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Although when the bricks used in other buildings are examined the actual irregularities in the sizes become much more evident than this table shows, if the contents and area of the side be alone considered, it is quite clear that there is a generallydiminishing scale in the dimensions of the bricks from the earliest period down to the thirteenth century. But although the gradation is found to be often characterised by irregularity, this is not present in such an excessive degree as to prohibit the use of the dimensions-with a certain amount of discrimination-for determining the probable dates of the structures in which the bricks are found. For instance, the short table already given would at least enable any one to distinguish, by the bricks alone, a work of the tenth or twelfth century from one of the second or third century A.D., and the latter from one of pre-Christian date. Even if some exceptions occur in which the age of the construction is doubtful, or even with regard to which a dependence on such measurements might lead to an actual mistake in the time, they should not be allowed to outweigh or to throw much doubt upon the general advantage to be attained by the use of such an accessible method of ascertaining or corroborating the probable dates of structures.
In taking the dimensions of the bricks it is of less importance to measure a great number of lengths than to take a good series of thicknesses, so as to obtain a trustworthy mean thickness; the breadths occupy an intermediate position in value. The reason is plain. The average thickness is about 2 inches, one twenty-fifth of which is only onetenth of an inch, a dimension that can hardly be correctly noted on ordinary bricks, which often vary to this extent, or more, in different parts of the same brick; and thus it can only be accurately measured by taking the mean thickness of several bricks. In the case of the lengths of the bricks, however, one twenty-fifth of even the shorter bricks is half an inch, beyond which the error due to utilising the average size of only two or three bricks as the mean length is not likely to extend. Thus an error of half an inch in the length is of equal importance to an error of one-tenth of an inch in the thickness.
A clear understanding of this fact is of practical service, firstly, because it saves time on the ground, especially in searching for more whole bricks than are necessary; and secondly, because the accidents of time or the repairs of edifices have resulted in the fracture of nearly all the longer bricks, with the exception of those laid in buildings that were specially protected from damage by their mass or situation.
It is still more important in another way. In cases where no whole lengths can be found it permits the use, within certain limits, of a length calculated from the thickness or breadth, or derived from a comparison with other similar bricks, the error in such instances being probably often little more, in proportion, than that made when only two or three measurements of the thickness are possible. This is especially the case if the bricks have been moulded on the ground, and not on planks or tables.
On comparing a large series of measurements of bricks employed in various parts of Ceylon it is clear that the proportions varied in different periods. In the earliest times the length was commonly about six times the thickness, and the breadth was about half the length. Afterwards, the length was reduced to about five or even four times the thickness, though it never reached the English ratio of three times the thickness. The breadth also latterly varied between one-half and two-thirds of the length, but was commonly near the latter ratio.
The contents fell from a possible maximum of about 673 cubic inches 1 to 77 cubic inches; and the area of the side was reduced from 34 square inches to 7.7 inches. In actual dimensions, the length varied from a possible 19.8 inches to 8.2 inches, the breadth from 10-4 inches to 5.0 inches, and the thickness from 3.4 inches to 1.55 inches.
I have consigned to an Appendix a Table containing the sizes of the bricks measured at a large number of ruins in Ceylon,
1 The contents of the largest bricks of which the three dimensions were actually measured was 583 cubic inches; but at three other sites larger ones appear to have been burnt, although unfortunately their lengths could not be measured, no unbroken bricks having been found (see Appendix).
which it is desirable to preserve for the use of local archaeologists, and in some instances for general reference. In preparing it I was confronted by the difficulty caused by the absence of the lengths in places where no whole bricks could be found, or were not in a position where their lengths could be measured, as in some dāgabas where the outer bricks are all'headers'. In these examples I have inserted in brackets in some cases an approximate length and contents, obtained by making the length a definite proportion of the breadth or thickness. Of course it will be understood that the figures so included in brackets merely indicate the probable length and contents, and nothing more.
As regards the periods into which the table has been divided, it is evident that their limits cannot be accurately defined. It may at least be asserted with some confidence that the first one, ending at about the Christian era, is nearly correct; and the same remark may possibly be applicable to the second period.
