations that resulted the artifacts presented in this essay were funded by the Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology and the National Science Foundation (NSF). We greatly indebted to the Directors of those institutes. Also thankful to the alternative financial support and the encouragements made by the Yuga Vimasuma Organization in Colombo. and Mr. Daya Dissanayaka for his contribution to edit the language of this essay.


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(Endnotes) i …. The spirits of the dead became the Nae Yaku who with Kande Yaku and Bilindu Yaku, gave game and prosperity. The Kirikoraha ceremony was performed for the Nae Yaku, and adukku (cooked food) which even in the old days consisted of coconut and rice, was offered to them (Seligmann & Seligmann 1911:34)..

ii. The following are two verses chanted during the kiri koraha dance. The locations mentioned in the verse are the historical places associated with their ancestors. Veddagalata Bedi Malda Maldan Kokagala Bedi Malda Maldav Hanika Hanika Waren Duwa Kelagena Madda Maldan Demela Helata Bedi Malda Malddan Gonange Damane sita Muwange Damane Piyen Piyen Piya Thaba Enne Ape Kande Polamul Wanniya

To the flowers that bloom in Veddagala, To the flowers that bloom in Kokagala, Come, soon, hurry to the mal Dabe, And to the flowers that bloom in demela hela. From the land of deer to the land of sambhur, We came, step by step, Where behold, comes our kande Wanniya.

(after Punchihewa 1990).

 iii. Bowie (2000) has outlined a scheme to define world religions. According to him, world religions are based on (a) written scriptures (b) has a notion of salvation (c) universal or potentially universal (d) can subsume or supplant primal religions and (e) often forms a separate sphere of activity.

iv This is a ola-leaf manuscript called Vaidya Chintamanee, probably a work of 15-16 centuries CE It has been printed by a local physician named P. Jayasinghe in the end of 19th century. Now this book is a private property of Messer. Nanda Senevirathne in Matugama . I extremely thankful to him for providing me this information.

vi. When this structure was first seen by archaeologists, its was identified as a structure that has been used to cremate the dead bodies and has termed it as a ‘cremation- platform’. vii. Vito Hannibal Acconci is an American designer, landscape architect, performance and installation artist born in 1940.

viii….. And only gradually does a change take place in the songs of the Rgveda itself of these natural phenomena in to mythological figures, into gods and goddesses like Surya (Sun), Soma (Moon), Agni (Fire), Dyaus (Sky), Marut (Storms), Vayu (Wind), Apas (Water), Usas (Dawn) and Prthvi (Earth) whose names also indicates still without any doubt what they have been originally.

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