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Investigating the precursors and appearance of banana and rice cultivation in Sri Lanka: with the background of long-term climate and environmental changes

NRC Grant:  14-043

Dr. R. Premathilake
Post Graduate Institute of Archaeology
University of Kelaniya
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Area of Research: Ecology & Environment



The project seeks to complete these studies with a view of reconstructing a vegetation and climate records for two main prehistoric sites of Sri Lanka, spanning a time period ranging from the 40,000 BP to 3,000 BPand understanding in the transition from a hunting-gathering to an agricultural way of life in the mid-Holocene.


The aims of the proposed project outlined above would contribute to establishing the first international database for palaeovegetation along the Rockshelters which locate in lowland areas in southwestern Sri Lanka, with a strong focus on the climate change and human activities, to investigate patterns in changing adaptive strategies of prehistoric populations with local ecological variability and future perspectives in this region. In this regards, the historical reconstruction and understanding of domestication processes of the two important crops (i.e., rice and bananas) is essential for breeding programs seeking to diversify and improve banana and rice cultivars for the future. The project would ultimately help a better understanding of the little known vegetation and climate background to human occupation in South Asia, as part of more regional level research issue regarding natural and social science. The project hopes to use innovative cross-disciplinary research to tackle the issues at hand bringing together specialists in subfields such as archeology, archaeobotany and paleoecology. In this procedure, Master Students (M. Phil., M. Sc and PG Diploma) at the PGIAR and other Universities will have a direct chance to involve the project activities with strong hands-on and field based training component in adopting the latest techniques and methodologies followed herewith, taking benefits in their own research projects. This project provides a new methodology for the study of serious taphonomical issues, largely related to archaeological resource management in Sri Lanka. The methodological constrains and results from the project can also be used to improve the quality of academic/research thought of individuals, those who are directly working at PGIAR, Central Cultural Fund, the Department of Archaeological Survey and other relevant Departments of Universities (e.g., Botany, Ecology, Geology and Forestry). Impact from this project is very significant for cultural and natural heritage management processes, and general public education with ‘heritage studies’ of the Country.