Pioneering Sri Lankan archaeologist Dr. Siran Deraniyagala dies aged 79


COLOMBO– Renowned Sri Lankan archaeologist and historian Dr. Siran Deraniyagala passed away Tuesday (5) morning.

Deraniyagala, who served as Director-General of the Department of Archaeology from 1992 to 2001, was known for his work on prehistoric Sri Lanka. His pioneering exploration of the Anuradhapura citadel and excavations at the Fa Hien Cave (locally known as Pahiyangala) site shed much light on life on the island in prehistoric times,

Among his discoveries were clay artefacts with writing on them dating back to the sixth century BCE.

His thesis on the shore dunes of Iranamadu, on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast, earned him a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1988.

Born on October 5, 1942, Dr. Deraniyagala completed his school education at St. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia. He received his BA and MA degrees in Architecture and Sanskrit at Cambridge University and went on to do postgraduate studies in archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in London where he qualified with distinction and was awarded the prestigious Gordon Childe Prize, as one of two best all-round students in all fields of archaeology.

He joined the Archaeological Survey Department of Sri Lanka in 1968 as Assistant Commissioner in charge of scientific excavations where he reoriented excavation and research strategies that were until then carried out on an ad hoc basis.

He introduced a research design, plans for infrastructure and human resource development in the excavation division and in 1969 undertook the epoch-breaking excavation at the Citadel of Anuradhapura.

This was the first scientific stratified excavation undertaken in this Island and set the pattern to the next generation of field archaeologists in Sri Lanka.



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