Iron Age Burial Site At Ibbankatuwa


The Early Iron Age in Sri Lanka lasted from 1000 to 600 BC. An iron age settlement was founded around 900 BC at the site of today’s Anuradhapura – the first capital of Sri Lanka. Discovery of pottery from the site bearing Brahmi script and red glass beads indicate contact with North India and the absence of Dravidian script seems to corroborate the view that Indo-Aryan was pre-dominant in Sri Lanka from at least as early as 500 BC. Early Iron Age sites exist also in Sigiriya, Kandarodai, Matota, Pilapitiya and Tissamaharama.

The Ibbankatuwa early iron age burial site close to Sigiriya is the best investigated proto-historic cist burial complex in the country. A Cist is a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies and artefacts of the dead. The site has been carbon-dated to 700 – 400 B.C.

A Department of Archaeology signpost at Ibbankatuwa on the Dambulla – Kurunegala road directs you to the little visited site. It is at the end of a dirt track about 200 metres from the road. The caretaker comes out of his corrugated iron shed to greet you. He is not a guide and has no data sheets to distribute. There is no entrance fee to the site which consists of 42 clusters of cist tombs in an area of about 1 square kilometre. Each cluster contains about 10 tombs. Some tombs are intact with capstones still in place.




Cist with capstone

Several clusters have been excavated and contents examined. The cists contained clay pots with ashes of the cremated dead and some of their personal belongings such as red bead necklaces, now displayed in museums in dumbbell, Colombo and Kelaniya.





Pre-history of Sri Lanka is not well understood. Ibbankatuwa site offers visitors a fascinating glimpse in to the distance past of the country.

(The visit was arranged by Flamingo Tours of 129/14, Kadawatha Road Dehiwala, Sri Lanka, Tel: 077-1739773, E-mail: Website:


  • “Fascinated by the interesting travel Blog’s about Sri Lanka. Interesting that much of the  World was, apparently, at similar stages of development at roughly the same time despite knowing very little about each others existence.” – Prof. Charles Joslin, Harrogate




4 thoughts on “Iron Age Burial Site At Ibbankatuwa

  1. Thank you for this post, I’ve an interest in Bronze and Iron age archaeology in the British Isles, so to see this age shown in Sri Lanka is extremely interesting. It’s particularly interesting to see the cists and pot burials, something that was common in Britain (especially on Dartmoor) during roughly the same time period. I find it fascinating to see different cultures responding in different and similar ways to each other over common experiences like burial practices. Are these burials remote or close to villages of the same time period?


    • Thank you very much for your comments. This is one of the many Iron Age burial sites in Sri Lanka. Settlements are evident near other sites but at Ibbankatuwa, no evidence of a settlement has been found yet. This may be because excavation is hindered by present day housing units that surround the site. There is a small, ancient irrigation reservoir near the site and this probably indicates the existence of an ancient settlement as well.


  2. Pingback: യൂറോപ്യന്‍ മിഷനറിമാരും ദലിതരുടെ വിദ്യാഭ്യാസവും – സജി വള്ളോത്യാമല – ഇടനേരം idaneram

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