An archaeological investigation into the collapse of Polonnaruva, Sri Lanka

Funded by Australian Research Council.

Collaboration with Durham University and La Trobe University.

The medieval collapse of Polonnaruva marked the end of the lowland kingdoms in Sri Lanka's arid north, and the end of a distinctive and successful form of hydraulic low-density urban settlement. Although historically understood as the result of Indian invasion, recent research at Anuradhapura has suggested the very economic system that enabled these kingdoms to flourish within a marginal environment, may have facilitated their collapse. Utilising archaeological and geoarchaeological survey and excavation within the urban core and its hinterland, in synthesis with historical and epigraphic records, this project will characterise, contextualise and explain the development and failure of the low-density urban state of Polonnaruva.

This project will develop an improved understanding of the collapse of the kingdom of Polonnaruva, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Sri Lanka . This will enable us to develop a better understanding of the causes, mechanisms and pathways of societal "collapse" in hydraulic low-density agrarian urban societies within marginalenvironments. Through publications, exhibitions, and associated media this research aims to inform environmental security and to improve management and risk reduction in decision making in relation to socio- environmental systems.

Stirling's contribution is as geoarchaeological lead including chronological frameworks, and site formation processes. The project also supports of an early career colleague, building on our successful AHRC programme on early water management systems at the Anuradhapura UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sri Lanka.

Total award value £51,839.00

People (1)


Professor Ian Simpson

Professor Ian Simpson

Professor, BES