Pleistocene Hunter-Gatherer subsistence in Sri Lanka

Pleistocene cave Alawala excavations

Long-term cave occupations in the tropical forest

The origin of Eurasian and Australasian H. sapiens is a major topic in palaeoanthropological and genetic research, with issues relating to the timing and routes of dispersal events out -of-Africa, the toolkits used by dispersing groups, and the behaviours that facilitated human adaptation to novel, extra-African habitats.

Sri Lanka is of particular interest because it represents the first Eutropical forest settings that modern humans encountered after leaving Africa, and its caves afford well preserved archaeological sequences from at least 40,000 BP through the early Holocene.

This research project is reinvestigating Pleistocene sites, especially caves, in Sri Lanka, including new stratigraphic recording and excavation, detailed sedimentological and soil micomorphology (based in Stirling), faunal analysis (Colombo), lithics (Colombo, Oxford) and archaeobotany, including macro-remains and phytoliths (work based at UCL). At present some pilot work one cave is being completed, while a major funding application for further work is pending.

This project is interlinked with the SEALINKS project and Out of Africa into Asia research network.

Related outputs

  • Nimal H Perera; Nikos Kourampas; Ian A Simpson; Siran U Deraniyagala; David Bulbeck; Johan Kamminga; Jude Perera; Dorian Fuller; Katherine Szab√≥; Nuno V Oliveira [in press]. People of the ancient rainforest: Late Pleistocene foragers at the Batadomba-lena rockshelter, Sri Lanka. Journal of Human Evolution (forthcoming, accepted Feb 2011).

Project Leader:

Project Partners:

  • Dr. Nikos Kourampas & Professor Ian Simpson, University of Stirling (Geoarchaeology)
  • Nimal H Perera, Govt. Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka
  • Prof. Gamini Adikiri, Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Michael Petraglia, Oxford University Research Lab for Archaeology and the History of Art


Further information:

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