Mollusc Species Composition in Shell Bearing Sites At Kalamatiya, Southern Sri Lanka

T. Siriwardana

Abstract


This paper discusses the mollusc species composition as revealed from the mid-late holocene
coastal shell bearing formations, which have not yet been widely considered. The primary
goal of the research was to study shell middens located in association with shell beds at
Kalamatiya in the southern Province. The range of species recorded from the site was
employed as a criterion for define shell middens in the study. Excavation of a 1 m2 test unit
was employed to gather data while soil samples from each layer were sieved to obtain micro
remains. Total of 18 mollusc species recorded from the nine layers of a single site at
Kalamatiya (Named site 01) are discussed here.

The most frequent species recorded was Meretrix sp. The layer six (shell midden) of site 01
displays a greater species diversity within the site in comparison to low numbers identified
beneath layers. Layer six itself contained 12 species, i.e., Meretrix sp., Anadara sp., Donax
cuneata, Saccostrea sp., Cerithedia cingulate, Acavus heamestoma, Aulopoma hofmeisteri,
Beddoma trifasiatus, Papyridea soleniformis, Eunaticina sp., and two unidentified bivalve
species (nacreous and calcareous). Therefore it seems that none of the middens in these
formations is consisted of only one species. Total number of shells obtained from this layer
was 2,393, whereas 96.5% is Meretrix sp. and other 11 species share 3.5%. Species identified
from other layers are Umbonium vestiarium, Oigospera polei, Lissachatina fullica, Tapes
sulcarius, Purpura persica and Cryptonatica operculata. In general, the shell bearing sites
tend to produce a good approximation of the range of species indicating that the pre historic
inhabitants gathered whatever was available. These species are from a wide range of
environments as littoral muddy sand, coastal sands, terrestrial and arboreal. Four of the
species have one occurrence (n=1) while another four species appear less than eight in
number. Apart from building a taxonomical list, these data aid to study subsistence strategies
of prehistoric communities and reconstruct their environment. Further these data can be used
for palaeo-environmental reconstructions as well.


Keywords: Shells, Molluscs, Middens, Palaeo-environment


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Proceedings of International Forestry and Environment Symposium, Sri Lanka. Published by Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura