Who cited Dr. Siran Deraniyagala and for what?

PE Peiris, PEP Deraniyagala and SU Deraniyagala was the legendary trilogy of Sri Lankan academia. The secrets of Sri Lankan past are not revealed easily. Their scientific striving to uncover the past of this island unfolded like an epic saga. They are still pointing us their fingers to examine the vast hinterland that remains to be discovered. 
Dr. Siran Deraniyagala, In front of his residencies, Ekneligida Walauwa, Kuruvita. Photo Credit: Thilnka Siriwardena & Pramuditha Munasinghe
Dr. Siran Deraniyagala must be the most influential archaeologist in Sri Lanka after Prof. Senarth Paranavitana. Introducing a new historical paradigm to the Sri Lankan past, undoubtedly, it was only he who presented a systematic – theoretical framework to the Sri Lankan past and tested a hypothesis through several decades until it developed into general acceptance. The results of the quest have been momentous. If someone seriously examines his landmark publication of 1992, they will be able to find a road map to the future studies and pointers to raise new questions.  What was his influence on local, regional and international academia? A briefing of some facts we gathered to think of this will be presented below. With the hope of the usability of these facts, we would like to invite the readers to rethink the sufficiency of our reading of Deraniyagala. Did we lose him twice?

1. Reviews and works mainly focused on Deraniyagala’s research findings

The pioneering work of Siran Deraniyagala (1992) exploring microlithic tool-using populations within the tropical rainforests of central Sri Lanka, comparative perspectives from elsewhere are not yet available (Coningham and Young, 2015, 9).
A review of Deraniyagala (1992) by Sinopoli (1994). The reviewer briefing the chapter contents and the dates given in the text with an appraise of the ethnological – ecological approach.
A review of Solheim and Deraniyagala, 1972, by Vimala Begley, 1975. Commending Deraniyagala’s artefact typology and questioning Solheim’s conclusion of influence of the SE Asian urn burial tradition to Sri Lanka. Archaeological Survey to Investigate Southeast
Roberts and others (2015) provide a lengthy review of the Sri Lankan microlithic tradition and Homo sapien adaptations in Sri Lanka by citing Deraniyagala’s several works (over 90 citations).
Lewis and others (2014) attempted to do a comparative study Southern African Howiesons Poort and South Asian Microlithic industries by citing Deraniyagala’s several works.

2. The prehistoric culture and the physical anthropology

Referring 1971 – Prehistoric Ceylon – A summary (Ancient Ceylon 1 (1) 3-46)  Anderson says (1985, 03, 59) the Vedda (aboriginal Sri Lankans) closely has links with the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.
referring 1992, Prehistory of Sri Lanka – hunting/gathering/fishing economies dominated the island until essentially the Late Holocene (Murphy et al., 2018, 89)
Anatomically modern Homo sapien skeletons dating to 34,000 years ago in microlitherous cave sites in Sri Lanka record of human evolution in South Asia that is contemporary Cro Magnon people of Europe – Deraniyagala, 1992 (Kennedy, 2003, 354)
Prehistoric hunters of Sri Lanka are unique as they colonise a wide variety of environments among a backdrop of changing climates and inter hominin contacts/ The suggestion of that microlith technologies alongside bone technologies and ochre use appeared in Sri Lanka earlier than they did in Europe. The base for questioning the personal ornaments, potential projectile technologies and other forms of material culture provides insight into how human societies negotiated the South Asian tropics during the Late Pleistocene. (Deraniyagala as a co-author in Roberts et al., 2015, Roberts et al., 2017, Wedage et al., 2019a, Wedage et al., 2019b, Perera et al., 2019) cited by Langley et al., 2020
A total review of the prehistory of Sri Lanka by using the dates and technological phases of the prehistory of Sri Lanka presented by Deraniayagala (1992, 2007) cited by Perera, 2014
Deraniyagala’s lithic typology and chronology in 1992 cited by (Perera et al., 2011)
Homo sapien evolution and populating different regions in different periods. The Batadombalena as fine  evidence of a sophisticated tool industry in the southern latitude and its dates (in Kennedy and Deraniyagala, 1989) cited by Aiello, 1993, 87
The biologically and behaviourally modern humans in South Asia as reported from Batadombalena (In Kennedy and Deraniyagala, 1989), cited by Habgood and Franklin, 2008
Recent updates about the Microlithic phase (in Kourampas et al., 2009 and Perera et al., 2011) cited by Haslam et al., 2011
Batadombalena microlithic findings and dates (in Deraniyagala, 1992) cited by Mellars, 2006; Mellars et al., 2013

