Kokebe Archaeological Reserve and Megalithic Burial Ground – කොක්එබේ පුරාවිද්‍යා භූමිය

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Monastic Ruins of Kokabe
Monastic Ruins of Kokabe
Image source : www.lanka-excursions-holidays.com

Anuradhapura District is dotted with ancient archaeology sites scattered all over the district rarely known by general public. To find these you need to go off the common roads and need to travel through interior roads where archaeological boards pop up every few hundred meters.

Kokebe Archaeological site is such a site which has been cleared and conserved off the beaten track. Located far off any current civilization, you can reach the site through Mahiyangana road from Anuradhapura or through Palugaswewa from Habarana.  The site is far way from the common pilgrim paths thus rarely visited by anybody. Kokebe is written in number of ways,  කොක්එබේ, කොක්-එබේ, කොක්ඇබේ and කොක් ඇබේ in Sinhala and Kokabe, Kok Abe, Kokebe or Kok Ebe in English.

A Bodhigara (tree house), Stupa, Pratimagara (image house) and number of other buildings have been conserved by the archaeological department at  the site.

Based on the pre brahmin scripts found inscribed on the cave ledges, this Aramaic complex has been dated to pre christian times (early Anuradhapura period)  even tough the builder is unknown. The remains seen today has been dated to several periods indicating that several kings of different eras had contributed to the development of this complex. Brick balustrades at the entrance to the buildings is also interesting since steps and balustrades are almost always built with stone during the Anuradhapura era.

Edmund Godakumbura (1907-77), who was the Commissioner of Archaeology in Ceylon from 1956 to 1967 has put forward a alternative to one building being the Bodhigara and says it could have been a Asanagrara ( throne house). Before the time of building Buddha statue, devotees used stone slabs carved with the feet of Buddha (Sri Pathul Gala) or large flat stone slabs (Asana) as aniconic representations of Buddha. Like image houses, Asanagara were buildings which housed these Asana which were worshiped as the representation of Buddha himself. These were gradually phased out around the 1st century with he appearance of the first Buddha statues. Godakumbura believes that the large stone slab now lying in the building believed to be Bodhigara could be an Asana thus the building could have been in fact a Asanagara. It is also possible that this building housed both these venerated objects.

On the opposite southern side of the Kokabe village lies a rocky outcrop scattered with evidence of a monastery. On one rock lies a Gal Enda, a rock bed where the rock surface has been smoothed within a rectangle creating a bed on the rock. There is also a rock inscription protected by a iron fence close this rock bed.  The inscription is has faded with time. This inscription mentions of an administrative officer appointed by the king in Anuradhapura.

Kokabe had already been identified as megalithic burial ground by 1980’s. A research carried out by Raja De Silva and K.S Sithrampalam mentions that there are about 200 burials at Kokabe. In a 1982 report by Dr. Shiran Deraniyagla, chipped rocks which could have been stone tools have been discovered by him at the Vawul Lena cave in Koabe. In 1984, Sudarshan Senevirathne had reported of Cist Burials covering an area of 10-15 acres of land based on his research.

The most recent study of the Kokabe megalithic burial ground was carried out by the Rajarata University in 2016.  The initial study of the site has exposed about 267 burial sites with exposed rocks covering an area of about 25 acres. In addition to the Cist Burials discovered earlier, four more types of burials using stones were discovered.  Some burials were in the form of Cairn Mounds (Cairn Heaps), some in the form of Cairn Circles, some in the form of Alighed Burials and some in the form of Urn Pots.

Three of the discovered sites were further excavated and black and red pottery ware  of various shapes, over 100 various coloured glass marbles and ivory marbles which were deposited with the remains of humans as grave goods had been discovered. Three charcoal samples from the pits were sent to USA for carbon dating and they had been dated to 790BC, 770BC and 50AD indicating that this burial ground had been used for at least 850 years  from 800 BC upto 50 AD. This is also the oldest dated Megalithic Burial Ground found in the country so far.

Monastic Ruins of Kokabe
Monastic Ruins of Kokebe
Photo by : Dhanuska Suranjan Jayamaha

Also See

Map of Kokebe Archaeological Reserve

ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින් - Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map -

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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Driving Directions to Kokebe Archaeological Reserve

Route from Anuradhapura to Kokabe Archaeological Reserve

Route from Habarana to Kokabe Archaeological Reserve

Though : Mihinthale – Kahatagasdigiliya – Konwewa
Distance : 45 km
Travel time : 1 hour
Time to spend : 1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Galenbindunuwewa
distance : 60 km
Travel time : 1.30 hours
Time to spend : 1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map

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