September 2019


The Ancient Technology Museum and Library in Polonnaruwa
September 2019




The Ancient Technology Museum and Library preserves and fosters the technical knowledge of the country.

The ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa reflects the glorious past of Sri Lanka. The creative and technical ingenuity of our forefathers is evident in the massive reservoirs and irrigation systems, sculptures, art, and remnants of historical buildings. The technology used applies to the present day as well. With the vision of preserving this technical knowledge as well as to foster a culture of learning, the Ancient Technology Museum and Library was opened in Polonnaruwa by President Maithripala Sirisena.

Words:
Udeshi Amarasinghe.
Photography: Menaka Aravinda.

Driving along the expansive roads of Polonnaruwa passing the beautiful lush greenery, waters of resplendent reservoirs and archaeological sites, we arrived in the emerging new town. The Ancient Technology Museum rises impressively from the landscape. The reception is bright and welcoming, and immediately implies a journey that stimulates the senses; an audiovisual experience.

The New Technology Museum and Library in Polonnaruwa is a concept of President Maithripala Sirisena and was built under his guidance and direction. The museum comes under the purview of the Department of National Museum and its displays have been done following immense research by Sri Lankan artisans and experts.

The Ancient Technology Museum focuses on the technology that was used in ancient Sri Lanka and not merely on artefacts. Thus, each gallery displays objects, features, processes, and constructions belonging to the various historical periods in Sri Lanka by explaining the technology used. This is done through replicas, video displays and panels, audio guides, and much more.

As the museum is situated in Polonnaruwa, the first gallery on the ground floor is dedicated to the ancient kingdom. The displays are of actual artefacts except for a few replicas. Bronze statues, terracotta figurines, stone sculptures, miniature models are on display with lit-up panels and videos providing a gamut of information. As you step into the second gallery, you are taken back in time to witness technology from the Pre and Proto Historic periods. The findings from the Pomparippu burial site are recreated with life-size figurines of pre-historic man in their natural habitat. Gallery three features Pottery and Metal Technology; a traditional potter's workshop has been created to showcase the various techniques used in the process. A 3D sensor display was featuring an artisan explaining the process of pottery making while on the potter's wheel. This is a unique aspect of this section. The ancient furnaces used for metal extraction in Samanalawewa and Alakolawewa, Sigiriya have been recreated with embers glowing, thus providing a realistic feel.

Techniques and tools used in the making of metal objects such as statues, lamps, and coins are featured too. A replica of the unique Dedigama Ath Pahana (oil lamp) can be seen, and its internal hydraulic system is explained on informational panels.

As you walk into the fourth gallery, which features Agriculture and Irrigation Technology of the Polonnaruwa era, there is an immediate feel of refreshing water and greenery. Miniature models featuring irrigation channels, reservoirs and agricultural systems can be seen, and much can be learned. Lit up panels have extensive descriptions of the technologies used in these mammoth creations. Ancient agrarian tools that are used in paddy cultivation, as well as ploughing and harvesting, have been displayed for visitors. A miniature replica of the famous Maduru Oya sluice gates has been created as it is a symbol of the ingenuity of ancient Sri Lankan technology.

Throughout the museum, there are information panels providing information on technology, linguistics, interpretations of stone inscriptions, historical eras, and much more.

On the first floor, we arrived at gallery five, and it was a mesmerizing display of models of ancient structures. Building Technology is the focus area in gallery five. Today, we see only the remnants of these structures at the archeological sites, but at the museum, you can get a glimpse of how these buildings might have been in the past. The displays belonged to various eras of Sri Lankan history. Replicas of Medirigiriya with its walls and roof intact, Sigiriya and its water gardens, Jethavanaramaya, and Thuparama image house of Polonnaruwa with actual size circular archways have been exhibited to showcase the various technologies. A digital panel with miniature stupas caught our attention. Information on the different types (shapes) of stupas is displayed on this panel. A visitor must select a small stupa and place it on the sensor. Thereafter, all the information about that particular stupa can be accessed by the visitor.

We ventured towards gallery six that featured Painting, Sculpture and Wooden Technology and gallery seven, which displayed Textile, Naval and Mathematic Technology. Each gallery provided a gamut of interesting details on the techniques and skills that were used by our ancient people. In painting technology, Sigiriya frescoes were one of the exhibits and indicated the multiple layers that formed the canvass for the paintings as well as the natural colours that were used. In the textile section, Kuveni spinning the yarn wheel, a famous scene in Sri Lankan history is recreated to depict the history of weaving in the country. Further, the oldest loom that was used to create handloom can be seen at the museum as well.

After learning about the numerous ancient technologies, we proceeded to the activity room. Visitors can try recreating or using the techniques that they had witnessed in the galleries in this room. The innovation centre provides novel experiences to the visitors. The Virtual Reality segment takes you on a journey in Sigiriya during the times of the kings. If you wish you can also see Moragahakanda reservoir from the surface and below the surface of the water. Augmented Reality is another feature, 3D printing of objects, including miniature models, as well as a display of Lindar technology can also be witnessed at the innovation centre. This museum is all about providing maximum exposure in technology to all visitors.

The Library and Information Resource Centre provides reading materials on a reference basis. Other facilities are also provided for those who wish to study, research, or simply read. A conference hall and auditorium are also some of the additional facilities available. Throughout the museum, there are information panels providing information on technology, linguistics, interpretations of stone inscriptions, historical eras, and much more.

As our exploration of ancient technologies of Sri Lanka drew to an end, we went up to the rooftop to witness the mesmerizing views of the Parakrama Samudraya. It was indeed an ideal conclusion to a journey full of knowledge and experiences.

 

  • image01
    image01

    President Maithripala Sirisena ceremonially opening the Ancient Technology Museum and Library. Sanuja Kasthuriarachchi, Director General, Department of National Museums, A J M Muzammil, Governor, Western Province and Sarath Ekanayake, Chief Minister, Central Province are also in the photograph.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Informational panels provide unique learning experiences.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The first gallery is dedicated to the Polonnaruwa kingdom.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Recreation of life in Sri Lanka during the Pre and Proto Historic periods in gallery two.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Gallery three features Pottery and Metal Technology.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The replica of the Dedigama Ath Pahana. This lamp adopts a unique hydraulic system.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Agriculture and Irrigation Technology of the Polonnaruwa era are displayed in gallery four.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Replicas of Medirigiriya and Thuparamaya in gallery five, which features Building Technology.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Information on the different types (shapes) of stupas is displayed on an interactive information panel.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Techniques used in painting the Sigiriya frescoes in gallery six.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Visitors are provided the opportunity to recreate what they have learnt in the activity room.

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Gallery seven focuses on Textile, Naval and Mathematic Technology.

    Prev Next