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)

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

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

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

Batadomba Lena – A Trek into the Lost World

by Kishanie S. Fernando
Daily Mirror

Out of the tangle of wilderness rose a strange sight. Almost like a page from the lost world.!

We stood and stared. Directly ahead of us. Half way up a sheer rock and through a curtain of water we saw the gaping mouth of a cave. This was the famous Batadomba cave of pre historic fame.

We may have climbed for the last half hour on what seemed an never ending mountain trail puffing and panting slithering on rock and mud, crossing water falls and trying to outrun the leaches that seemed every bit as earnest as we were to demand their share of the prize.

Mother nature was at best all around us The sounds of a water fall lured us from the very beginning. While birds made heavenly music. While the fresh dank smell of earth filled our nostrils.

At last we came to view the source of a maddening rush.. The water gamboled and frolicked on the motley boulders. A huge cube shaped boulder stood directly in the way. Almost leading us to believe it had been chiseled smooth and placed with purpose. The water heaved, leaped and bounded upon it and then from it in utter abundance.

The trees had now become thick around us with wild flower creepers and exotic fernery. Now the leaches were in real earnest. Blood flowed from our legs. A vertical rock ran parallel to our path , easily to be mistaken for man made. Its surface trailing with moss and fern. We seemed to have lost the water way but we never seemed to loose its music. It appeared to be that we stood in a valley. Ahead in between the trees a picture began to form.

And then quite unexpectedly directly before us rose a steep vertical sheet of rock. Its dark features showing intriguing marking.

There was a ledge halfway on which could be seen some caves. One was built with a shielding wall of recent times. From the very top of the rock a thin sheet of water spread and fell into an abyss directly in front of the ledge. It was like a flimsy silver curtain shielding the entrance to the cave and moving softly with the swing moods the wind.

The surrounding tree scape seemed strangely to compliment each other. Wild creepers clung and completely covered tall trees turning them into the most monstrous shapes. We climbed from the side of the rock to the ledge. Three caves spread leisurely along its rocky face. They were large and airy. Archeological Department excavations were apparent in one cave. We sat and removed the bloody leaches that clung on to our legs listening to the absolute silence of mystery broken only by and the sounds of wind on water.

The bulk of the data on pre historic subsistence in Sri Lanka has come from the caves of the wet lowlands Of these sites the two that have produced the best evidence is said to be the Beli lena in Kitulgala and Batadomba lena near Kuruwita.

Batadomba lena excavations carried out very briefly by P.E.P. Deraniyagala in the 1940s revealed remains of the kekuna nuts (and nut stones), an abundance of Acavus and Paludomus snails, a few bones of the mahsier fish, bones of python, lots of bird bones including those of the jungle fowl, and mandibles of monkeys and other small mammals. Although bones of cervids and pig were frequently encountered, their jaws and teeth are said to have been scarce – presumably because the heads of these larger animals were left behind at the kill sites after having divested of their edible parts. The occasional boar tusks that were found were probably used as implements. An assortment of human remains , in a very fragmentary state were also excavated.

S.U. Deraniyagala writing of excavations conducted more extensively later on say that the Batadombalena have yielded a very large quantity of excellently preserved faunal and floral (carbonized) remains from ca 28,500 to 22, 000 and 16,000 to 11,500 A very large quantity of molluscan remains (Acavus and Paludomus) were found and that most of the vertebrates represented are of small and medium size forms such as giant squirrels porcupines and monkeys.

Amongst his many discoveries he says that the discovery of a large marine shell and of a ray’s spine indicates communication with the littoral some 50 kilometers away. The finding of marine molluscan shell fragments suggest that these these had been introduced a items of trade. Evidence from Batadomba lena Indicates that such trade existed from over 16,000 BP.

The numerous grinding stones found at the site several with red ochre ( and some with white chalk ) smears, could have also been used for processing plants for food.


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