Havens and harbour cities in Sri Lanka as revealed in Medieval travel accounts and maps

Maps and travel accounts bear witness to the importance of Sri Lankan harbour cities since antiquity. The port city of Manthai, for instance, already appears in Ptolemy’s world map from the 2nd century AD. In the 6th century AD, the Greek traveller Cosmas Indicopleustes described Manthai as a major centre of trade in the Indian Ocean. Adam’s Peak became a pilgrimage destination for Muslims such as Ibn Battuta, who evoked a number of Sri Lankan port cities. Sri Lanka’s harbours also appeared in Chinese and European travel accounts. Under Portuguese and Dutch rule, several harbour cities were significant administrative and military centres.

Related Information

  • Authors:
    Ananda Abeydeera
    2nd century AD to 15th century AD
    Language of article:

    International Seminar for UNESCO Integral Study of the Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue “Harbour cities along the Silk Roads”. 9-14 January 1991. Surabaya, Indonesia.

    Sri Lanka

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