Kokebe Megalithic Burial Grounds in Yan Oya Valley (කොක්ඇබේ මෙගලිතික සුසාන භූමිය)

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Kokebe is a remote village in the Kahatagasdigiliya Divisional Secretariat Division in the Anuradhapura District. Konwewa is the nearest village to Kokebe.

There are several opinions as to how the village of Kokebe got its name. This village was known as Mahadutuwewa in ancient times. As the village is close to the Yan Oya, the Yan Oya overflows during the rainy season and collects water in a water pit. These are called “Ebe” as in self-made pit in Sinhala. Another view is that the pits were later named “Ebe” because the villagers dipped into these water holes and bathed when water was scarce.

It is also said that when a fair-skinned governor during the British rule came to the village on a hunting expedition and asked the villagers where the storks (koka) were, they told that the storks were in the Ebe (koka ebe) as they didn’t know the language but understood what he was referring to, and that the name of the village had also been changed to Kokebe. It is also believed that the area was named Kokebe because there were many storks in the waterhole (Ebe).

Dr. Shiran Deraniyagala has pointed out that this area which belongs to the Central Yanoya valley has been inhabited by humans since the Middle Stone Age.

Scholars such as R.W. Levers 1885, Raja de Silva and S.K. Sithampalam 1965/66, Sudarshan Seneviratne 1984, Ranjith Dissanayake 2013, report that 25 prehistoric megalithic cemeteries and 6 prehistoric settlements have been found in this area within 1370 square kilometres in this area. Raja de Silva and S.K’. Sithangarampalam has explored Kokebe Megalithic Burial Grounds and identified about 200 cemeteries.

In 2016, the Department of Archeology and Heritage Management, University of Rajarata commenced q research on the Kokebe Megalithic Burial Grounds. The excavations identified about 267 stone burial sites over an area of 10 hectares. In addition to the original burial model, four other types of burial models were found in the cemetery itself.

Types of graves currently found at this site are as follows:

  • Cist burials
  • Cairn heap / Cairn mound burials
  • Cairn circle burials
  • Alignment burials
  • Urn pot burials

This cemetery, which has been used for centuries, shows the transformations that have taken place as the culture of the people of the area changes in the way they bury the dead.

Excavations have unearthed red clay pots of various shapes and over 100 glass beads of blue, green, and purple, as well as several ivory beads and carnelian beads.

Three charcoal samples from these tombs were sent to Beta Analytics in Miami, USA, for carbon dating. The results of these three samples came back as 790, BCE. 770 BCE and 50 CE. The date of 790 BC was from the sample of a Cist Burial tomb which is the common type of stone tombs in the area. The date of 770 BC came from the center of an Alignment Burial Site. Looking at the periods these samples came from, it appears that this cemetery has been in use for at least 850 years.

This is the first time in Sri Lanka that an Alignment Burial Site has been systematically excavated. The excavated site consists of a 15 metre long row of stone slabs. clay urns were placed on either side of these stone slabs. Which end was the beginning of this Alignment Burial Site has not been determined. About 25 clay urns have been found in the excavation area alone. So it seems that this was considered a family cemetery or a public cemetery. The coal samples found in the centre belong to 770 BCE, so the origin of this site must have been around 1000 BC or earlier. If this is the case, then the settlement in the Yan Oya Central Valley must be contemporary with the settlement history of Anuradhapura.

The Cairn heap / Cairn mound burial sites are rare in Sri Lanka. The tomb is built on top of a mound of stones. Similar cemeteries have been found at Kokebe, Parangiyawadiya, Hurulu Nikawewa and Walasmulla.

Kokebe village is 52 km away from Anuradhapura. From Anuradhapura, take the Kahatagasdigiliya road on the Mihintale Road, reach Halmillewa Junction, turn onto the Galenbindunuwewa Road, turn left at the Konwewa Junction to reach the village of Kokebe. The burial ground can be reached by walking 200 meters through the forest past the Kokebe Archeological site preserved here.


  • විතානාච්චි, ච. රෝ. සහ මෙන්ඩිස්, ඩී. තු. , 2017. මධ්‍ය යාන් ඔය නිම්නයේ කොක්එබේ මෙගලිතික සුසානය ආශ්‍රිත පුරාවිද්‍යා කැනීම හා තදාශ්‍රිත ප්‍රදේශයේ පුරාණ මානව ජනාවාසකරණය. 1st ed. මිහින්තලේ: ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජරට විශ්ව විද්‍යාලය.
  • විතානාච්චි, ච. රෝ. සහ මෙන්ඩිස්, ඩී. තු. , 2017. මධ්‍ය යාන්ඔය නිම්නයේ ජනාවාස පුරා විද්‍යාව. 1st ed. මිහින්තලේ: ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජරට විශ්ව විද්‍යාලය.
  • මෙන්ඩිස්, ඩී. තු., 2019. අවුරුදු 3000කට පෙර යාන් ඔය නිම්නය කර්මාන්ත පුරයක් වුණු හැටි. www.silumina.lk, [online] Available at: <http://www.silumina.lk/> [Accessed 11 March 2021].

Also See

Kokebe Megalithic Burial Grounds Map

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Kokebe Megalithic Burial Grounds Travel Directions

Driving Directions of Kokebe Megalithic Burial Grounds
Through : Mihinthale – Kahatagasdigiliya – Halmillewa
Distance : 52 km
Travel time : 1.5 hours
Time to Spend : 30-60 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map

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