Beli-Lena, cave in the woods with roots of humankind
Belilena is so significant that is considered as one of the few places where stone-age human lived in Sri Lanka. But few people know about this lost world – and even fewer get to see it.
Kitulgala Sri Lanka
I had been to Kitulagla many times in the past as an adventure traveller or as a traveller to traveller to enjoy the rich natural wealth of Kitulgala by way of rainforest trekking, bird watching etc. It’s proximity to Colombo has made it a popular one-day outing place in Sri Lanka from Colombo. Moreover, Kitulgala is a place for a Sri Lanka one day trip from most beach resorts on the west coast such as Bentota, Kalutara and Hikkaduwa. But in this occasion, I’m not interested in nature or adventure activities but I’m going to explore the Belilena and see the residence of stone age human of Sri Lanka known as Balangoda man (homo Sapiens Balangodensis), lived 37,000 years ago.
Kitulgal is known to most tarvellers as a destination for Sri Lankan nature tours, Sri Lanka adventure trips or bird watching trips of Sri Lanka but this remote holiday destination offers a lot more than that. The endless pristine forest cover dotted with mountian peaks and boulders not essentially restricted to adventure activities or nature tours such as 5 days Sri Lanka nature trip because Belilena which is one of the oldest document granatite cave of Sri Lanka that provides valuable information of stone age man of Sri Lanka.
Importance of BeliLena
After travelling 100km from Colombo, I was standing at the broad entrance of Belilena, A natural granite cave hidden in the remote wilderness, at the foothills of Sri Lanka’s central mountain range. The remains of the stone implement, bone tools, skeletal fossils of several humans we discovered during the excavation at Beli-Lena, convincing the archaeologists that this place was resided by an ancient human of Sri Lanka lived more than 32000 years ago, the cave is a proof of an early stone tradition in Asia.
Belilena is one of the caves belong to a cluster of ancient caves occupied by stone age man of Sri Lanka known as ‘balagoda manawaka’ (Homo Sapiens Balangodensis). The cave of this cluster coming from various places and the cluster of caves is consisting of Fa Hien cave near Bulathsinhala (34,000?5400 C14 BP), Batadomba-Lena near Kuruwita (28,500-11,500 C14 BP), Belillena (over27,000-3500 C14 BP), Alu-Lena at Attanagoda near Kegalle (10,500 C14 BP0).
Prehistory of Sri Lanka
According to prof. Deraniyagala the prehistorical records pertaining to Sri Lanka is very much complete, from 34,000BP. The information extracted from a series of cave exploration in the lowland Wet Zone. There are 3 major granite caves such as Fa Hien-Lena (37,000 BP), Batadomba-Lena (31,000 BP), Belilena (30,000 BP), that contributed heavily in this regard.
These caves have produced strong evidence regarding the stone age culture of Sri Lanka such as stone tools, bone remains, both animals and humans, and also charcoal. The artefacts found in these caves are in good condition as they were buried in dry soil. The age of these have been confirmed by radiocarbon method, Sri Lanka has an excellent radiocarbon chronology for its cave sites.
The archaeological site is consisting of only one cave, which is spacious enough to live for many dozens of people. The site is maintained open-air and cave site is located in the deep jungle of Kitulgala, that span from Stone Age periods up to the historical period. Stone implements excavated at the site, are among the oldest outside of Africa and suggest that Belilena, was an extremely early site of stone age man in South Asia.
Despite the protected and historical status of Belilena it doesn’t figure in most Sri Lankan travel itineraries and has only one direct bus connections from Colombo. However, a large number of travellers are heading to Kitulgala every day, in search of thrilling, adrenaline-pumping activities such as whiteware rafting, waterfalls abseiling, canoeing, rock climbing etc. But most travellers do not make few extra kilometres to explore this important site, where the stone-age culture of Sri Lanka flourished. The visitors are not required to purchase any entrance ticket to visit Belilena.
The travellers need to make a short drive to reach Belilena from Kitulgala. Here, the visitors can learn about human settled in the Belilena after migrating to Sri Lanka from India on foot for many thousands of years.