3. Cultural transition

Referring Deraniyagala, 2004 – Stone age was followed directly by the early Iron Age in the 1st millennium BC (Murphy et al., 2018, 89)
The cultural transition of Sri Lanka during the protohistoric period and aftermath (Coningham and Young, 2015, several citations)
An analysis of Deraniyagala’s (1990) Brahmic scripts reported from the Anuradhapura citadel along with the novel findings (Coningham et al., 1996)

4. Deraniyagala’s ecological approach

referring 1992, Prehistory of Sri Lanka – The environmental characteristics of ecozones in Sri Lanka (Murphy et al., 2018, 89)
Deraniyagala as the pioneer of ”total archaeology’ by conducting his research through an ecological perspective of the prehistory of Sri Lanka on a wide range of non-archaeological as well as archaeological data (Juleff, 48)
Perhaps the most useful account of the island’s climate is that by Deraniyagala (Juleff, 1996, 53)
”The firm association of human remains and artefacts with well-preserved animal and plant remains affords potential proxies for changing Late Pleistocene environments and allows us to situate Late Pleistocene subsistence, technological innovation and symbolic practices in their dynamic ecological context” citing Deraniyagala, 1992 by (Perera et al., 2011, 257)
Mentioning Deraniyagala’s synthesis (1992) of palaeoenvironment and the notion of the development of the rain-fed agriculture in Sri Lanka was associated with the Late Holocene humid climate (Premathilake and Risberg, 2003)
impact of annual rainfall changes as revealed from the cave deposits, archaeological deposits and organic accumulations in the interior of the island of Sri Lanka and dune areas along the coast is coherent with twists and turns of early human settlements and civilisation in Deraniyagala, 1992 (Cited by Premathilake, 2006, 486)
The underestimation of starchy staples and use of various other plants in the radiocarbon dated botanical remains and the sediment stratigraphies at subaerial and cave sites and the upper montane and lowland rainforests emphasised by Premthilake and others (2017, 481) by citing (Kourampas et al., 2009; Perera et al., 2011; Roberts et al., 2015)
Conningham and Young (2015, 39) using Deraniyagala’s ecological zone descriptions in their work to describe Sri Lanka.
Varied subsistence strategies of prehistoric hunter-gatherers in Sri Lanka who lived in various ecozones from North-western coastal to mountain region as well as their unique cultural practices by citing Deraniyagala, 1992, (Coningham and Young, 2015, 311)

5. Anuradhapura citadel excavation/ Pottery typology/Metallurgy

Origin of Roulletted ware, ” already Deraniyagala 1972: 104˜. suggested a northern Indian origin due to the evident and visible similarity in texture” (Schenk, 2006, 127)
Anuradhapura Citadel pottery typology by Deraniyagala (1972), (Schenk, 2001_many citations)
Anuradhapura citadel, pottery and metallurgy in Deraniyagala 1972, 1984, 1992 (Juleff, 2009, 559, 563., 1996, many citations)
A briefing of Deraniyagala’s Anuradhapura citadel excavation of Deraniyagala (1972, 1984, 1990) by Coningham and Young, 2015, 392)
Rouletted ware in Sri Lanka and dates, Deraniyagala, 1972 cited by Begley, 1983
The protohistoric cultural transitions in Anuradhapura, Deraniyagala, 1972, by Abeyaratne, 1999

6. Coastal sites

Prehistoric hunter-gatherers ecological adaptations and the coastal habitations in Deraniyagala’s 1992) (in Kulathilake et al.,)
Pathirajawela site 50 (Deraniyagala, 1992) as a special case when considering the rarity of early coastal sites in the rim of Indian Ocean, cited and commended by Bulbeck, 2007, 319

7. Radiocarbon dates/retesting sites

Retesting radiocarbon dates of Deraniyagala (by Langley et al., 2011)
Batadombalena dates (Kennedy and Deraniyagala, 1989) comparing with the Australian dates by Field and Lahr, 2005,
The radiocarbon dates of microlithic in the dune formations of Sri Lanka, nature of the sites and the findings (Deraniyagala, 1992) are comparing with those of South India by Selavakumar, 2002
Dates of Microlithic tradition in Sri Lanka and oldest homo sapien evidence in South Asia (in Deraniyagala, 1992) cited by Haslam et al., 2010; Jones and Pal, 2009
Simpson and others (2008) retesting Bellanbandipalassa radiocarbon dates and sedimentation process (Citing Deraniyagala and Kennedy, 1972;  Deraniyagala, 1992)

