Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka)

The Department of Archaeology (Sinhala: පුරාවිද්‍යා දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව, romanized: Purāvidyā Depārtamēntuva, Tamil: தொல்பொருளியல் திணைக்களம், romanized: Tolporuḷiyal Tiṇaikkaḷam) is a non-ministerial government department in Sri Lanka responsible for managing the archaeological heritage.

Department of Archaeology
පුරාවිද්‍යා දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව
தொல்பொருளியல் திணைக்களம்
Emblem of Sri Lanka.svg
Agency overview
Formed1890 [1]
JurisdictionSri Lanka
Agency executive
  • Senerath Dissanayake, Head of the Department [1]


On 7 July 1890 the Governor of Ceylon, Sir Arthur Gordon, appointed Harry Charles Purvis Bell as the first Archaeological Commissioner and Head of the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. The Survey consisted of the Commissioner, a European assistant commissioner, a native assistant, a clerk, and three draughtsmen. The first task given to the Survey was the exploration, excavation, mapping and conservation of historical monuments at Anuradhapura. In 1895 the Survey commenced work at Sigiriya and in May 1900 at Polonnaruwa. Between 1902 and 1907 John Still (the author of Jungle Tide) served as assistant commissioner.

On 8 December 1912 Edward Russell Ayrton was appointed Archaeological Commissioner, having previously worked as the assistant commissioner under Bell. On 18 May 1914 Ayrton drowned at Tissa Wewa in Tissamaharama. The Archaeological Department all but closed down, with only a skeleton staff, during World War I, with a series of acting heads. It wasn't until the appointment of Arthur Maurice Hocart in 1921 that the Department became more active. Hocart recognised the need to train young Ceylonese to work in the department, and amongst his protégées was Senarath Paranavithana, who was sent in 1923 to Ootacamund to train under the Government Epigraphist in India. In 1925 Hocart took a year's leave and returned to England. In his absence M. Wedderburn acted as Archaeology Commissioner. Upon his return in 1926 Hocart appointed Paranavithana as the Epigraphical assistant. When Hocart retired in 1929 C. F. Windsor took the role of Commissioner and at this time the head office of the Archaeological Department was relocated from Anuradhapura to Colombo.

In 1932 when Windsor retired Senarath Paranavithana became the first Sri Lankan to be appointed as head of the Department. In 1935 Albert Henry Longhurst took over the role of Archaeological Commissioner and Paranavithana was his Epigraphical assistant. Longhurst was previously the Superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India. During his tenure in Ceylon he concentrated on the conservation of monuments, particularly in Polonnaruwa. With commencement of World War II all the major works of the department were suspended and Dr Paranavithana was appointed as Commissioner. After the country gained its independence the Archaeological Department went through a significant phase of expansion, with its activities expanded to almost every district on the island.

When Paranavithana retired in 1956 the position of Commissioner was taken by Charles Godakumbura, a role in which he occupied until his retirement in 1967. Raja H. de Silva was then appointed as the new Commissioner.

Archaeological CommissionerEdit

No. Archeological Commissioner Year (commence) Year (complete)
1 Stephen Montague Burrows 1884 1886
2 Harry Charles Purvis Bell 1890 1892
3 R. W. Levers (Acting) 1892 1892
4 Harry Charles Purvis Bell 1893 1912
5 Edward Russell Ayrton 1912 1913
6 B. Constantine 1913 1914
7 Herbert Rayner Freeman (Acting) 1914 1918
8 F. G. Tyrrel (Acting) 1918 1920
9 A. W. Seymour (Acting) 1920 1921
10 G. F. R. Browning (Acting) 1921 1922
11 Arthur Maurice Hocart 1922 1924
12 M. Wedderburn (Acting) 1924 1925
13 Arthur Maurice Hocart 1925 1927
14 E. T. Dyson (Acting) 1927 1928
15 C. F. Windsor 1929 1929
16 J. Pearson (Acting) 1929 1930
17 C. F. Windsor 1930 1932
18 Senarath Paranavithana 1932 1934
19 Albert Henry Longhurst 1935 1939
20 Senarath Paranavithana 1940 1956
21 Charles Godakumbura 1956 1967
22 Raja H. de Silva 1967 1979
23 Saddhamangala Karunarathna 1979 1983
24 Roland Silva 1983 1990
25 M. H. Sirisoma 1990 1992
26 Siran Upendra Deraniyagala 1992 2001
27 W. H. Wijayapala 2001 2004
28 Senerath Dissanayake 2004 2017
29 P. B. Mandawala (Acting) 2017

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "History of the Department of Archeology". Retrieved 2015-11-29.

External linksEdit