|Maraiyur, located near Udumalaipettai, houses many Neolithic|
and megalithic structures made of stone and granite.
Sharing his discovery with Express, C Vijayakumar says Vanapechialai has a large number of faded red-ochre paintings. “There are six red hand marks and certain unidentifiable images. However, there are six bright parallel lines in a zig zag fashion in red ochre resembling flickering of flames.” In the same cave, there is also a white-ochre painting, which portrays a man seated on an elephant (22 cm long, 18 cm wide). Vijayakumar says the white-ochre drawing has been done over red-ochre.
The Vanaraparai cave has the famed ‘hand’ mark, which is early man’s first effort in documenting his identity. “It is imprinted twice in pure red-ochre. In the right hand, the ring finger is missing, suggesting that the imprint is that of the village chieftain or Moopan. In primitive societies during pre-historic period, the Moopan’s ring finger was always cut.”
The cave - big enough to house 150 cows - has paintings ranging between 5 cm and 32 cm. There are altogether 28 sketches of early man, besides images of animals, which include a couple of elephants, men on deer with a primitive hunting weapon, monkeys, the sun and a faded moon.
T Sathyamurthi, former Superintendent of the ASI, Chennai Circle after studying the images describes the discovery as a landmark. The Vanaraparai paintings are datable to the prehistoric period of 1000 BCE (3,000 years ago) and the red ochre painting belongs to the early historic period corresponding to the beginning of the Common Era (2,000 years ago). “The discoverer deserves our compliments,” he adds.
Recalling his arduous efforts in locating the caves, Vijaykumar says he had to trek for several months to discover the site. “It is an elephant corridor. I have encountered elephants, leopard, bear and Indian gaur.”
He had to abandon his research twice due to encounters with animals. The caves were difficult to access and he says, “During daytime, one cannot enter the caves. Bats and huge beehives are the biggest threat.”
The 31-year-old Vijayakumar is currently pursuing a PhD in Landscape Archaeology of Anamalai region in Thanjavur Tamil University.
Source: IBN Live
Rock art sites in India
There are 57 rock art sites in Tamil Nadu and over 800 across India. In Tamil Nadu, Perumukkal near Tindivanam is remarkable for pictographs. Alambadi, near Villupuram is famed for its rock painting of a cow’s digestive system.
Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh, a world heritage site, and Edakkal in Kerala are among other noteworthy sites in India. According to the ASI, Bhimbetka has more than 700 rock shelters, of which over 400 have paintings. It is located about 45 km south east of Bhopal on the road to Hoshangabad. Earliest human activities are known from stone tools, including hand axes, cleavers and pebble tools. At Bhimbetka, engravings of a small cup like depression at the end of the auditorium rock shelter dates to nearly 1,00,000 years.
Edakkal has rock etchings on cave walls which fascinate archaeologists, artists and historians alike. The name itself means a ‘stone in the middle’.