Dorawaka Ethubandi Cave Prehistoric Site (දොරවක ඇතුබැඳි ලෙන)

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Archaeologists firmly believe that excavation surveys conducted at the Dorawaka Rock caves at Warakapola reveal information about the Mesolithic Era, the third phase of the Stone Age.

According to them, the caves at Dorawakkanda and Uragala near Warakapola in the Kegalle District have yielded some of the most sensational archaeological findings in recent times, among them Brahmi inscriptions, a communication mode within suggest and attributes a different language pre-dating the arrival of Vijaya.

Brahmi lettering is typically found in rock inscriptions in stone caves. The roots of this science is said to have originated in India. The chronicles, the Mahawansa in particular, believe that the communication mode was brought to Sri Lanka in the same period as Arahant Mahinda’s arrival in Sri Lanka. This, therefore, is the most ancient form of lettering found on the island.

Apparently, some of the Brahmi characters are yet to be identified. However, such inscriptions in conjunction with other historical evidence as well as folklore tell us much about the commercial and trading activities engaged in by the Naga tribes and other ancient peoples before the planned settlement schemes.

Director of the Central Cultural Fund, Dr. W.H. Wijepala, who was in charge of the project as the former Deputy Director ( Excavations) of the Department of Archaeology told The Nation Eye that historians have concluded that there have been well developed civilizations established in Sri Lanka with the arrival of Prince Vijaya in 700 B.C., and even in those times that there had been a well developed system of communication among the island’s inhabitants.

Then is also corroborative evidence that an ancient lettering system was employed by Prince Vijaya in missives sent to his brother in Madhurapura which has been associated with King Pandukhabhaya. Therefore, the presence of a language system attributable to pre-Vijaya times is justified.

The Gedige Area

Dr. Wijepala said that the preliminary discovery of this newly found lettering system at the Dorawaka caves has been inscribed on an interior wall. A linear diagram depicting two elephants and a reptile was recorded in the Journal of Ceylon – Antiquarian Register in 1918.

There had also been a large number of letters with the sun and the moon. Before the excavation, the rock caves had been dated back to the proto-historic Mesolithic period, despite the absence of tosses and vestiges of man pertaining to this period as in the surrounding rock caves. A large number of symbols have been identified during the excavation.

There is also corroborative evidence that these rock caves would have been covered from around five feet from above. Glancing through the front and rear entrances, there is evidence of a five-foot layer of soil invaded with water seeping through the perforations.

There are vestiges of clay pots which do not belong even to the Anuradhapura era. Experts believe that these belong to the 800-1000 BC era. Subsequent excavations led to the discovery of charcoal, rock splints and limestone at a depth between 12 and 15 feet. These have indicated human habitats with Neolithic features.


Further discovery of reddish black pots indicates evidence of prehistoric stone tools and other implements as well as large quantities of perforated rounds which have been used for sharpening tools. It is concluded therefore that the inhabitants have been engaged in the pottery industry.

However, there is no proof of them being involved in the iron industry. Archaeologists believe that there may have been a thriving iron industry, but implements would have been subject to decay with the passage of time.

Stone tools had been used to manufacture arrows, judging by the vestiges. The absence of animal fossils would have led to the belief that man would have adapted to an agricultural base without a hunting lifestyle with diets supplemented by yams and roots. Thus doubts remain as to what species of man belonged to that era if he had not belonged to the Mesolithic culture.

A series of cemeteries found in the other areas pertaining to that period such as Ibbankatuwa, Asmadala, Yapahuwa, and Pomparippu conform to the Megalithic era between the 10th and 8th centuries BC. Corroborative evidence has revealed that man has resorted to an agricultural mode of lifestyle.

A series of rock symbols of close resemblance have been identified in clay pots and stone inscriptions. In a test excavation of the cave, a series of symbols have been found pertaining to the Mesolithic era.

Among them are arrows and crosses with straight lines on the inner walls of the rock caves. The vestiges of the pots indicate that they have been associated between the 10th and 8th centuries BC. The Megalithic pots were reddish black. Difficulties have arisen in attributing a time frame for the rock caves as they are in the upper surface of the cave. Clay pots found at Dorawaka have been found at Ibbankatuwa as well.

Petroglyphs of Dorawka

Dorawaka Petroglyphs (Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register, IV : 1918-1919)
Dorawaka Petroglyphs (Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register, IV : 1918-1919)

These petroglyphs are made on the inner side of the taller slab of the cave. They are situated about 6.5 feet off the floor. Unlike most other sites with cave art where they are drawn with ash, these are scratched into the rock with a tool. In  Sri Lanka, only seven such sites have been discovered, They are the Habbelikanda, Dorawaka and Urakanda petroglyphs sites located in the Ma Oya Valley as well as those at Navagala, Molagoda, Budugala, Dimbulagala.

An Elephant and a calf are clearly recognisable among the scratchings. Others are obscure. One is possibly a land monitor.


  1. Brownings, G.F.R. (1919) ‘Some Rock Drawing at Dorawaka in Kegalla District’, Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register, IV (1918-1919).

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Driving Directions to Dorawaka Ethubandi Cave Prehistoric Site

Route from Colombo to Dorawaka Ethubandi Cave Prehistoric Site
Through : Warakapola
Distance : 67 km
Travel time : 2 hours
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