Scenically located on a foothill jutting out of the coastal area of Bulathsinhala, Kalutara, the Fa Hien Cave is no ordinary cave complex in the island nation of Sri Lanka. Tipped to be one of the largest caves on the island that is fit for human habitation this breathtaking location towering 450 feet above its surroundings is a popular stopover for tourists and locals alike.
Named after the well-known Chinese monk and explorer of the same name who visited the site as far back as 4th century AD, the Fa Hien Cave was first excavated in the late 1960’s by then Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Archaeology S.U. Deraniyagala. The venue was a functioning Buddhist temple at the time and the excavation produced valuable information on the prehistoric inhabitants of the cave and their lifestyles. Grindstones coloured with red ochre and faunal remnants were also found at the site as well as stone artefacts.
The most exciting discovery of course was the complete skeletal remains of a human which dates back to the latter Pleistocene era. Other highlights included ruins of ancient fires and other remnants of ancient plants and human occupants. Carbonated evidence states that the cave was a site of human inhabitancy more than 33,000 years ago with the last inhabitants occupying the space in the Middle Holocene period. Bones of adults and children were also discovered at the site while a woman’s remains (later dubbed Kalu Manika) dating back 5,400 years as well as a young child’s remains around 6,850 years old were also found. The earliest inhabitants of the Fa Hien Cave occupied the island during the same period as the Cro-Magnon man in Europe. The dental make up of the findings indicate that the earliest Sri Lankans relied on a diet of grain, nuts and other plant seeds and continued their lives as hunter gatherers till 8th century B.C.
Travellers in search of an elegant hotel in Kalutara should look no further than Avani Kalutara resort. Ideally located in serene surroundings within a stone’s throw of the azure ocean this stylish rest is one of the best beach resorts Sri Lanka Kalutara has to offer and provides a memorable holiday on the island.
Uditha Dharmawardhane is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Roland Lefevre. He specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe.