Portuguese era arms plant site found in Galle Fort | Daily News

Portuguese era arms plant site found in Galle Fort

A researcher examines the excavated stratum of coal. Pictures by Mahinda P. Liyanage, Galle Central Special Corr.
A researcher examines the excavated stratum of coal. Pictures by Mahinda P. Liyanage, Galle Central Special Corr.

A coal layer has been found during the excavation of a site in the Galle Fort under the Galle Fort Renovation and Embellishment Project, consultant of the project and architect Dr. Nihan Cooray said.

The project has been jointly initiated by the Urban Development Ministry, the Archaeology Department, the Galle Heritage Foundation and the Sea Conservation Department.

The coal layer was found at an ancient structure where a prison cell was maintained during the British era. However, historical records mention that during the Portuguese period, an arms factory was located here for which they used coal.

Due to the burning of coal, the walls of this bastion had turned black. So this bastion is identified as ‘Zwart Fort’ or ‘Black Fort’ as the Portuguese called it, Dr. Cooray said.

Collecting samples for raddiocarbon dating.

“We came across this coal stratum while we were carrying out conservation activities at the site. We believe that coal might have been imported from neighbouring India as our country does not have coal. Our aim was not to excavate the area. But we noticed some cracks on the surface of the land which led us to examine it. We found ash also together with coal. We are yet to determine the age of the organic material by using radiocarbon dating for which we have collected samples. We will carry out further excavation on the site,” Dr. Cooray urther said.

Central Cultural Triangle Southern province Project Director Dr. Nimal Perera said that a proper excavation is carried out before renovating any historic building or site and while they were excavating the location, they first found a stratum of ash and thereafter a layer of coal.

“We have identified the location as the place where the Portuguese manufactured weapons. I also believe that coal might have been brought in from India,” he said.

The historical Galle Fort which is a UNEESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) is a magnificent colonial fortress created by stages by the Portuguese, Dutch and British who ruled the country from 1505 to 1948.