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.
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.
- “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