Inora Newsletter #42
Meeting - Account



The 2004 Rock Art Society of India Congress, the 10th Congress of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations, was held from the 28th of November to the 2nd of December 2004 at the Hotel Jaypee Palace, Agra, India. It was attended by about 80 delegates from various parts of the world, plus many Indian participants. The conference was enthusiastically opened by Shri S. Jaipal Reddy, the Honorable Union Minister, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Culture, the Government of India. Mrs. Neena Ranjan, Secretary, Department of Culture, Ministry of Culture, also attended. Immediately following the opening, Mr. Robert Bednarik presented the Professor V. S. Wakankar Memorial Lecture.

Delegates enjoyed visits to the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. Many also availed themselves of the various post-congress field excursions.

Symposia and workshops included: Global perspectives of rock art; Early Indian petroglyphs and pre-Upper Paleolithic art of the world; Rock art: new discoveries; Rock art discipline: Vision 2025; Bhimbetka: Vision 2025; Animals and animal-like beings in rock art; Artistic appreciation of rock art; Can we interpret rock art?; Dating of rock art; Paleoart, technology, and cognition; Rock art conservation and management; and Rock art management and education programs for site visitors.

The theme of this conference was “Rock Art Research: Changing Paradigms”. Some presentations helped take the field forward and potentially propel it into new paradigms. Included here were the announcements of new discoveries and developments in the research on recent discoveries (such as Bhimbetka, India [work spearheaded by Dr. Giriraj Kumar], and in East Borneo [Dr. Jean-Michel Chazine]), the use of ethno-historical materials to locate and contextualize rock art sites (Professor Daniel Arsenault), developing techniques for dating (especially through the work of Dr. Alan Watchman and Mr. Robert Bednarik), developing techniques for recording (especially using laser and other new technologies; Dr. Tertia Barnett reported on this), cultural heritage work (including the joint Norwegian-Kazakstan work in the latter country, reported on by Drs. Alexey Rogozhinsky and Anne-Sophie Hygen, and the work on New Zealand rock art reported on by Ms. Mandy Home and Ms. Amanda Symon), and new analytical methodologies (for instance, the forensics-based work of Professors Leslie Van Gelder and Kevin Sharpe on finger flutings). These provide universal insights from which we can all draw to bring to our own work, which lead to new paradigms. Dr. Jean Clottes’ concise elucidation of the shamanistic interpretation of rock art was lively and informative.

The continuing attachment of superlatives to rock art, however, mars the growth of the discussion (the “oldest rock art in the world”, for instance, or the “best examples of this or that”) as they become inseparable from nationalism and national pride, and hamper dialogue.

Thanks go to organizers, especially the Chair, Dr. Giriraj Kumar, and Mr. Robert Bednarik, President of IFRAO, for a very helpful and enjoyable gathering.

Kevin Sharpe
Graduate College, Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, Ohio
Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, 10 Shirelake Close,

Oxford OX1 1SN, United Kingdom.

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