• Archaeology of Vindhyan Rock Art: some perspectives on its types and provenance

    Archaeology of Vindhyan Rock Art: some perspectives on its types and provenance


    Ajay Pratap, M.Phil & Ph.D. (Cantab.),
    Project Director,
    ICHR Rock Art of Mirzapur Project (2009-2011),
    Department of History,
    Faculty of Social Sciences,
    Banaras Hindu University,
    Varanasi 221 005


    In this paper we wish to discuss some fundamental issues confronting us in this Indian Council of Historical Research Funded two year project pertaining to the Documentation and Analysis of the rock art of Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh. The questions we have posed in this survey to the corpus of rock paintings of Mirzapur and their archaeology are briefly, as follows:
    1. What was the nature of the Pleistocene in the Vindhyas?
    2. What modes of human subsistence prevailed in the Vindhyas during the Pleistocene?
    3. What was the environment like?
    4. What are the faunal populations?
    5. What is the demographic profile of the Vindhyas at terminal Pleistocene?
    6. Does the Vindhyan ecology see any faunal extinction?
    7. What is the local ecological regime’ around painted shelters?
    8. How old are the paintings?
    9. Do they faithfully depict what existed?
    10. Do they reveal anything about human social relations?
    11. What is the meaning of Vindhyan rock art?
    12. How does it behave as art?

    In this paper, along with presenting some of the visual rock painting data we have recorded thus far, namely from the sites of Wyndham, Likhaniya, Chuna Dari, Morahna, Lekhania and Mukkha Dari, we shall foray into answering the problem-oriented questions which we have posed this corpus of paintings, along with the humdrum task of building a visual archive, in some measure, faithful to its purpose – the ultimate preservation of this invaluable rock art corpus of the Vindhyas, such that meaningful research may be continued.

    I. What was the nature of the Pleistocene in the Vindhyas?

    On date no palaeo-enviromental data from the Vindhyas, particularly from Morahna and Lekhania, on the Vindhyan escarpment is available. Despite three excavations in this area Varma (1957), Misra (1967) and Jayaswal (1983) and other studies Singh (2005), Allchin (1958), Pandey (2010), Prasad (1996), Sacha and Pal (2010), and Singh (2005), there has been no effort to seek the data relevant to reconstruct the environmental correlates of ecological change affecting the highland Vindhyas at terminal Pleistocene. As such research is at the moment beyond the mandate of this project; we shall present a rough environmental re-construction, as may be gleaned by secondary correlation and deductive logic.

    It is evident that a dry phase in the climate is discernible in the post-Pleistocene upland environment as Kankar formations (Pandey, 2010) are found in the deepest sediments of the Ganga valley, which have been scientifically ascertained to be Holocene in origin. In any case, as the upland soil profile is moderately lateritic and very thin, the possibility of Kankar formations to be found in the Vindhyan uplands is almost negligible. It may be mentioned in passing that there are several calcareous deposits noticed on rocks (Cockburn 1888) which is definitely through monsoonal leaching of the upland soils. Hence, we have to assume, that, the early Holocene climate obtaining in the Ganga valley, and which is scientifically proved, did also obtain in the highlands just south of it. However it does not bear mentioning even i passing that the ecological variations between Lowland Ganga valley and uplands is very significantly different and even in the uplands there are significantly different micro-ecological niches which differ from place to place. That is the Vindhyan region.