8. Cave excavations and findings

Cave excavations and archaeobotanical findings/Some taphonomy related issues by Deraniyagala, 1992, cited by Premathilake and Hunt, 2018
Chauhan (2008, 32) briefing Deraniyagala’s (1992) account of artefacts recovered from the prehistoric caves in Sri Lanka (it should note that Chauhan mainly referring PEP Deraniyagala’s records of palaeontological remains reported from Rathanapura beds mentioned in Deraniyagala, 1992)


Abeyaratne, Nilu, 1999, The role of caste hierarchy in the spatial organisation of a village landscape in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, The archaeology and anthropology of landscape: Shaping your landscape, Edited by Peter J.Ucko and Robert Layton, Routledge

Aiello, Leslie, 1993, The Fossil Evidence for Modern Human Origins in Africa: A Revised View, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 95, No. 1 (Mar., 1993), pp. 73-96

Anderson, Dart Jon, 1985, Ethnic identity and marginality among the coast Veddas of Sri Lanka, PhD, University of California, San Diego

Begley, Vimala, 1975, A review of Archaeological Survey to Investigate South-East Asian Prehistoric Presence in Ceylon by Wilhelm G. Solheim; S. Deraniyagala, American Anthropologist, 09 Vol. 77; Iss. 3

Begley, Vimala, 1983, Arikamedu Reconsidered, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 87, No. 4, pp. 461-481

Bulbeck, David, 2007, Where river meets sea: a parsimonious model for Homo sapiens colonisation of the Indian Ocean Rim and Sahul, Current Anthropology, Volume 48, Number 2,

Chauhan, Parth, 2008, Large mammal fossil occurrences and associated archaeological evidence in Pleistocene contexts of peninsular India and Sri Lanka, Quaternary International 192: 20–42

Coningham, Robin, Allchin, RR, Batt, CM and Lucy, D, 1996, Passage to India? Anuradhapura and the Early Use of the Brahmi Script, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 6:1 (1996), pp. 73-97

Coningham, Robin and Young, Ruth, 2015. The archaeology of South Asia: From the Indus to Asoka, c. 6500 BCE–200 CE, Cambridge University Press

Habgood, Phillip and Franklin, Natalie, 2008, The revolution that didn’t arrive: A review of Pleistocene Sahul, Journal of Human Evolution

Haslam, Michael and others, A southern Indian Middle Palaeolithic occupation surface sealed by the 74 ka Toba eruption: Further evidence from Jwalapuram Locality 22, Quaternary International

Haslam, Michael, Clarkson, Chris, Petraglia, Michael, Korisettar, Ravi, B., Janardhana, Boivin, Nicole, Ditchfield, Peter, Jones, Sacha, and Mackay, Alex ,2010. Indian lithic technology prior to the 74,000 BP Toba super-eruption: Searching for an early modern human signature. The upper Palaeolithic revolution in global perspective: Papers in honour of Sir Paul Mellars. Edited by Katherine V. Boyle, Clive Gamble, Ofer Bar-Yosef, and James Barrett. Cambridge, Cambridge University.73-84.

Jones, Sacha and Pal J.N, 2009, The Palaeolithic of the Middle Son valley, north-central India: Changes in hominin lithic technology and behaviour during the Upper Pleistocene, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 28, pp. 323–341

Lewis, Laura, Perera, Nimal and Petraglia, Michael, 2014, First technological comparison of Southern African Howiesons Poort and South Asian Microlithic industries: An exploration of inter-regional variability in microlithic assemblages, Quaternary International, Vol. 350, pp. 7-25

Mellars, Paul, 2006, Going East: New Genetic and Archaeological Perspectives on the Modern Human Colonization of Eurasia, Science, Vol. 13

Mellars, Paul, Gori, Kevin, Carr, Martin, Soares, Pedro and Richards, Martin, 2013, Genetic and archaeological perspectives on the initial modern human colonisation of Southern Asia, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 110, No. 26, pp. 10699-10704

Murphy, Charlene, et al., 2018, Early agriculture in Sri Lanka: New Archaeobotanical analyses and radiocarbon dates from the early historic sites of Kirinda and Kantharodai (Kandarodai), Archaeological Research in Asia 16 (2018) 88–102

