The Crack-Cave in Nikawalamulla, Ruwanwella, Sri Lanka
Speleology is the science of exploration and study of all aspects of caves and the environment which surrounds the caves. Mid nineteenth century the world came to know the importance of cave science. E`douard-Alfred Martel - a French (1859 - 1938), the 'father of modern speleology', introduced the concept of speleology to the France first, through his extensive and well-published cave explorations. Many archaeological excavations have been done in caves in Sri Lanka, but cave habitats have not been speleologically investigated. Cave science come to light after a long pause in Sri Lanka under the auspices of PGIAR of University of Kelaniya.
The creation of an accurate, detailed map is one of the most valuable and fundamental part of speleology. If we have an accurate map there is no worry about route-finding. Cave maps, can be used to compare caves to each other by length, depth and volume, and provide a spatial reference for further scientific study.
The main Goals and objectives of this cave exploration project are, finding caves in area and cave habitats, creating of accurate maps for each cave, investigate about cave fauna / flora, and speleotherms. To achieve these goals there were lots of work to do.
This rock shelter was identified a research done by the Post Graduate Institute of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya in 2009/2010, at Nikawalamulla in the Ruwanwella divisional secretariat, Kegalle district (N- 07 01' 57.9, E- 80 14'43.3).
Basic maps, planes and cross sections of the shelter were drawn as usually. Careful observations were carried out to locate the cave fauna and photographed all the special features. For mapping and recording we used a compass, a distant range finder, a 50 meter tape, a rotaring board, 1mm graph papers and a digital Camera. There were five members in our team and each and every one has a specific work to do. While some one was photographing the others had to writing notes, sketching and drawing maps, manipulating tape and reading the compass and range finder. Preparing of an accurate, detailed map, is one of the most valuable and fundamental part of speleology .So a map of the cave-ground, long section of the cave mouth, longitudinal section in the cave interior, and several cross sections perpendicular to the longitudinal section were drawn for each cave.
Due to the geological landscape, various types of caves were formed in Nikawalamulla village in Ruwanwella. This cave doesn't have a specific name. It located in an exposed bed rock area is known as Bisopennagala. Actually this is not a cave but a rock shelter. Rock shelter means a place which is open in three sides, have enough light during the day time and enough aeration (wind) (Jayasinha P., 2010). Furthermore it can be divided in to two groups such as boulder rock shelters and bed rock shelters (ibid). And this boulder rock shelter was formed due to a huge crack developed along a joint plane of the bed rock.
This cave has a very unique situation. There are four entrances to the shelter. One of these is formed due to a crack aliened North – South on the 20m high bed rock. The width of the crack is 0.45m where it begins and 1m at the entrance to the cave. In the beginning of the crack to 5 m there is a slope of 1 1/2m towards up. The rest of the entrances are form due to the obstructions caused by the boulders fallen from the bed rock. E1 and E2 entrances are open to the sky. On the wall between E1 and E2 there is a horizontal crack in 2m height. This crack goes on the beginning of the first entrance. The particular cave extends over an area of 3 m x 4 m. The roof of the shelter is also formed by such a boulder. The cave floor is flat and filled with soft deposits which were eroded due to the rain. It is located 3.7m above the original ground floor. This spacious chamber gets good ventilation and light.
There are stalagmites found in this cave that hang from the roof. Some of the stalagmites are formed across the wall. These are very fragile and are not even 1cm long. The walls, roof and the cave seems to provide habitats for many species like gecko, frogs, cave cricket and spiders, daddy long legged spiders and ants. Also it is found that bryophytes growing in the walls of the cave where sunlight reaches.
We are the first people to study the particular cave sites in a scientific way in the area of Nikawalamula. Villagers know about these caves. But they don’t have enough knowledge about them, specially just like river cave. No one pay attention about geological formation, cave fauna/flora, speleotherms etc. so that our research is highly important.
Mentioned as earlier this is not a cave but a rock shelter. Therefore it is difficult to live here for a long term, but it has a big utility as a temporary shelter. It couldn’t find certain evidence about the prehistoric man in this area as yet. But if there were a man who climbed this rock for hunting, this is an ideal place for prepare his meal (skin and roast the animal) and get rest. The people who come here for collecting fire wood, herbs or for hunting purposes in present also, this is the only shelter in this area to protect them from a sudden rain. It means in this mountainous area this rock shelter can also be important for mountaineers.
Cave tourism is a field yet to be developed in Sri Lanka. Among the other discovered caves the crack cave in Nikawalamulla, is also suitable for introducing cave tourism.
Finally we must thank all the village people who helped us to complete our work successfully.
A classification for Sri Lankan caves, 2010, Pathmakumara Jayasingha, Wasantha S Weliange, A.S. Dandeniya & Prageeth Elgiriya
Speleological Exploration to Stheepura Lena Cave at Kuruwita, Sri Lanka, 2010, Wasanth S. Weliange, A.S. Dandeniya, Prageeth Elgiriya, Dinesh D Dewage, A.M. Duminda Alahakoon, Nilupul Hettiaarachchi, and Pathmakumara Jayasingha.