Hey guys, I am in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka, and here we can see this gigantic stone artifact, it is nearly 27 feet long, four and a half feet wide and is made of one solid block of granite. There are many fascinating details about this, and archeologists in Sri Lanka have not fully studied its secrets. To start with, this is the largest, freestanding stone tablet in the world. It has 4300 characters written on it, most of which are still readable today even though it was created 800 years ago. The original name of this is not known, but is referred to as “Gal Potha” which means a “Stone Book”. A few years ago, experts analyzed this rock and found something extraordinary. They found small traces of metal inside many of these inscribed letters and realized that molten metal was poured over this block. However, archeologists have no idea why this was done. Why would ancient builders create a large stone block with inscriptions and then pour molten metal over it? Today, we are going to find the answer to this question.
To understand this, I decided to make a small scale model of what the ancient builders would have done. Imagine that this red wooden block is the large granite rock. Now, I am punching my name on the face of the wooden block – this is similar to the inscriptions on the stone. After finishing the inscription, ancient workers poured molten metal over it, which would have solidified after some time. I decided to pour silicone paste on top of the writings and let’s just wait for it to solidify. Now, archeologists have no idea why molten metal was poured on top of it, but ancient builders must have clearly had a good reason to melt metal and pour on top of the rock. After a few hours, the silicone paste has solidified and now, what should I do with this? My natural instinct is to use some force and separate the silicone from the block. And when I looked at the face of the solidified silicone, I can see the mirror image of my name, at a raised level. This is really fantastic, this is what the ancient builders would have done. The next step would be to put some kind of ink on top of this and we can take any cloth and look at this, when I press the two together, I am able to print my name. Now, I can use this solidified silicone like a rubber stamp to print any number of times, today this technology is called block printing. We still use this on clothes. But you can see that ancient builders were using this printing technique at least 800 years ago. After pouring molten metal on the rock and waiting for it to solidify, they would have taken the metal plate out and used it as a stamp and printed enormous number of posters, banners etc and posted it around the city.
But this raises an important question, what is the need to create the inscription on the rock, why not just create the embossed stamp on the metal directly? Because, the stone tablet was created as a master template with which many stamps or dies can be created. Using the stone tablet, many metal dies would have been created by repeatedly pouring molten metal and then taking the solidified plates out. These metal plates would have been transported to various parts of Sri Lanka, and people would have then used large cloths as banners and created thousands of banners and would have placed them in nooks and corners. This centralized template system eliminates the possibility of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors that can creep in, if individual metal plates were created separately.
Today governments use printers and are able to create a large number of propaganda material and post them to the nook and corner to influence or even brainwash people. What does the ancient inscription contain? It also contains 800 year old government propaganda, if you look at what is written on it, it explains how the King must be respected and protected at all cost, it also warns people if they go against the king or reveal his secrets they would be dead. It establishes a strict set of rules to be followed by everyone in his kingdom, this is why he created a centralized template which could be used in various parts of Sri Lanka.
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