Exploration and Documentation Division


  • To identify the archeological heritage of Sri Lanka through exploration
  • To document movable and immovable archaeological properties in Sri Lanka
  • To implement the provisions of the Antiquities Ordinance
  • To implement the provisions of the cultural properties act
  • To protect the archaeological heritage of Sri Lanka

Main functions of the Exploration Division

  • To conduct special and urgent explorations
  • To declare archaeological reserves
  • To declare archaeological reserves and protected monuments
  • To prevent the destruction of antiquities
  • To conduct archaeological impact assessment surveys
  • To collect geographical information with regard to archaeological sites and monuments and prepare maps
  • To conduct oceanic explorations
  • To plan the exploration of the ancient irrigational heritage and to ensure its  protection
  • To plan activities to be carried out
  • To provide solutions to problems regarding archaeological sites and monuments in various districts and maintain files related to quarries

Conducting Special and Urgent Explorations

It is of utmost importance to identify archaeologically significant locations to carry out activities such as conservation, exhibition, research or excavation. Ancient sites and monuments are documented in detail and reports  are compiled in addition to making reports of sites that need to be reported urgently owing to urgent needs.

Role of the Exploration and Documentation Division

Archaeology Reserves
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Necessary steps are taken in terms of the provisions of Antiquities Ordinance No. 9 of  1940. Details are given in sections 33, 34 and 35. Section 33 of the Antiquities Ordinance specifies the details of archaeological reserves.

The  Commissioner of Archaeology may with the approval of the Commissioner of Lands or if approval is refused by the Commissioner of Lands, with the approval of the Minister in charge of the subject of lands, declare by notification published in the gazette, any specified area of that land to be an archaeological reserve for the purpose of this ordinance. Any area of state land reserved for archaeological purpose before the date on which this Ordinance comes into operation, whether by notification in the gazette or otherwise, should be deemed as an archaeological reserve.

Under Section 33 of the Antiquities Ordinance, any person (other than the Commissioner of Archaeology or a person acting in accordance with his orders) who  clears for cultivation or cultivates only part of an archaeological reserve or fells or otherwise destroys any tree standing on any such reserve  or otherwise encroaches on any such reserve, shall be guilty of an offence after summary trial before a magistrate. This course of action is possible only with lands regarding which settlements have been reached or government acquired lands.

Where no appeal  has been preferred against the conviction of any person of an offence under  Section 34, or where an appeal has been preferred, after the final judgement or order of the court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, affirming the conviction, the Magistrate may on the application of the Commissioner of Archaeology make order to eject the person convicted from the Archaeological reserve and handover the possession of the reserve to the Commissioner of Archaeology or his representative. The fiscal or peace officer shall make due return to the Magistrate’s Court  of the manner in which he executed the order.

The fiscal or peace officer or any officer authorized by either of them, may use such force as may be necessary to enter the archaeological reserve, to eject the person convicted and to deliver possession of the archaeological reserve to the Commissioner of Archaeology or his representative. Sections 33, 34 and 35 of the Antiquities Ordinance number 09 of 1940 specify the relevant procedures with regard to the acquisition of Archaeological site.
Department of Archaeology
Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha,
Colombo - 07, Sri Lanka.

Phone : +94 11 2692840, +94 11 2692841
Fax : +94 11 2696250
Email : info@archaeology.gov.lk
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