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Belilena is a famous large cave in Sri Lanka. It is located 8 km from the town of Kitulgala. It holds evidence of a lost generation of Sri Lankans some 12,000 years old; at this time the cave was occupied by Balangoda Man, described as Homo sapiens balangodensis by Paul E. P. Deraniyagala, who found ten skeletons of these people. They lived 2,000 feet above sea level. It is believed they lived more than 32,000 years ago.[1]

A visit requires a rope or rope ladder for entry. The part of the cave beyond the lake that fills it a short way from its mouth still remains unexplored.

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Beli Lena Cave at Kitulgala was scientifically excavated and researched between the years 1978 and 1983 by the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. Twenty five radiometric tests dated the cultural deposits to 30,000–9,000 years before present. A rich assemblage of cultural, faunas and human remains were excavated. These included geometric microlithic stone tools which, at 30,000 years old, are among the earliest in the world; and bone tools and evidence of the use of fire from 30,000 years ago onwards. The site yielded numerous remains of animals that had been used for food such as sambhur, pig, barking deer, monkeys, porcupines, giant squirrels and an assortment of reptiles and fish. The smaller mammals and aquatic and tree snails were prominent in the diet of Balangoda man, as were food plants such as wild breadfruit and canarium (Kekuna) nuts. An exchange network in salt from coastal lagoons some 80 km away had also been established by 30,000 years ago. Rubble foundations dated to 16,000 years before present constitute the earliest evidence of substantial structures in South Asia.

The skeletal parts of several humans were found in the 16,000 years old level. These have been intensively analysed by an international team of Anthropologists. They are invaluable for understanding of the physical anthropology of Balangoda man. Beli Lena occupies a very special place in the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. It awaits further investigations by future generations of Sri Lankan archaeologists with progressively sharp analytical skills. As such, the site has been declared Archaeological Reserve of the Archaeological Department under the Antiquities Ordinance.


  • Kenneth A. R. Kennedy, "Fa Hien Cave", in Encyclopedia of Anthropology ed. H. James Birx (2006, SAGE Publications; ISBN 0-7619-3029-9)
  • "Pre- and Protohistoric settlement in Sri Lanka" — S. U. Deraniyagala, Director-General of Archaeology, Sri Lanka
  • Kenneth A. R. Kennedy and Siran U. Deraniyagala, Fossil remains of 28,000-year old hominids from Sri Lanka, Current Anthropology, Vol. 30, No. 3. (Jun., 1989), pp. 394–399.
  • Kenneth A. R. Kennedy, T. Disotell, W. J. Roertgen, J. Chiment and J. Sherry, Biological anthropology of upper Pleistocene hominids from Sri Lanka: Batadomba Lena and Beli Lena caves, Ancient Ceylon 6: 165-265.
  • Kenneth A. R. Kennedy, Siran U. Deraniyagala, W. J. Roertgen, J. Chiment and T. Disotell, Upper Pleistocene fossil hominids from Sri Lanka, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 72: 441-461, 1987.
  • Dr. Deraniyagala
  • Annual Review of Anthropology: 1980 By Siege, Bernard J. Siegel - Page 403 & 416
  • [1] Propaedia: outline of knowledge and guide to the Britannica.--[2]-[11] Micropaedia: ready reference and index.--[12]-[30] Macropaedia: knowledge in depth.
  • Professor Paul Mellars

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