Prehistory is the period of time in the past before people could write. There are three major periods of prehistory, the Paleolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic. The Paleolithic is the earliest period of the Stone Age. The three-age system is three consecutive time periods, named for their respective predominant tool-making technologies: Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age
Homo sapiens appeared very long ago in Sri Lanka, which some experts assert is the true “cradle of civilization”’ The journey towards civilization lasted thousands of years and evidence of Paleolithic and Mesolithic cultures have been unearthed, establishing the existence of the stone age Balangoda culture around 5000 BC; this era of civilization is known as the stone age as only stone implements had been used by primitive man. Recent findings suggest that the domestication of plants may have surfaced as early as 10,000 BC or even earlier. Agriculture has always been the mainstay of this “granary of the east” Cultivators were accorded the highest honour creating a bond between man and land.
Pre-historic sites have been revealed through a series of cave excavations in the lowland Wet Zone: Fahien-lena near Bulathsinhala (37,000-5,400 BP), Batadombalena near Kuruwita (31,000-11500 BP),Beli-lena at Kitulgala (over 30,000-3500 BP) and Alu-lena at Attanagoda near Kegalle (10,500 BP) as well as the open - air site of Bellan-bandi palassa near Embilipitiya ( 6,500 TL BP). Beads of shell have also been discovered from these sites and the occurrence of marine shells at inland sites such as Batadomba-lena points to an extensive network of contacts between the coast and the hinterland.
It has been scientifically proven that prehistoric heritage dates back to 125,000 years. in this aspect, red soil sand deposits along the Northern, Southern, and North Western sea-belts of Sri Lanka are significant, The excavations carried out at Bundala and Pathirarawela (read details under Southern Province) have revealed two stages of prehistoric human settlements, Although human remains have not been found, stone tools used by hominids dated to 125,000 years ago have been found. There are also a large number of micro lithic tools belonging to the stone age, 28,000 years ago. These studies are recorded in “The Prehistory of Sri Lanka" by Dr. Siran Deraniyagala and “New Light on the Prehistory of Sri Lanka” by Dr. W.H.Wijayapala.
Protohistoric Research Excavations (Proto history represents the period between the prehistoric and the historic period, or study concerned with the transition period between prehistory and the earliest recorded history.) reveals advanced cultural characteristics. Although no evidence has been found regarding the use of letters in Sri Lanka during this period , there is evidence of advanced pottery technology, taming of animals, use of iron and crop cultivation. According to research conducted over the past few years this period extends from 1300B.C. up to 250B.C. This period is known as the proto historic iron age and a very significant feature of this period was the expansion of funerary culture. Findings, from the excavations at Pomparippy, Yapahuwa, Kokebe, Yatigalpotta (750 B.C.) Ibbankattuwa (700 B.C.) Kalotuwa (250 B.C.) and Ranchamadama (1300 B. C.) bear evidence to this effect. It has been established that this culture prevailed up to the last stage of the early historic period.