Ancient Shipwreck at Godavaya, Sri Lanka

Becoming Familiar with the Unfamiliar: A Brief Look at the Area

By February 23, 2014July 14th, 2015No Comments

Guest Author: Megan Collier, recent graduate of the Nautical Archaeology Program

The streets of Ambalantota are a vibrant mix of sound and color.  The main road has a constant stream of buses, cars, pedestrians, and the favorite mode of transportation for Sri Lanka- the tuk-tuk.  This active town is where our team acquires the many odds and ends that keep an excavation running.    The little shops that line the streets have just about any supplies that we may need.

 

The main road in Ambalantota.  Photo by Megan Collier.

The main road in Ambalantota. Photo by Megan Collier.

The main thoroughfare in town gives way to the rice fields that surround quiet Godavaya (locally also spelled Godawaya), our place of residence for the duration of the field season.  From water buffalo wading through our backyard to monkeys leaping through the trees, Godavaya is a very different, though no less vivid, experience from Ambalantota.

The sign marking the turn to the dig house.  Photo by Megan Collier.

The sign marking the turn to the dig house. Photo by Megan Collier.

 

Grey-faced Langurs on the roof of our house.  Photo by Megan Collier.

Grey-faced Langurs on the roof of our house. Photo by Megan Collier.

The mouth of the Walawe River, the most likely point of origin or destination of the ship we are excavating, is a short walk from our house.  People have been living in this area for almost seven thousand years, but the ancient settlement of Godavaya dates to about the second century CE.  The community was an important economic center in this area.  It had a thriving port with a large temple connected to it.

The Stupa at Godawaya under the glow of a full moon.  Photo by Megan Colllier.

The Stupa at Godavaya under the glow of a full moon. Photo by Megan Colllier.

 

The mouth of the Walawe river flowing into the Indian Ocean. Photo by Megan Collier.

The mouth of the Walawe river flowing into the Indian Ocean. Photo by Megan Collier.

The main center of economic activity in this area has now moved to Hambantota, a few kilometers down the road.  The new port was built in 2010 and is one of the largest construction projects in this area.  This is the place where our container and decompression chamber will stay for the rest of the project.  We will have a more detailed post coming soon about the container’s journey from Colombo to the harbor at Hambantota.

The ancient harbor and town have been excavated since the mid-1990s.  For an excellent description of these excavations and a more detailed explanation of the history of the area please read our Sri Lankan colleague’s post at: http://www.archaeology.lk/maritime-archaeology/godawaya-an-ancient-port-city-2nd-century-ce-and-the-recent-discovery-of-the-unknown-wooden-wreck/