Treasure hunting spree:
People driven by myths
The past 17 years recorded the largest destruction of artefacts in
the country. After the establishment of the Archaeological Department
122 years ago, this was the worst period, Archaeological Department
Director General Senerath Dissanayake said.
He was addressing the National Archaeological Symposium- 2012 at the
Sri Lanka Foundation Institute Colombo -7.
The symposium was held under the patronage of National Heritage
Minister Jagath Balasuriya.
‘To make people aware, the Archaeological Department launched a
campaign to distribute brochures in Mihinthale, Sithulpawwa and
Anuradhapura during Poson Poya days.
‘The destruction of artefacts has reduced in the past few weeks,
compared to the period January to June, he said.
The Director General said: ‘Many reasons are attributed to the
destruction of artefacts.
‘Folklore has it that treasures were deposited in ancient monuments
and Buddhist statutes.
This motivated the people. “In this scenario people are destroying
items of archaeological value but not economic value.
‘It is a challenge to the Archaeological Department to protect
“Archaeological mythologies and public opinions differ in epigraphs
and signs found on the stones.
“Marks such as dogs, crows and rat snakes indicate that these lands
were offered to temples. Marks of hand fan (Watapatha) indicate they
belonged to the Mahasanga.
“However people believe that the marks indicate massive treasures. It
is wrong. “On the other hand, the media too mislead the public by using
terms such as, gold statutes, Dambaran Pilima .
Nidanwadula is another myth for destroying archaeological sites”, the
Director General said.
National Heritage Ministry Secretary Kanthi Wijesinghe, Dr Alexsender
Kapukotuwa, Dr Siran Deraniyagala, National Museum Director Nanda
Wickramasinghe and National Archives Department Director Saroja
Wetthasinghe, Central Cultural Fund Director Prof Nimal De Silva also
Around 50 research papers on Archaeology were presented at the event.