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‘Archaeology’ unearths skeletons in Jaffna fort

[TamilNet, Thursday, 03 February 2011, 14:06 GMT]
As a trench excavated for archaeological research near the main entrance of the Jaffna fort brought out a group of skeletons, the SL Archaeology Department has requested the police to pursue investigation in the locality. On an earlier occasion many skeletons, including the ones of women and children were found in an adjacent locality where now a stadium building stands. At that time, they were suspected to be the skeletons of the ‘missing’ people of IPKF times. Investigation on them was sabotaged and the burial pits were sealed by ‘development’ work of the Municipality of Jaffna. As finding many more skeletons are expected now in the other side of the road to the stadium and the fort entrance, the SL Archaeology Department has stopped its excavation in the locality.

Jaffna Fort
The trench dug in the esplanade near the entrance of Jaffna Fort
Potery found in the esplande of Jaffna Fort
Late medieval and colonial period pottery found in the disturbed layers of the archaeological trench
Jaffna Fort
A part of the Fort being renovated with the assistance of the government of Netherlands
26 skeletons were found between March and April 1999 in the stadium named after Alfred Thuraiappah, built in the esplanade of the fort.

Mr. Ekanathan, the magistrate of Jaffna at that time expressed his disappointment over the inaction of police in investigating that.

Two of the skeletons were that of children.

In April 1999, the Judicial Medical Officer of Jaffna Dr.Sri Rajeswaran in a report submitted to the additional magistrate said that the site of the burials could be quite extensive.

The magistrate requested the help of forensic, soil and chemical experts from Colombo, but they didn’t come for the investigations.

Even though for centuries the Jaffna fort was a symbol of oppression, it was acutely felt by the people of Jaffna only after the so-called independence, when it was first the centre of police and later the SL military.

The fort was the scene of a brutal war especially when the Dutch captured it from the Portuguese in 1658 CE. The next major war the fort witnessed was its capture by the LTTE in the 1990s.

The archaeological renovation of the Dutch fort is now being carried out with the aid of the Netherlands government. The SL Archaeology Department is undertaking the job and there is participation by the students and faculty of the Department of History of the University of Jaffna, led by Prof. P. Pushparatnam.

Pre-colonial artefacts such as stones from destroyed temples and early as well as medieval pottery were also found in the fort, according to reports of Prof. Pushparatnam appeared in the local media.

Romans coins were reported from the site by colonial researchers, indicating that the site was of importance even in early times.

Decades ago, a Chola inscription, probably came from a destroyed temple, was discovered in the fort by Prof K. Indrapala.

While digging the present trenches, pottery of late medieval and colonial period were found in the disturbed layers. But with the unfolding developments the digging couldn’t be continued deeper.


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