Beginning and Evolution of Archaeological Museums.

In addition to educating the public on targets and aims of the Department, the need arose to exhibit antiquities collected by the Department of Archaeology to the public who visited the archeological sites. When the head office of the Department was shifted from Anradhapura in 1930, ancient coins which were in possession of the Department were handed over to the Colombo Museum, Certain stone carvings in possession of the Department were exhibited in the stone carvings section of the museum.

Stone carvings and clay items which were remaining at Anuradhapura were kept in display in two separate rooms in 1931 but viewers found it difficult to view them as the rooms were in two separate locations. Hence, in 1932 all the exhibits were arranged in one hall. By this time the Department felt that there should be a separate museum in Anuradhapura. The Department could find more and more antiquities very frequently but even by 1950, the Department of Archaeology could not take any attempt to establish a museum.

As stated by Dr. Senarath Paranvithana, during the correspondence made with the then Government Agent of Kurunegala, he had no objection of giving his official quarters to establish a museum. The department had its first public exhibition at Beddagana excavation site from 8th to 12th June 1949.

Establishment of archaeological museums took place in 1940s. Their peak period started in 1950. At the inception, they were known by the term “Puravidu Bhavana” (Archaeological Mansion). From the inception of the department up to 1940, the number of antiquities discovered by the department was very large. Until the establishment of the Archaeological Museum at Anuradhapura more elegant antiquities were handed over to the National Museum and the other antiquities were kept in the archaeological laboratory and stores while some others were haphazardly heaped at the sites where they were found. Hence, in 1947, Dr. Senarth Paranavithana pioneered the establishment of Puravidu Bhavana in Anuradhapura.

The term “Puravidu Bhavana” was in use upto 1952 when it was changed to Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum at Dedigama bears testimony to the justification of exhibiting antiquities in the sites they were found which is the policy currently followed by the Department against the previous policy of exhibiting them in one centre removing them from their orginal sites (which reveal the actual position they held in the ancient culture).

With the inauguration of Archaeological museums the concept of regional archaeological museums evolved. Accordingly in 1962, the Ruwanweli Seya Museum was established under the title Naranwita Sumanasara Museum of stone Carvings. The Polonnaruwa Museum was established in the Public Services Sports Club Hall at Polonnaruwa in 1962. The Jaffna Museum which was maintained by the Department of National Museums was handed over to the Department of Archaeology which maintains it now.

Subsequently, the Kandy Museum was established in 1965, Sigiriya Museum in 1966 where as the Yapahuwa Museum had been initiated in 1966. The establishment of the Archaeological Museum for the Eastern Province took place in 1970. By 1979, archaeological museums were scattered all over Ampara, Isurumuniya, Mahiyangana, Kataragama and Ambalantota. Up to now there has been a rapid increase in the number of museums which are under control of the Department of Archaeology.

The Main objective of this exercise is to provide facilities for the public to gain knowledge and entertainment by following the principles of conservation, preservation, documentation and maintenance of antiquities of cultural value discovered by explorations, excavations and by communicating truly and actively to the public the knowledge, education and entertainment by means of preserving the objects, events and activities of the past.

A B C Information Centres
Jaffna Vavuniya Padaviya Weheragala
Anuradhapura Mihintale Seruwila Tantirimale
Kandy Dighavapi Isurumuniya Nalanda
Panduwasnuwara Yapahuwa Lahugala Haththikuchchi
Buduruwagala Dedigama   Maligawila
  Kotte   Dambadeniya
  Yatala   Pidurangala
  Star Fort, Matara   Mulkirigala

Administrative Hierarchy of the Division

Museums Belonging to the Department of Archaeology

North Central Province

  • Anuradhapura Museum (National)
  • Mihintale Museum (Site)
  • Vheragala Museum (Site)
  • Isurumuniya Museum (Site)
  • Tantirimale Museum (Site)

North Western Province

  • Panduwasnuwara Museum (Regional)
  • Puttalam Museum (Site)
  • Rajanganaya Museum (Site)
  • Yapahuwa Museum (Site)
  • Dambadeniya Museum (Site)

Central Province

  • Kandy Musem (Regional)
  • Nalanda Museum (Site)
  • Pidurangala Museum (Site)

Eastern Province

  • Dighavapi Museum (Regional)
  • Seruwila Museum (Site)
  • Welgam Vehera Musem (Site)

Western Province

  • Kotte Museum (Regional)

Southern Province

  • Matara Star Fort Museum (Regional)
  • Yatala Museum (Site)
  • Kasagala Museum (Site)
  • Mulkirigala Museum (Site)

Northern Province

  • Jaffna Museum (Regional)
  • Vavuniya Museum (Regional)

Uva Province

  • Buduruwagala Museum (Regional)
  • Maligawila Museum (Site)

Sabaragamuwa Province

  • Dedigama Museum (Regional)


Anuradhapura Museum (National)

Puravidu Bhavana (Archaeological Museum) in Anuradhapura was established in 1947 under the pioneering effort of Dr. Senarath Paranavitana. This is situated in the old kachcheri building. Antiquities found from various regions of Sri Lanka are displayed in this museum. Buddha statues, incriptions, coins and other antiquities are exhibited here. It has been proposed to name it as the National Museum of the Department of Archaeology. Both inside and outside open areas of the building have been used for displaying exhibits.

