Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rock paintings dating back thousands of years ago have been found on the hill in Ranchi city, India.

Hand Print was found in a rock shelter.
By
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi



Fig. Hill near Ranchi where Rock painting was found.

A few days ago, during my geological trip to the near by hills in Ranchi city of Jharkhand state of India, I had the opportunity to see rock art for the first time in the city. These rock paintings were found on a hill some 5 kms North of Ranchi city. This hill is composed of granite gneiss rocks. Earlier I saw such paintings far away from the Ranchi city in the villages or in remote areas during my field studies. Fascinated by the detail of their making, I chose them as the subject with geology.  Currently, as a researcher in Geology, I am elaborating on this topic further by studying the engravings of such paintings on the rocks of Ranchi Plateau. There are abstract of geometric symbols, parallel lines, and fence-like patterns. Other symbols hand- and footprints, dancing images etc. Most of the symbols were drawn with great care and were obviously arranged with some purpose. So far it is it is impossible to decode their meaning and cultural significance, but undoubtedly those symbols were once blessed by magic and in the painter’s view therefore possessed supernatural force.

In the hill few big hand prints were found in a rock shelter. One was prominent and others have faded. It resembles to female hand. According to local people these hand prints belongs to Goddess Durga.


Fig. Hand prints on the hill near Ranchi


Fig. Author on the hill with rock paintings.

Many experts have analyzed hand prints at caves in Spain and France and found most of them were female. Red Ochre paint has been used in these handprints which nearly date back to 15,000 to 20,000 years. This shows us that the paintings belong to the Latmos Rock Paintings group. The Latmos Mountains in the hinterland of the west coast of Turkey near Milet were one of the holy mountains of Asia Minor.

Similar rock paintings have previously been found in the Beşparmak Mountains, Bafa Lake and its environs, all of which are located in an area divided between Muğla’s Milas district and Aydın’s Koçarlı and Söke districts. Beşparmak Mountains is a ridge of many spurs running in an east-west direction along the north shore of the former Latmian Gulf on the coast of Caria, which became part of Hellenised Ionia. The city of Latmus, located on the south slopes of Mount Latmus 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of Miletus. Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia.

Such similarity in hand prints gives a conclusion that the civilization in both the areas might have been same.

Prehistoric painters used the pigments available in the vicinity. These pigments were the so-called earth pigments, (minerals limonite and hematite, red ochre, yellow ochre and umber), charcoal from the fire (carbon black), burnt bones (bone black) and white from grounded calcite (lime white). Prehistoric handprints span all continents and began appearing on rock walls around the world at least 30,000 years ago.


Fig. Rock painting similar to geometrical lines.

Other rock art found near hand prints is like some geometrical lines with few parallel lines. It looks like an irregular-shaped net. Experts compare it with local Sohrai Art made by tribes of Jharkhand. But to me it looks like some ancient village map demarcating the boundaries or some language or some astronomical information which is still to be understood. These paintings are important in terms of world cultural heritage. 

10,000 year-old-rock paintings was also found in Tangar Basli block some 40 kms from the state capital Ranchi is now under threat. These rock paintings resembles to rock paintings of rock art of Great Canyon Region.

Threat is from the stone quarrying due to which these paintings have been exposed to the flying stone dust and open atmosphere. Most of the paintings now have been faded. Drawings are made on granite and granite gneiss rocks. In these paintings red ochre has been used. Dancing is the major subject of all these paintings. We now recognize that they did not simply live in caves and hunt animals. They also participated in a full cultural lifestyle, social events with friends and neighbors.
   


Fig. Rock paintings of Tangar Basli near Ranchi

Such rock art in Ranchi and other parts of Jharkhand has the great similarity with little difference in rock art of other countries. It seems that the single civilization was spread all over the earth.

Geology of Ranchi Plateau provides enough cliff faces and domes perfectly suitable to create rock-cut architecture. Granite, granite gneiss and schist are widespread in Ranchi Plateau - these rocks can be tough and time resistant, thus providing ideal basis for paintings. Shade of deep cave and skilful protection from seeping water provide ideal protection from elements.

All of these markings are referred to as "Rock Art." People worldwide have been producing rock art for thousands of years. Some of their messages, produced thousands of years ago, can still be seen today. The oldest are usually found in rock shelters and caves where they are protected from the elements. However, in arid climates some examples of rock art have persisted for ten to fifteen thousand years, depending upon how the art was produced, the direction that it faces and the type of rock used as a "canvas."

Ancient petroglyphs do not have "signatures" because they were produced before written words were invented. So, they cannot be attributed to a specific person. However, petroglyphs can sometimes be attributed to a specific group of people who inhabited or passed through the area where the petroglyphs occur.

Now all these paintings in Ranchi and other parts in the district are under threat due to natural weathering and interference of people.

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