    II. What modes of human subsistence prevailed in the Vindhyas during the Pleistocene?

    Assuming that at least some of the Vindhyan rock art is indeed upper Palaeolithic as archaeological stratigraphic sequences suggest the development of tool-technology all the way from the Achulean to iron-age, it is possible to posit that human subsistence techniques in the very earliest of periods here was hunter-gatherer of the `collector’ type (Binford 1963, Rowley-Conwy, 2001, 2010) which at terminal Pleistocene gradually intensified, to the degree intensification is possible among hunter-gatherers, and transformed into `forager’ type hunting-gathering (Binford 1963, Rowley-Conwy 2001, 2010) marked partly by storage and sedentism. This may independently be inferred from the painted rock shelter types of the Vindhyas. Separately Binford (1963) and Rowley-Conwy (2001, 2010) have argued that the very earliest of hunting-gathering societies were `collectors’ with patterned but almost infinite mobility, as they moved from one resource-patch to another, fulfilling their subsistence-needs, without the need for a home-base. If this model is taken to be correct, and since it is, then it is logical to expect short-term hunting camps, which would be characterized by some idiosyncratic features in varying ecozones. In the Vindhyan context with its robust terrain we estimate that such short term hunting-camps of the `collector-type’ would be the painted sites which are entirely open-air. And indeed, there are a plethora of painted sites in the areas of the Vindhyas and the abutting Kaimurs which we have surveyed until now which bear copious rock-paintings (Wyndham 1, 2, 3, 4; Likhaniya Dari 1, Mukkha Dari 1, 2, 3). Of course, the very finest of examples of deductively constructed arguments suffer the worst of fates when confronted with direct dating methods but it is not as if precise dating-methods would make any sense at all in the absence of rational fleshing-out by archaeological reasoning.

    III. What was the environment like?

    As we do not have access to any studies of Pleistocene sediments of the Vindhyas, we must work inferentially from the paintings themselves from such open-air shelters as named – Wyndham, Likhaniya Dari, and Mukkha Dari. The depictions in these three locations are similar in that all of these sites are located next to open drainage channels, of mountain-fed streams. At Wyndham we have the Wyndham River, at Likhaniya the Garai River and at Mukkha Dari the Belan. The rock art depictions are abundant with such species as the Axis, Varanus, Elephas, Bos, Bubalus, (slides from all three sites) from which we may assume that the Pleistocene climate in the upper Palaeolithic, as earlier, was not very different, from the Holocene in terms of local ecology and resource base. Significant change occurs only through episodic desiccation and re or over-hydration only after the onset of the Holocene.

    IV. What are the faunal populations?

    The following table summarises the faunal populations encountered in the rock art such as is identifiable to any reasonable degree as some of the depictions are indeed “stylised”, vague or even “abstract”. These bear comparing with percentages of various faunal species recovered (Thomas et. al. 2002) from G.R. Sharma's excavations at Damdama, a Mesolithic site located in the Vindhyan hinterlands, about a hundred and sixty kilometers from the northern aspect of the Vindhyas. To afford us any sort useful comparison, this is best studied analogically, that is the faunal types and percentages in Vindhyan rock art and those recovered through excavations at the Damdama Site. Below is extracted a species, per cent and layer-wise summary.

    Species Per cent Layer(s)

    Bos indicus 0.02 % Layer S-1
    Bos Sp. 4.17 % Layer- S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,,8,9,10
    Bos gaurus 3.63 % Layer - S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10
    Bubalus arnee 0.44 % Layer - S-1,6,3
    Capra (Domestic) 0.05 % Layer- 2,9
    Capra sp. (Wild) 0.05% Layer - S-1,3,6
    Axis axis 19.67 % Layer - S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11
    Axis porcinus 11.75 % Layer - S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10
    Axis sp. 18.95 % Layer-S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10
    Cervus Sp. 15.35 % Layer-S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10
    Muntiacus muntjak 5.13 % Layer-S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10
    Moschus moschiferus 0.05 % Layer-S-5
    Tragulus memmina 0.02 % Layer - S-3
    Boselaphus Tragocamelus 0.39 % Layer - S-1,3
    Tetracerus quadricornis 0.44 % Layer - S-1,2,6,10
    Antilope cervicapra 1.23 % Layer - S-1,2,3,4,5,7,9
    Gazella bennetti 0.20 % Layer - S-1,2
    Sus scrofa 2.52 % Layer - S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10
    Sus salvanius 0.64 % Layer - S-1,2,6,7,9
    Canis lupus 0.25 % Layer - S-1,4,7,9
    Canis aureus 0.02 % Layer - S-1
    Canis sp. 0.05 % Layer-S-2
    Vulpes bengalensis 0.07 % Layer S-2
    Melursus ursinus 0.02 % Layer S-1
    Herpestes edwardsi 0.02 % Layer S-1
    Hystrix indica 0.05 % Layer S-1,8
    Rattus rattus 0.44 % Layer S-1,2,8
    Bandicota indica 0.05 % Layer - S- 3,8
    Rhinoceros unicornis 0.64 % Layer - S-1,2,3,5,6,8,10
    Elephas maximus 0.64 % Layer S-1,2,3,4,5,6
    Gallus gallus 1.26 % S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9
    Trionyx gangeticus 0.24 % Layer S - 1,2
    Lissemys punctata 7.35 % Layer- 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10
    Chitra indica 3.58 % Layer S-1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10
    Varanus Sp. 0.27 % Layer - 1,2,3,6,7,8
    Calotes versicolor 0.12% Layer- 2
    Pila globosa 0.05 % Layer -2

