|30 March 2009
Ancient cup marks found in India
A chance visit to a remote Pudukkottai hamlet (Tamil Nadu, India) to assess the damage caused by illegal granite quarrying on an ancient protected archaeological site helped an Archaeological Survey of India team uncover what could be evidence of the first artistic expression of prehistoric man in this region. The cup marks or cupules, similar to those showcased in the UNESCO world heritage sites of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh, were found in a cave in a hillock in the remote Malayadipatti village, 35 km north of Pudukkottai in Tamil Nadu.
"We found rock paintings and stone beds used by Jain preachers in three caves. But our greatest discovery was the cup marks. Besides pounding on lime and iron haematite to get materials to paint on rock, early man used stone tools to carve out symbols on cave surfaces. We believe what we have found in the Malayadipatti cave is the earliest artistic and creative expression of man. And, this is the first time this is being discovered in Tamil Nadu," said Ramesh Mulimani, deputy superintending archaeologist, ASI, Chennai circle, who led a group to the caves in Pudukkottai.
Archaeological experts believe that these marks could date back to the Mesolithic culture, which dates from 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. "But, we have to undertake a precise, scientific dating through C14 (carbon dating) and OSL (obsidian silicon)," said Mulimani. The 400-odd cup marks spread over 100 square feet area of the cave roof and tucked away on the roof surface has been protected from changes over the past several millennia. "They could be religious or other symbolic depictions of that period," he said. The cup marks have a smooth finish and are a few millimetres deep and wide.
The team found three natural caves. One cave had a five-line inscription in ancient Brahmi script. Two caves had a Jain stone bed in each and one had a fading rock painting on the cave wall and the other the cup marks. Known locally as samanar (Jain) padukkai (beds),' these beds were used by Jain preachers during the 3rd to 4th centuries AD. The rock painting, created probably using lime powder mixed with water, is a fading white line drawing depicting a bird and a human form.
The excited ASI team is now trying to get an endorsement from rock art specialists, including Robert Bednarik, the Australian expert, to confirm their findings. Dr. Giriraj Kumar, professor in Indian culture and rock art science, Dayalbagh Education Institute, Agra, who documented the 500 cup marks found in a cave in the Daraki Chattan region in Mandsaur district in Madhya Pradesh, pointed out that while the Chambal markings were in quartzite, the Pudukkottai cupules were on granite.
Source: The Times of India (23 March 2009)
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