Mayakkai Prehistoric Limestone Caves in Jaffna (යාපනය මායක්කායි ප්‍රාග් ඓතිහාසික හිරිගල් ගුහා)

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Mayakkai is a remote village about 4 km off Point Pedro in Jaffna Peninsula, Sri Lanka. Hidden among the houses and shrub jungles of this village lies a couple of forgotten limestone caves which could potentially rewrite the history of the prehistoric era in Sri Lanka.

These limestone caves have been subject to scrutiny several times by archaeologists. The first time any prehistoric tools at the site were found was during an inspection in 1983. Here three hand axes were found on the surface of the caves. However, the interest in the caves subsided thereafter due to the Tamil Tiger Terrorists’ activities in the area.

With the final defeat of the LTTE terrorists in 2009, the government took full control of the Jaffna Peninsula and Dr Nimal Perera, the additional director of the Archaeology Department had the opportunity to inspect these axes in 2010. According to him, these hand axes belong to the type Acheulean tools.

Acheulean tool is an archaeological industry of stone tool manufacture characterized by distinctive oval and pear-shaped “hand-axes” associated with Homo Erectus. The primary innovation associated with Acheulean hand axes is that the stone was worked symmetrically and on both sides. For the latter reason, handaxes are, along with cleavers, bifacially worked tools that could be manufactured from the large flakes themselves or from prepared cores.

It is thought that Acheulean technologies first developed about 1.76 million years ago.  In Europe and Western Asia, early Neanderthals adopted Achaeulean technology, transitioning to more advanced tools by about 160,000 years ago.

Again group of research students from Rajarata University inspected this site and found another stone tool in the cave.

So far the earliest evidence of prehistoric settlements in Sri Lanka has been found in Bundala and has been dated to around 125,000 BP. Although this was the first time Acheulean tools which could potentially push back the early settlements to the era of Homo Erectus were found in Sri Lanka, interest in these caves has died down again.

The tools found at the site have not been scientifically dated so far. Some even doubt if these items had been brought to this location from somewhere else since these items have been found on the surface. To obtain a proper understanding, a scientific excavation needs to be carried out at this site which has not happened so far.

Unfortunately, the limestone which the caves are made of is a building material for the villagers and its said most of the caves are now damaged compared to a few years ago.  The site is also is being used as a garbage dump by the villagers destroying the caves. It is said that it was possible to walk into the caves which split into two after some length but the caves are now half buried with earth and debris.

Also See

Map of  Mayakkai Prehistoric Limestone 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

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

Traveling directions to Mayakkai Prehistoric Limestone Caves

Travel directions from Jaffna town to Mayakkai Prehistoric Limestone Caves

Distance : 30 km
Travel time : 1 hour
Time to spend : 15-30 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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