Owing to the slight change in the sizes from the sixth to the twelfth centuries there will always be considerable uncertainty as to the dates of that period. It is probable that by a reference to the table, however, the date of any bricks may be fixed at that time without an error of much more than one hundred and fifty years; and prior to that time usually within the limits of about one hundred years.
I give a few examples of the application of the information obtained from the table in determining the ages of some structures. Many others will be found in the following chapters, where I have made full use of it.
The Thūpārāma wihāra and dāgaba at Anurādhapura were built by Dēvānam-piya Tissa (245 - B.C.); but the latter was at least partly pulled down and rebuilt subsequently, and in any case the bricks used in it, which would doubtless consist chiefly of those originally employed, are covered up by a coat of plaster. In a small building which still remains on the same platform, and close to the south side of the dagaba, there are bricks measuring 19 inches by 9.15 inches by 3 inches, with a contents of 521 inches, and a side area (which in future
will be termed Bt, that is, the average breadth multipled by the average thickness) amounting to 27.4 square inches.
From an inspection of the table it is safe to conclude that these bricks must belong to some period B.C., and possibly to a late date in the second century, or early in the first century. The building in question must have been a house for statues or relics, or both, no buildings intended for the occupation or personal use of the monks being ever permitted within the inner enclosure round a dagaba in Ceylon, according to information given to me by Buddhist monks. References to such a building occur in the histories, and are given in a later chapter on the dagabas. It is only the measurements of the bricks which prove that the building is of pre-Christian age.
The size of the bricks found in the Maeņik dāgaba at Tissa shows that it was built at about the same time as the Sandagiri dāgaba at the same city; or in other words that it was erected in the first half of the second century B.C.
The table also proves that there are many other works that in all probability date from the last three centuries B.C., and it may be also stated as a general rule that where any early bricks are found in rock-caves at which inscriptions in the earliest characters occur, some of them are of a size which indicates that they belong to the same period.
The great value of the bricks in assisting in the determination of the ages of some of the dagabas at Anuradhapura is apparent in a later chapter.
The bricks of the structures built at Anuradhapura in the second half of the second century B.C., and early in the first century B.C., exhibit great irregularity compared with those at both earlier and later works. It is not known why such variations were made in the sizes at this period. Perhaps it was a time of experiments, and trial was being made of some bricks of a larger size than had been used previously. The difficulty that must have been experienced in burning and handling such clumsy and heavy ones apparently soon led to the adoption of smaller and more convenient dimensions, At Polannaruwa, the larger bricks used in the little Pabulu,
'Coral,' dagaba are demonstrated by the table to be of preChristian age; while those at the Gal-wihāra at that city belong probably to the first century after Christ, and agree closely with the largest ones at the sedent Buddha at Tantirimalei. Mr. Bell, the Government Archaeologist, has already drawn attention to the similarity of the carving at these two places, the works at which he attributed to the same period.1
Although the whole construction at the Gal-wihāra is credited to King Parākrama-Bahu I in the Mahāvansa, it is now shown by the bricks that his work there consisted only of some repairs at the old structure, and perhaps some additional rock excavation and carving. It is impossible to believe that the larger bricks found at these two sites were brought in each case from pre-existing ruins of their vicinity, at which, by some wonderful coincidence, bricks of practically identical sizes had been burnt more than twelve hundred years before. If the Tantirimalei bricks were burnt for use at the work at which we find them, so also were those of the Gal-wihāra; and it is certain from the table that they do not belong to the twelfth century.
In the case of the irrigation works, the table, as might be expected, yields some interesting information, part of which is utilised in later chapters. It will suffice here to draw attention to the evidence of the bricks at Pāvat-kulam, Sangili-Kanadara tank, Batalogoḍa, the Allē-kaṭṭu dam, and Nuwara-waewa, the largest reservoir at Anuradhapura, as well as the channel for filling it. The construction of not one of these important works is mentioned in the histories. Other works not now described, such as the Māmaḍu tank in the Northern Province, and Kaṭiyāwa tank, and Kitikaḍawala tank, and some others, in the North-central Province, appear to have been formed in pre-Christian times, although these also are not mentioned by the historians.
At the head-works of the channel for conveying water to the Giant's Tank, it is the bricks alone which prove the antiquity of this great irrigation scheme, as explained in the chapter
1 Annual Report, 1896, p. 8.