Batadomba Lena Caves (බටඳොඹ ලෙන)

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We stopped at a small signboard chalked “Batadomba Lena” hanging from a rafter on a way-side tea boutique. We could have easily missed it. We looked around: where was the road leading to the Batadomba Lena?

Such began the mystery that was to surround us. It was 8 a.m. and a dull morning. We followed our guide and friend Annesley Fernando onto what seemed to me a never-ending mountain side. There was no road, path or recognizable track

From the beginning, the climb showed us little mercy. The kabook gave way to boulders big and small. The leeches were no better. The only sound was of rushing water which accompanied us from the time we started. At last, we came to view its source a stream of water flowing in a maddening rush. The trees had now become thick with wild creepers and exotic ferns

Anesley led us unhesitatingly. At one time our trail ran onto a cliff overlooking the waterway. On another occasion our trail ran alongside its rocky bank, crossing it from side to side, on moss-covered boulders.

The play of water on the boulders was fascinating. At one point a huge cube-shaped boulder stood directly in its way and the water bounded off it in utter recklessness to rejoin its flow.

Now the leeches were in real earnest.

Another time we were making our way along the side of a high moss and fern-covered rock wall — which could have easily been mistaken for a man-made one.

Then we seemed to have left the waterway but we never seemed to lose its music. We seemed to be standing in a valley. Ahead, in between the trees, began the forming of a picture — but not green this time.

Batadomba Lena
Batadomba Lena

And then, quite unexpectedly, a steep vertical sheet of rock rose directly in front of us. Its dark features showed intriguing markings, colour combinations, texture and design. There was a ledge halfway up, on which could be seen the caves.

From the very top of the rock, a thin sheet of water fell into an abyss directly in front of the ledge. It was like a flimsy silver curtain shielding the entrance to the cave and blowing softly in the wind.

The surrounding treescape seemed strange to complement each other. Wild creepers clung and completely covered tall trees making the weirdest shapes, which could easily be mistaken for some pre-historic monster.

A perfect page from The Lost World! A thrilling prospect. !

Out of the tangle of the wilderness rose this sight of absolute rugged beauty, typical of a lost world. A unique creation of nature! A picture framed by the dull sky added to an even poignant atmosphere. And enveloping it all was the silence of mystery.

It was a photographer’s challenge. The pictures reproduced here are by Anesley, who seemed to appear and disappear trying to take that perfect shot. We trekked onto the side of the rock to climb up to the ledge and crept through a natural arch made of wild creepers. The three caves were spread out along the rocky face. They were large and airy. The Archaeological Department excavations were apparent in one cave.

We sat and removed the bloody leeches that clung onto our legs listening to the absolute silence broken only by the drip of water. We stood on the ledge and looked directly ahead into a valley which rose again up to another jungle-clad mountain peak.

A variety of trees seemed to grow in absolute abandonment. In the most unruly of creepers grew the most delicate flowers — of unearthly beauty. We saw a blushing pink flower — so frail amongst all the maddening wildness. And another lilac-coloured one hiding in confusion attracted my attention.

It was time to make our trek back, this time thankfully downhill all the way. As usual, it was even more attractive the second time around.

We stopped shortly to admire a tree which had a screw-like appearance. Then again to try and identify a bird. And all the while the dramatic approach picture of the Batadomba Lena kept flashing in my mind. – even as I write, with every muscle in my body being challenged to experience it. And my imagination running riot.

The abode of the Balangoda Apeman.

Batadomba lena, or cave, is associated with the Balangoda Apeman or the Balangoda Manawaya.

Anatomically modern, prehistoric human remains found in Sri Lanka are commonly referred to as Balangoda Man. The term seems to have derived from his being responsible for the Mesolithic ‘Balangoda Culture’ which was first defined in sites near Balangoda.

According to scientists he stood at an estimated height of 174 cm for males and 166 cm for females. The bones are robust, with thick skull bones, prominent brow-ridges, depressed noses, heavy jaws and short necks. The teeth are conspicuously large.

Scholars have also found that the tool kit of Balangoda Man is distinguished by the occurrence of geometric microliths, comprising small (less than 4 cm long) flakes of quartz and (rarely) chert, fashioned into stylised lunate, triangular and trapezoidal forms

S. U. Deraniyagala, Former Director-General of Archaeology, in Sri Lanka says that such geometric microliths have traditionally been considered the hallmark of the Mesolithic period as first defined in Europe. The earliest date for the geometric microlithic tradition in Europe is around 12,000 BP. Hence it came as a surprise when such tools were found as early as 31,000 BP at Batadomba Lena and even at other sites, like the two coastal sites in Bundala and at Beli-lena.

The occurrence of marine shells in inland sites such as Batadomba Lena is also interesting and, according to scholars, points to an extensive network of contacts between the coast and the hinterland.

In Sri Lanka, Fa–Hien Lena has yielded the earliest evidence at 37,000 BP of anatomically modern man in South Asia, followed by Batadomba Lena at 31,000 followed, in turn, by Beli lena. The dating of these caves has been done by radiocarbon assays, using charcoal.

The human remains from Batadomba Lena were studied at Cornell University, USA.

Batadomba Lena can be reached by travelling 2 km along the Eratna road which is linked to the Colombo Ratnapura road at Eratna junction and proceeding a further distance of approximately 4.5 km along Guruluwana road. The trek leading to the cave we were told was about 1km in distance and had to be traversed on foot.

by Kishanie S. Fernando
Daily Mirror

Also See

Map of Batadomba Lena Caves

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travel Directions to Batadomba Lena Caves

Route from Colombo to Batadomba Lena Caves
Via : Awissawella – Kuruwita
distance : 90 km
Travel time : 2.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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