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The majority of the population are from the Sinhalese ethnicity, while a large minority of Tamils have also played an influential role in the island's history.Moors, Burghers, Malays, Chinese, and the indigenous Vedda are also established groups on the island.In antiquity, Sri Lanka was known to travellers by a variety of names.According to the Mahavamsa, the legendary Prince Vijaya named the land Tambapanni ("copper-red hands" or "copper-red earth"), because his followers' hands were reddened by the red soil of the area.Thereafter, Anuradhapura served as the capital city of the country for nearly 1,400 years.

Among the Paleolithic human settlements discovered in Sri Lanka, Pahiyangala (named after the Chinese traveller monk Faxian), which dates back to 37,000 BP, One of the first written references to the island is found in the Indian epic Ramayana, which provides details of a kingdom named Lanka that was created by the divine sculptor Vishwakarma for Kubera, the Lord of Wealth.According to the Mahāvamsa, a Sinhalese chronicle written in Pāḷi, the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka are said to be the Yakshas and Nagas.Ancient cemeteries that were used before 600 BC and other signs of advanced civilisation have also been discovered in Sri Lanka.Sinhalese history traditionally starts in 543 BC with the arrival of Prince Vijaya, a semi-legendary prince who sailed with 700 followers to Sri Lanka, after being expelled from Vanga Kingdom (present-day Bengal).He established the Kingdom of Tambapanni, near modern-day Mannar.

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