Tele : +94 25 3856564


Mihintale Museum (Site)

This is maintained as a site museum displaying antiquities found from the sacred area of Mihintale. This is currently under renovating.

Tele : +94 25 2266005


Veheragala Museum (Site)

This is maintained as a site museum displaying antiquities found from the sacred area of Veheragala. Exhibits are kept inside as well as outside of the building.


Isurumuniya Museum (Site)

Maintained as a site museum and antiquities found from the sacred area of Isurumuniya are displayed.


Tantirimale Museum (Site)

Maintained as a site museum for displaying the antiquities found from the sacred area of Tantirimale. The museum has been established so as to reveal the archaeological and historical heritage of the area.


Panduwasnuwara Museum (Regional)

This belongs to Panduwasnuwara area in Kurunegala District and is situated at Kotampitiya junction on Kurunegala-Chilaw road. It was during the 1970s that the department established the museum for the first time. Then, in 1977, the museum was arranged in the quarters of the Officer in Charge. In 1983, it was shifted to the present old building which was acquired by the Department. This is the regional museum of the Northwestern province. Antiquities found in excavations, donations, antiquities received under court orders and from the Provincial Council Museum of Kurunegala and several rare antiquities are on display.

Tele : +94 37 2291065


Puttalam Museum (Site)

This was opened under the leadership of Hon. D.M. Dissanayake, Member of the Parliament  representing the Puttalam District and  the Deputy Minister of Nation Building and Development on 17-08-2006, under the guidance of Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardhana, Minister of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage. Several antiquities found from the area are now on display.

Tele : +94 32 2265861


Rajangana Museum (Site)

This is a site museum in Tambutta, Mailewa area close to Haththikuchchi Vihara. The museum is to be shifted to a new building. However, the museum is not yet open for public. It is proposed to develop this as a site museum to illustrate the historical value of Haththikuchchi Vihara displaying the antiquities found from the site.

Tele : +94 37 3877726


Yapahuwa Museum (Site)

The museum which is near Yapahuwa Vihara is to be shifted to a new building which is under construction. Boards which narrate archaeological heritage of Yapahuwa and antiquities discovered from the sacred area of Yapahuwa, are displayed in the museum. The Yapahuwa museum was  made open for the public in 2010.

Tele : +94 37 3981395


Dambadeniya Museum (Site)

Objects collected by the incumbent Thero of Dambadeniya Vihara, some clay vessels found at the Dambadeniya Rock and photographs are on display at Dambadeniya archaeological museum. It was made open for the public in April 2008.

Tele : +94 37 3877729


Kandy Museum (Regional)

Antiquities found in the central province are on display in this museum. It is maintained as a regional museum open for the public.


Nalanda Museum (Site)

This was opened for the public in March 2008, as a photograph museum. Photographs of Nalanda archaeological museum and of other archaeological sites in the vicinity are on display at the museum.

Tele : +94 81 3827734


Pidurangala Museum (Site)

Antiquities found at the archaeological site of Pidurangala and photographs are on display. It was declared open for the public on 13th March, 2008.


Dighavapi Museum (Regional)

A large number of antiquities found in the Eastern Province are on display at this museum together with a large number of antiquities found at the Dighavapi site. This is maintained as regional archaeological museum, Ampara.


Seruwila Museum (Site)

Antiquities collected by the chief Incumbent Thero of Seruwila Vihara are housed in this museum. Antiquities found from the archaeological site at Seruwila together with description boards are placed in the museum which is arranged at the exhibition level.


Welgamvehera Museum (Site)

Welgamvehera is being arranged as a site museum.


Kotte Museum (Regional)

The late Mr. E.W. Perera’s residence has been converted to E.W. Perera Memorial Museum in 1992. It consists of five exhibition rooms. Ancient monuments, photographs, various flags, swords, knives, guns, statues , coins, ceramicware, clay vessels and a collection of items used by Mr. E.W. Perera are exhibited in this museum. Items donated and purchased by Mr. Douglas Ranasinghe and items found in excavations and during the construction of buildings in the vicinity are also exhibited here. The museum has declared been established so as to illustrate the archaeological heritage of Kotte area. The museum has been declared open for the public in 1995.

Tele : +94 11-2667377 / +94 11 - 3117392
Kotte Archaeological Museum,
Bangala Handiya,
Etul Kotte.

