Rock paintings reveal rare species

So did the aardvark, an ant-eating creature now found only in Africa. The stunning finds have emerged from ancient rock paintings found along the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border.

They have been hidden away for centuries in 18 rock shelter paintings near Amravati in Maharashtra and have been discovered by a group of amateur explorers in the past three years — the latest find was in June. And research into them is now proving eye-opening.

A six-member group headed by VT Ingole, who is otherwise the principal of an engineering college in Amravati, chanced upon the paintings after seven years of digging in the Morshi tehsil of Amravati district.
“This is only the second of its kind in the country and dates back to 15,000 years or the Upper Palaeolithic era,” an excited Ingole said.

The discoveries were submitted to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Rock Art Society of India, Agra, which conducted research and confirmed the unique findings.

The explorers, all barring one in their late 50s and early 60s, hit upon the first cave January 26, 2006. The location is the border area of Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh that makes up the Tapti Valley.

“The find was as amazing as it was significant. It sparked new life into our efforts and spurred us to keep going. Till June this year, we have managed to discover a total of 65 caves in that area, including 18 rock shelter paintings,” said Ingole. Prior to this, the only similar rock shelter paintings were found at Bhimbetka near Bhopal in 1957.
But the condition of the find near Amravati is breathtaking, said team members Pradeep S Hirurkar, a state government employee who turns explorer over the weekend.

Hirurkar said they got the first tip-off from the Gond tribals in the region, but since they were in the deep forests and high hills — between 350 and 900 metres, the area was very difficult to access.

While a majority of the paintings are of animals like sivatherium, aardvark and rhinoceros, there are also images of elephants, giraffes, tigers, lions, leopards, bears, wild boars, wild dogs, swamp deer, spotted deer, sambhar, horses and camels.
Only one bird is visible in the paintings — the vulture. There is also one painting of a large tortoise. Below most walls, there are small holes in the floor with the paint remnants indicating these were the ‘dishes’ in which colours were made. Hirurkar said it is amazing that people in those days who were barely known to travel a few kilometres from their dwellings had seen camels or rhinos.

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