Roberts, Patrick, Boivin, Nicole and Petraglia, Michael, 2015, The Sri Lankan’ Microlithic’ Tradition c. 38,000 to 3,000 Years Ago: Tropical Technologies and Adaptations of Homo sapiens at the Southern Edge of Asia, Journal of World Prehistory

Schenk, Heidrun, 2006, The Dating and Historical Value of Rouletted Ware, Zeitschrift für Archäologie Außereuropäischer Kulturen 1 (123-152)

Schenk, Heidrun, 2001. The Development of Pottery at Tissamaharama.In: H.-J. Weisshaar / H. Roth / W. Wijeyapala(eds.), Ancient Ruhuna. Sri Lankan – German Archaeological Project in the Southern Province, Vol. 1 (= Materialien zur Allgemeinenund Vergleichenden Archäologie, Band 58),pp. 59–195. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern

Juleff, G., 2009, Technology and Evolution: A Root and Branch View of Asian Iron from First-MillenniumBC Sri Lanka to Japanese Steel, World Archaeology, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp.557-577

Juleff, G, 1996, Early iron and steel in Sri Lanka; A study of the Samanalawewa Area, PhD thesis, University College, Institute of Archaeology, University of London

Kennedy, Kenneth, 2003, The Uninvited Skeleton at the Archaeological Table: The Crisis of Paleoanthropology in South Asia in the Twenty-first Century, Asian Perspectives, Vol. 42, No. 2

Langley ,Michelle et al, 2020, Bows and arrows and complex symbolic displays 48,000 years ago in the South Asian tropics, Science Advances, 6

Perera, Nimal, 2014. Prehistoric Sri Lanka, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 2, pp. 23-41

Premathilake, Rathnasiri and Hunt, Chris, 2018, Late Pleistocene humans in Sri Lanka used plant resources: A phytolith record from Fahien rock shelter, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 505, 1–17

Premathilakea Rathnasiri and Risberg Jan, 2003, Late Quaternary climate history of the Horton Plains,Central Sri Lanka, Quaternary Science Reviews 22, 1525–1541

Selavakumar, V, 2002, Hunter-Gatherer Adaptations in Madurai Region, Tamil Nadu, India: From c. 10,000 b.p. to c. a.d. 500, Asian Perspectives, Vol. 41, No. 1

Simpson, Ian, Kourampas, Nikos and Perera, Nimal, 2008, Bellan-bandi Palassa, Sri Lanka: Formation processes of a Mesolithic open-air site identified through thin section micromorphology, Archaeologia, 4

Sinopoli, Carla, 1994, Sri Lankan prehistory revealed, a review, American Anthropologist, 96

Siran Deraniyagala – Some selected authored or co-authored works

Deraniyagala, S. U., 1972,  The Citadel of Anuradhapura 1969: Excavations in the Gedige Area. In: Ancient Ceylon 2: 48–168.

Deraniyagala, SU, 1984 A classificatory system for ceramics in Sri Lanka. Ancient Ceylon 5, 109- 114.

Deraniyagala, S.U., 1984, Mesolithic stone tool technology at 28,000 BP in Sri Lanka, Ancient Ceylon 5, 105-108.

Deraniyagala , S. U. 1986 . ‘Excavations in the citadel of Anuradhapura: Gedige 1984, a preliminary report’. Ancient Ceylon 6 : 39 – 48 .

Deraniyagala, S.U., 1986. Pleistocene coastal sediments in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka: chronology, palaeo-environment and technology. Ancient Ceylon 6, 49-62.

Deraniyagala, S.U., 1988. The Prehistory of Sri Lanka: an Ecological Perspective (PhD thesis). Harvard University Microfilm, publication no. 8820579, Ann Arbor.

Deraniyagala, SU, 1990 . ‘Radiocarbon dating of early Brahmi script in Sri Lanka: 600–500 BC’. Ancient Ceylon 11 : 149 – 168 Deraniyagala, S.U., 2004. Prehistoric Basis for the Rise of Civilisation in Sri Lanka and Southern India: Second Vesak Commemoration Lecture. Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission, Chennai.

Deraniyagala, S.U. 1990. The proto- and early historic radiocarbon chronology of Sri Lanka. Ancient Ceylon 12, 251–92.

Deraniyagala, S. U. 1992. The Prehistory of Sri Lanka: An Ecological Perspective. Memoir 8. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Department

Deraniyagala, S. U. (1998). Pre- and protohistoric settlement in Sri Lanka. In XIII UISP congress proceedings (Vol. 5, pp. 277–285). Forli: A.B.A.C.O. s.r.l.

