Indian Rock Art - Prehistoric Paintings of the Pachmarhi Hills by Dr. Meenakshi Dubey Pathak


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rock art India
Dr Meenakshi Pathak with her team
in the Pachmarhi Hills
Considerable information is now available about the antiquity of Pachmarhi from Archaeological sources. The excavation by archaeologists in different shelters has provided sufficient archaeological data of the people who occupied these shelters. Excavations were conducted in rock shelters since 1932 by GR Hunter. He introduced the cave art of Pachmarhi in his lecture before the congress of the pre-proto historic science in 1932, which brought the painted rock shelters of Pachmarhi Hills to the notice of Lt Col DH Gordon. Hunter excavated here in 1932 and 1934-35 (Hunter-1955).
rock art India
Cupules on Sand Stone
Clear evidence of Mesolithic culture has come from the Dorothy Deep shelter. The 1932 excavation was confined to the Nallah area, and a trial pit close to the rock wall up to 2’ and the 1934 excavation by a trial trench right across the breadth of the cave up to 5’ depth with undisturbed stratification. The earliest deposit was of the Mesolithic (Tardenoisian) period. The multiplicity of shapes and sizes, characteristic of most stone age cultures, suggests occupation prior to the Neolithic and the metal ages. Subsequently, the shelter was occupied by a culture using pottery. The excavator thought that though there was no sterile deposit between the two cultures, and quartz flakes were found in the upper layers where pottery abounds. It was doubtful if there was any overlap.
Three skeletons were found in association with the typical Tardenoisian flakes and implements but without any beads or other objects. Only two small pieces of cranium were found to be intact. Thus the following sequence has been worked out:
(a) The lower levels yielded microliths of flint. The absence of metal and polished stone indicated that these people lived before metal age. The tools used were mostly crescents and scalene Triangles as well as drills and scrapers.
(b) With no sterile deposit, the Dorothy Deep shelter was inhabited by the pottery using people.
(c) Of the three skeletons recovered from the Mesolithic deposit, two belonged to children of 6-7 and 11 years of age, while the third was an adult. Evidence of a hard diet and the sign of flattening and bowing of the thighbone were discernible. The teeth of the eleven-year-old child showed great deal of wear. The adult was muscular, with small teeth and jaws. There is no evidence to show that racially he differed from the modern people of this region (Collection with British Museum, London).
The excavation of 1935 followed the above sequence and attempted to establish the inference that the Palaeolithic man never inhabited the Mahadeo Hills. Divisible into three sub phases - upper, middle and lower. There was a definite cultural development during the Mesolithic age, in the technique of flaking, leading to the evolution of patterns more suited to the purpose. These tools are similar to those recovered from the Tardenoisian and Caspian sites in Europe and Africa (M.D. Khare 1984; 130). In 1950 A. Ghosh excavated Baniya Berry shelter where a trench of 22”X39” was dug and four layers were found. The lowest consisted of weathered sandstones and yielded no finds. Layer 3 - yellow brown soil mixed with stone chips, geometric microliths, pre pottery period. Layer 2 - of similar soil, also yielded geometric microliths. Layer 1 - top layer dark brown earth, no tools. This suggests the shelter was inhabited only during the Mesolithic period.
Then S K Pandey excavated two rock shelters in 1968. The first shelter was Jambu Dweep in which digging was barely 6 inches deep. It yielded small numbers both of microliths and pottery shreds. Another shelter, Baniya Berry, the excavation was in two distinct layers. The lower layer had loose sandy soil, with one large chalcedony piece, 2 Jasper flakes, 2 triangles and 28 chips. The upper layer of brown earth produced fluted cores and 4 parallel one-sided flakes. There was no pottery in this shelter.
rock art India
Panel with Figures & Monkeys
rock art India
Complex Hunting/Battle Scene
india rock art
Triangular Figures
india rock art
Depiction of Horses
india rock art
Dancing Figures
india rock art
Dancing Figures
During my field research work in the year 1990-91, I collected some Mesolithic pottery shreds, a few tiny pieces of bone and a pendent of the tooth of an herbivorous animal (monkey) from the loose surface of the shelters. Total finding of microliths: Trapeze - 1, blades - 34, side scraper - 8, and burins - 2.
Mesolithic technology, introduced from outside, supplemented the older technology with the passage of time. It consists of Mesolithic tools made of slender micro blade, which were first detached from cylindrical cores by a pressure technique and then blunted on one or more margins. These tools, made of fine-grained rocks, lime, chert and chalcedony, comprise blunted back blades, obliquely truncated bladed, points, crescents triangles and trapezes. By hafting them into bone or wooden handles, these tiny tools were utilized to make knives, arrowheads, spear heads and sickles. Colour nodules are also found in the loose surface. Yellow colour nodules have been found in Bori shelter.
The gradual developments of changes can be seen in this area regarding the use of fire and construction of floors of stone slabs. In the later phases the appearance of copper tools and pottery suggests contact between the Mesolithic people of shelters and Chalcolithic people of the plains. In the upper most layers, early historic pottery shows the persistence of Mesolithic way of life up to the historic times.
All Images Subject to Copyright: Meenakshi Dubey- Pathak
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