Early Holocene Human Burials from Fa Hien-lena and Kuragala, Sri Lanka


  • Jay Stock
  • Emma Pomeroy
  • Oshan Wedage
  • Saman Eregama
  • Siran Deraniyagala
  • Nimal Perera
  • Patrick Roberts
  • Nicole Boivin
  • Michael Petraglia




bioarchaeology, osteobiography, mortuary archaeology, human adaptation, taphonomy


Few human burials from Sri Lankan archaeological contexts have been described. Here we report on the analysis of two early Holocene skeletons, FH8, a young adult female skeleton excavated from Fa Hien-lena and dated to 10,640-10,139 cal BP, and BK1, a middle adult male skeleton excavated at Kuragala and dated to 7,170-6,950 cal BP.  The skeletons are both highly fragmentary, which poses challenges for their thorough analysis. However, this paper describes the archaeological context, mortuary treatment and archaeothanatology of the burials, post-mortem taphonomy of human remains, the osteobiography of both individuals, and some general observations on their morphology relative to one another and a broader range of late Pleistocene and Holocene foragers. The results demonstrate common elements of funerary treatment between these two burials, such as interment on the left side with right hands placed near or over the face. The FH8 individual died at a young age and shows some signs of early childhood stress. Both skeletons show moderate to high degrees of tooth wear for their relative ages, and no evidence for dental disease. The body size estimates of FH8 and BK1 fall in the range that would be expected of tropical or temperate forest foragers, although BK1 has a relatively low body mass relative to stature, which aligns his phenotype with populations of more arid environments. We demonstrate that much can be potentially learned about human populations and prehistoric behaviours from skeletal analyses. 




How to Cite

Stock, J., Pomeroy, E., Wedage, O., Eregama, S., Deraniyagala, S., Perera, N., … Petraglia, M. (2022). Early Holocene Human Burials from Fa Hien-lena and Kuragala, Sri Lanka. Ancient Lanka, 1. https://doi.org/10.29173/anlk637