A MONGST the early references by Europeans to the existence of lithic records in Ceylon, that of the English captive Robert Knox, in the middle of the seventeenth century, is full of quaint interest. He writes :-
‘Here are some antient writings engraven upon Rocks which poseth all that see them. There are divers great Rocks in divers parts in Cande Uda and in the Northern Parts. These Rocks are cut deep with great Letters for the space of some yards, so deep that they may last to the worlds end. No body can read them or make anything of them. I have asked Malabars, Gentuses as well as Chingulays and Moors, but none of them understood them. You walk over some of them. There is an antient temple, Goddiladenni1 in Yattanour stands by one place where there are of these letters. They are probably in memorial of something, but of what we must leave to learned men to spend their conjectures.’
Since Knox, many have referred to and written upon these inscriptions. Without entering into an enumeration, suffice it to say that the papers which appeared, from time to time, chiefly in the Ceylon Almanac and in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, from the pens of Messrs: Armour, Turnour, Hardy, Gogerly, Casie Chitty, De Alwis, Brodie, Rhys Davids, and others, aroused so much interest in Ceylon epigraphy that in 1874 the Government, under the late Sir W. H. Gregory, decided to engage the services of a specialist in the person of the late Dr. P. Goldschmidt to prosecute systematic research in this direction.