In the center of Sri Lanka, an immense column of rock rises out of the forest surrounding it. The rock is nearly 200 meters (660 feet) tall and is home to the ruins of a fortress as well as an ancient palace complex. It was constructed during the reign of King Kasyapa, which lasted from 477 A.D. to 495 A.D. This site is called Sigiriya, which means Lion Rock. After the king’s death, the palace was abandoned, but was later used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. After this period, no records are found on Sigiriya until 300 years later when it was used briefly as an outpost of the Kingdom of Kandy.
The Sigiriya rock itself is a hardened magma plug from an extinct and long-eroded volcano, similar to the Devils Tower in Wyoming. Archaeologists believe that this region has been inhabited since the third century B.C. King Kasyapa chose this site for his capital because, with the 360-degree view from the summit, it would give him an advantage if attacked. After several years, plans to create a palace complex on the top of the rock finally came to fruition, and the complex became a major palace as well as a fortress. The plans called for an upper palace on top of the rock and lower palaces at ground level.