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30 August 2003
Illegal quarrying destroys prehistoric caves

Ten years of illegal stone quarrying have destroyed prehistoric rock shelters and irreplaceable cave paintings in the villages of Rasulpur and Patsal, near Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Predesh (India). The sites date back 6,000 years to the Mesolithic period, when nomadic hunter-gatherers began, for the first time, to mark their presence through signs and symbols. Early artists used inorganic pigments such as iron oxide, cupric-oxide and lime to produce reds, greens and whites respectively.
     The first indication of ancient sites in the Rasulpur and Patsal region came in 1958, when SC Chandra stumbled upon microlithic sites at Kera. Then, in 1963, JP Gutpa discovered the rock shelters, twelve at Rasulpur and five at Patsal, located on a ridge of the upper Vindhyan range. The inhabitants would have hunted in the dense forest below the ridge and fished in a huge lake that existed in prehistoric times.
     These significant finds were published in the Indian Archaeological Review. In spite of this, and despite representations from officials from the Archaeology Survey of India, provincial administrators granted licenses to mine the region’s sandstone in the early and mid 1990s. Since 1993, unchecked mining through blasting with dynamite and gelignite has destroyed all but one of the Rasulpur shelters, and inflicted serious damage three out of the five at Patsal. The two remaining shelters at Patsal have survived because they are used as places of worship by villagers.
     When asked to comment on the destruction, a spokesman for the regional administration said: “No, no national heritage has been lost. I was not aware that these rock shelters have been destroyed. When were they destroyed?”

Source: Times of India (29 August 2003)

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