Manniththalai Sand Bar Ancient Settlement and Archaeological Sites

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Manniththalai is a long strip of sandy land projecting out to the sea from the mainland just below the Jaffna peninsula. Another sand bar, Ariyalai runs in parallel to Manniththalai originating from the bottom of the Jaffna peninsula. This section of the land has a coastal line of 45 kilometres covering 3 sides.

Dr. Ponnampalam Ragupathy in his PhD thesis and its publication as “Early settlements in Jaffna : An Archaeological Survey” in 1987 records 2 archaeologically important sites on this sandy stretch, both lying in the Manniththalai area.

The Manniththalai sand bar is visible from the Jaffna city, but is one of the remote areas of the District with sparse population. lt can be clearly seen from the Ariyalai East archaeological sites. The whole stretch is full of high, shifting sand dunes tall enough to cover huge trees and palmyras.

Pottery distribution is observed sporadically along the 15 km. sand bar stretch that projects towards Jaffna city from Punakari. Vettukkatu, Kavutarimunai, Manniththalai and Kottuppanivu are some of the spots where intensive distribution of artifacts was noticed during our survey.

At Vettukkatu, along the southern coast, Thick Rim Red Ware was found along with Chinese and Islamic ware. Certain spots here yielded a few microlithic flakes and fluted cores of chert and quartz. At Kautarimunai Grooved Rim Ware, was seen along with a very late Black and Red Ware. Many pieces of terracotta smoking pipes were also found here. GRW was found near the near the Manniththalai church too.

The earliest type of pottery in the whole stretch was obtained at Kottuppanivu, located between the Manniththalai church and Kalmunai, the tip of the sand bar. This site is covered with sand dunes in all directions and both the Palk Strait and the Jaffna lagoon could be seen from here. Artifacts like the Early Carinated Black and Red Ware, Historic BRW, Rouletted Ware, Thick Rim Red Ware, lakshmi plaques and beads were found along with structural remains like socket stones of pillars, tiles, etc.

During our first visit, two or three shell-rubble mounds were observed in the spot where we collected ECBRW pieces, but they could not be seen during our second visit, after a year; they may have been covered by the shifting sand dunes.

Out of these pottery sites, Dr. Ragupathy records finding a lot more artefacts including base socket stones of buildings and tiles at Kottuppanivu. Further, he observes, two or three shell-rubble mounds at this site which have been covered during his second visit. These possibly could be stupa mounds of ancient times and expose an unknown history of the Jaffna peninsula. The few pieces of Early Carinated Black and Red Pottery, pieces of Rouletted Ware, and Lakshmi plaques easily date this site around the dawn of the Christian era, if not earlier.

The following items are recorded as being discovered at the Kottuppanivu site in addition to the pottery.

  1. Iron nails and tools (60 nails were found)
  2. Iron slags
  3. Rubbing stones: granite, sandstones; one seems to be made out of Deccan trap stone.
  4. Socket stone of a pillar
  5. Grooved tiles
  6. Carnelian beads and paste beads
  7. Blue glass beäds
  8. Orange glass beads
  9. Green glass beads
  10. Glass imitation of shell beads; green and yellow
  11. Fragments of other beads
  12. Fragment of a Lakshmi plaque coin
  13. Fragment of a coin with Swastika mark
  14. A Roman coin
  15. Fragment of a coin, unidentified
  16. Three microlithic flakes; (quartz and chert)

The following items have been listed as found from the Kautarimunai site other than pottery

  1. Iron nail
  2. Iron slags
  3. Terracotta and stone smoking pipes (a number of them were collected)
  4. Conch shell with a hole on one side
  5. A microlithic flutted core of chert
  6. Carnelian and paste beads

The locations of the above-mentioned archaeological import sites on the Manniththalai Sand Bar are given as follows,

Vettukkatu9°33’00″N 80°08’00″E
Mannittalai9°35’10″N, 80°05’25″E
Kautarimunai9°33’55″N, 80°07’10″E
Kottuppanivu9°35’30″N, 80°04’25″E

This report is now over 40 years old and during the Tamil Terrorist war which lasted for over 30 years, whether any remains can be found is doubtful. However, the respective authorities should research such places and preserve any ancient heritage for future generations.


  • Ragupathy, P., 1987. Early settlements in Jaffna : An Archaeological Survey. 1st ed. Madras: Sudarsan Graphics.

Also See

Map of Manniththalai Sand Bar Kottuppanivu Ancient Settlement Site

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Driving Directions to Manniththalai Sand Bar Kottuppanivu Ancient Settlement Site

From Colombo to Jaffna (route 1) From Colombo to Jaffna (route 2)
Through : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Time to travel   : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : click here for Google Map
Through : Puttalam – Silawathura – Pooneryn 
Distance : 365 km
Time to travel   : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : click here for Google Map 
Jaffna town to Manniththalai Sand Bar Kottuppanivu Ancient Settlement Site
Through :
Distance : 11 km
Time to travel  : 20 mins
Driving Directions : click here for Google Map


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