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This is an account written by the eminent French prehistorian Dr. Jean Clottes, presented as part of the Bradshaw Foundation India Rock Art Archive. Jean Clottes is the first to admit that 'Indian rock art is not as well-known abroad as it should be', despite the fact that the country contains a vast concentration of ancient rock paintings. His research in this Archive, along with that of Dr. Meenakshi Dubey Pathak, highlights both the sheer number of rock art sites as well as the quality and diversity of the prehistoric rock art found in the shelters. Because of this, its preservation - through awareness and appreciation - is clearly essential.


Jean Clottes India Rock Art
Despite the excellent work carried out by my Indian colleagues in the past quarter of a century, Indian rock art is not as well-known abroad as it should be. And yet it is both extremely abundant and spectacular. It has often been said in the recent local literature that India shares the privilege - with South Africa and Australia - of possessing one of the three largest concentrations of rock art and petroglyphs in the world. Be that as it may, it is certain that the sites with paintings and/or engravings are exceptionally numerous all over the country, particularly in its centre.
This is why, when an International Rock Art Congress was organized in Agra (Uttar Pradesh), south of Delhi, in November/December 2004, and I was invited to participate in it, I immediately agreed and registered on two of the after-Congress field trips to see some of the surrounding rock art. The Congress was the Tenth Congress of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO), the first of its kind to be held in India, and it was organized by Dr. Giriraj Kumar on behalf of the Rock Art Society of India (RASI).
rock art India
A herd of red stags with huge antlers
rock art India
Two men under a tent
I shot all the images shown here during the two field trips that, under the guidance of my Indian colleagues, took us first to the rock art sites of Karabad (page 2), in the Raisen district and to those of the Shamla Hills (page 3) next to Bhopal, then to more than 20 of the numerous painted shelters of Bhimbetka (page 4 & 5), and finally to Magazine Shelter (page 6) and Chaturbhujnath Nala (page 7 & 8) in the verdant Chambal valley and its tributaries. All these sites are in Madhya Pradesh, the state with most rock art in India.
As to the general information provided hereafter most of it is taken from books and articles published in the past twenty years (see References). My aim is to pass on some of the information I gleaned through the writings of my colleagues and their painstaking work and also - through the images- some of the wonder I felt when I approached a whole new world of rock art.
rock art India
Red and white humped bull
rock art India
Humped bull with huge horns
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