Sri Lanka's highlands are situated in the south-central part of the island. The property comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These montane forests, where the land rises to 2,500 metres above sea-level, are home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. The region is considered a super biodiversity hotspot.
The history of Adam's Peak is full of legends. According to the Mahavamsa, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, the projection of Buddha's image is believed to have visited Sri Lanka in 550 BCE and to have planted one foot at the north of the royal city (Anuradhapura) and the other at the top of a mountain (Sri Pada or Adam's Peak). In the 11th century CE the reigning monarch, King Vijayabahu I, climbed the Peak with his army for the first time. In the 13th century King Panditha Parakrama Bahu I climbed the Peak and decided to make it less difficult for the pilgrims to reach the summit. Marco Polo visited the place in the 13th century and Ibn Battuta a century later. During the reign of King Magha, Buddhists were persecuted and monks fled in great numbers to neighbouring countries such as Burma, Thailand, and Laos. To continue their worship of the Buddha's footprint, the Sri Pada, they made replicas that were installed in temples abroad. As a result, the worship of the Sri Pada spread in South-East Asia, a pract
ice that has continued unbroken since the 13th century. When the monks returned they brought these replicas back to the temples of Sri Lanka and the cult of the Sri Pada by means of small-scale copies became popular in the country. Over the centuries, right up to the present day, Adam's Peak has grown in importance as a place for worship.
The cultural heritage of the HPNP is connected with its prehistory. Archaeological findings demonstrate that the area was occupied by Mesolithic people. Recent systematic archaeological investigations based on scientific analysis have yielded evidence of hunting and foraging during the glacial maximum (24,000-18,500 BP). Traces of slash-and-burn and grazing practices have been detected in the following period, whilst during the Post-Glacial period (17,600-16,000 BP) evidence of the beginning of the management of cereals (oats and barley) has been found. The systematic cultivation of rice occurred in the period 13,000-8,700 BP. By that time the cultivation of oats and barley had decreased. Between 8,000 and 3,600 BP with increasingly dry conditions agriculture decreased and in the following period the area appears to have been almost deserted.
The KCF has traces of human life dating back to the Mesolithic period, the Early Iron Age, and the Pre- Colonial period (before 1505 CE). Several sites dated at 30,000 BP have been identified and associated relics, primary tool types, and microliths, have been found. A number of caves that were occupied by Mesolithic man have recently been identified. The area is rich in prehistoric evidence and further research is expected to provide additional information about its occupation in prehistory.
Several caves with drip-ledges dating from the Iron Age (2nd century BCE to 1st century CE) have been discovered.