This museum is at Bangala Handiya at a distance of 10Km from Borella on the Borella-Pitakotte road.





Matara Star Fort Museum (Regional)

Items of archaeological heritage and antiquities of historical value are exhibited at this regional museum, Matara. Among the exhibits, there is a skeleton which belongs to the prehistoric era. Antiquities belonging to various periods including Prehistoric, Anuradhpaura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Colonial periods are exhibited in this museum together with narration boards. Prehistoric items, architectural items, artistic items, inscriptions, coins and antiquities representing the Colonial period are available as exhibits.

Tele : +94 11 3167978




Yatala Museum (Site)

Antiquties found during the excavations of Yatala Dagaba are exhibited in this site museum. Antiquities around the sacred area of Yatala stupa including various Buddha statues, carvings and inscriptions are exhibited in the museum.

Tele : + 94 91 3907787



Kasagala Museum (Site)

This museum is at the planning stage and is scheduled to exhibit antiquities belonging to the place with narration boards relating to Kasagala for illustrating the historical value of Kasagala Vihara.


Mulkirigala Museum (Site)

This museum is at the planning stage and is scheduled to exhibit antiquities belonging to the place with narration boards relating to Mulkirigala for illustrating the historical value of Mulkirigala Vihara.


Jaffna Museum (Regional)

A land owned by Sri Arumugam Navalar was gifted to the Department of Archaeolgy by Arumuga Navalar Foundation in 1975 and in 1978, the museum building was constructed on the land under the supervision of Dr. Roland Silva, the then Commissioner of Archaeology. A large portion of space in the building has  been used for exhibition stalls.

The Regional Museum of Jaffna has been arranged to cover the area of Jaffna. Antiquities with archaeological heritage and historical value are exhibited in the museum. An excellent collection of items received from various places and donated by various persons in Jaffna centred Northern Province are kept in the museum. This collection of items which illustrate Buddhist and Hindu religious heritage includes items of metal, wood and stone. In addition to them, a large number of coins (of different periods and forms) is also available in the museum.


Vavuniya Museum (Regional)

This regional museum established to cover the Vavuniya area is used to exhibit antiquities of archaeological heritage and historical value.


Buduruwagala Museum (Regional)

The Buduruwagala Regional Museum is used to exhibit antiquities rich in archaeological heritage and historical value. Objects belonging to Anuradhapura , Polonnarurwa and Kandy period are exhibited here.

Tele : +94 55 33553617


Maligawala Museum (Site)

This has been planned as a site museum to illustrate the history of Maligawila Vihara. Antiquities found in the site and boards narrating valuable information relating to the site are to be exhibited in the museum.

Tele : +94 55 33577810


Dedigama Museum (Regional)

Inauguration of regional museums of the Archaeological Department bears testimony to the development of archaeological museums. The first regional museum so established is the Archaeological Museum at Dedigama which was established in 1954. This museum was established with the main objective of exhibiting the antiquities found during the excavations of Sutighara chetiya at Kotavehera, Dedigama. However, various antiquities found in Panduwasnuwara and Kegalla District belonging to the reign of King Parakramabahu I are also on display at this museum.

Tele : +94 45 2223035 / +94 36 3367718
Dedigama Archaeological Museum,

This museum can be reached at a distance of 7Km along Galapitamada Road, from the Nelumdeniya junction on Colombo-Kandy road.


Services Rendered

  • The museum is open from 8.00a.m to 5.00 p.m on all days of the week.
  • Visit to the museum is allowed without any entrance ticket.
  • Officers will provide any information required by the visitors.
  • Any person who wishes to obtain any information from the museum for a research he wishes to conduct, should obtain permission from the Director of Museums or the Regional Assistant Director.
  • People can purchase Departmental publications from the sales outlet maintained at the regional museums.
  • Taking photographs of antiquities is not allowed except on permission from the Director General of Museums in writing.
  • Providing necessary instructions and knowledge on the establishment of museums by private organizations.

Functions Performed During the year 2010

  • Organization of the exhibition at Kasagala
  • Organization of the exhibition at Mulgirigala
  • Organization of the exhibition at Maligawila.
  • Reorganization of the star Fort.
  • Preparation of boards at Dedigama
  • Preparation of boards at Kotte.
  • Registration of antiquities at Raja Maha Vihara Deliwala.
  • Opening of the museum at Yapahuwa.
  • Organization of the exhibition at Rajangana Museum.
  • Reorganization of the museum at seruwila
  • Construction of the museum at Welgamvehera.
  • Reconstruction of the museum building at Mihintale.
Department of Archaeology
Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha,
Colombo - 07, Sri Lanka.

Phone : +94 11 2692840, +94 11 2692841
Fax : +94 11 2696250
Email :
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