Deraniyagala, SU, 2007, The prehistory and protohistory of Sri Lanka. In The Art and Archaeology of Sri Lanka, 1: 1 -96. Prematilleke, L, S. Bandaranayake, S.U. Deraniyagala and R. Silva (eds.), Colombo: Central Cultural Fund.

Deraniyagala, S.U. and Kennedy, K.A.R. (1972) Bellan Bandi Palassa 1970: A Mesolithic burial site in Ceylon. Ancient Ceylon. Journal of the Archaeological Survey Department of Ceylon, 2: 18-47.

Kennedy, Kenneth and Deraniyagala, Siran, 1989, Fossil Remains of 28,000-Year-Old Hominids from Sri Lanka, Current Anthropology, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 394-399

Kennedy, Kenneth and SU Deraniyagala, 1989, Fossil Remains of 28,000-Year-Old Hominids from Sri Lanka, Current Anthropology, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Jun., 1989), pp. 394-399

Kennedy, K.A.R., Deraniyagala, S.U., Roertgen, W.J., Chiment, J., Disotell, T., 1987, Upper Pleistocene fossil hominids from Sri Lanka. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 72 (4), 441-461.

Kourampas, N., Simpson, I.A., Perera, N., Deraniyagala, S.U., Wijeyapala, W.H., 2009. Rockshelter sedimentation in a dynamic tropical landscape: Late Pleistocene–Early Holocene archaeological deposits in Kitulgala Beli-lena, southwestern Sri Lanka. Geoarchaeology 24, 677–714.

Kulatilake, Samanthi, Nimal Perera, SU Deraniyagala and Jude Perera, The Discovery and Excavation of a Human Burial from the Mini-athiliya Shell Midden in Southern Sri Lanka

Perera, N., N. Kourampas, I. A. Simpson, S. U. Deraniyagala, D. Bulbeck, J. Kamminga, J. Perera, D. Q. Fuller, K. Szabó, N. V. Oliveira, 2011 People of the ancient rainforest: Late Pleistocene foragers at the Batadomba-lena rockshelter, Sri Lanka. J. Hum. Evol. 61, 254–269

Perera, Nimal, Nikos Kourampas, Ian A. Simpson, Siran U. Deraniyagala, David Bulbeck, Johan Kamminga, Jude Perera, Dorian Q. Fuller, Katherine Szabó, Nuno V. Oliveira, 2011, People of the ancient rainforest: Late Pleistocene foragers at the Batadomba-lena rockshelter, Sri Lanka, Journal of Human Evolution 61 (2011) 254 – 269

Roberts, P., N. Perera, O. Wedage, S. Deraniyagala, J. Perera, S. Eregama, A. Gledhill, M. D. Petraglia, J. A. Lee-Thorp, 2015, Direct evidence for human rainforest resource reliance in Late Pleistocene Sri Lanka. Science 347, 1246–1249

Roberts, P., N. Perera, O. Wedage, S. Deraniyagala, J. Perera, S. Eregama, M. D. Petraglia, J. A. Lee-Thorp, 2017, Fruits of the forest: Human stable isotope ecology and rainforest adaptations in Late Pleistocene and Holocene (~ 36 to 3 ka) Sri Lanka. J. Hum. Evol. 106, 102–118

Solheim, Wilhelm and Deraniyagala, S, 1972, Archaeological Survey to Investigate South-East Asian Prehistoric Presence in Ceylon, Ancient Ceylon: Journal of the Archaeological Survey Department of Ceylon, Occasional Paper, 1.

Wedage, O., A. Picin, J. Blinkhorn, K. Douka, S. Deraniyagala, N. Kouramps, N. Perera, I. Simpson, N. Boivin, M. Petraglia, P. Roberts, 2019b, Microliths in the South Asian rainforest ~45-4 ka: New insights from Fa-Hien Lena Cave, Sri Lanka. PLOS ONE 14, e0222606,

Wedage, O., N. Amano, M. C. Langley, K. Douka, J. Blinkhorn, A. Crowther, S. Deraniyagala, N. Kourampas, I. Simpson, N. Perera, A. Picin, N. Boivin, M. Petraglia, P. Roberts, 2019a, Specialized rainforest hunting by Homo sapiens ~45,000 years ago. Nat. Commun. 10, 739

Thilanka Siriwardana,
Senior Lecturer,
Department of Archaeology and Heritage Management,
Rajarata University of Sri Lanka.