    (Thomas et. al, 2002, 366-80).

    Now even before we move to comparing these sorts of faunal percentages with those faunal representations which are actually found in the Vindhyas, and not all of these may be Mesolithic, which suggests some lack of Damdama serving as a proper analogue model for explaining faunal types and diversity of the Vindhyas. Given the proximity of that site to the Vindhyan Highlands, We should, therefore, turn to deriving the faunal exploitation pattern from the Damdama site. (Contd.)

    V. What is the demographic profile of the Vindhyas at terminal Pleistocene?

    V.D. Misra’s (2002) excavation at the Lekhania shelter on the Morhana escarpment is a good starting point even though the distribution and locational density of rock paintings relatively indicates demographic aspects very crudely. Wyndham, Likhaniya and Mukkha Dari are all very densely painted open-air shelters. However, we do not expect more than band-size communities at any given painted site, which is to say no more than twenty or thirty individuals residing there at any given point of time. The Lekhania excavation has yielded near 18 complete and incomplete skeletal remains from its lowest depths and this therefore may be the total population inhabiting that site. Parameters relating to their age, sex, dental pathology and skeletal biology have already been published. Lukacs and Misra (2002) have argued through their dental pathology studies of the Lekhania skeletal series that the sort of dentition found among all the individuals here suggests that they were mainly meat-eaters, and hence, hunter-gatherers. Jayaswal’s excavation of a painted site (1983) at the Mura Hill site on the Morahna Escarpment, has also suggested an Upper Palaeolithic strata underlying the Mesolithic.

    VI. Does the Vindhyan ecology see any faunal extinction?

    The question regarding rock art as a means of detecting environmental and consequent changes in faunal and other biotic aspects is a difficult one as the term `art’ suffixed to rock art presupposes that the ontology of rock paintings is likely non-empirical. Faunal species that are depicted are not necessarily the entire range but those (some 38 species have been found at the Mesolithic site in the Ganga Plains – Damdama- Thomas et. Al. 2002) which most appealed to the prehistoric painters as worthy of depiction. What then is the ontology of the rock paintings of the Vindhyas is one of our project goals which we have referred to as analysis and this would be preceded by a statistical description of frequency of each painted motif – human, animal, abstract, human activities depicted, type of animal activity depicted etc., decorative motifs. The debate around post-Pleistocene faunal extinctions from other parts of the world considers only mega-fauna extinctions due to climate change at the Pleistocene-Holocene transformation. Rhinoceros has been found in undated shelter paintings, in the Kaimurs, towards Robertsganj, however, it has also been found at the Mesolithic site Damdama. This suggests that some faunal migrations from the highland Vindhyas northwards to the Gangetic plains, savannah type grassland during the Holocene, is likely. However, highly stylised, historic period painting of a rhino hunt has been found by us next to the Great Deccan Road at CAR 7 shelter, Locality II, Morahna.

    VII. What is the local ecological regime’ around painted shelters?

    The Vindhyan ranges are non-continuous series of montane zones, intersected by sub-montane zones, River valleys, and Flatland. The montane zones are very rich in primary sandstones and quartzites and bands of cherty and other siliceous minerals obtain in most parts. However it is sandstone which predominates. Geomorphically, there is a variation from the south of the district, bordering Rewa where onion-peel weathering has exposed almost central Indian (Bhimbetka) like landscape, in which several painted shelters like Baghai-Khor, Morhana, Lekhania and Mura Hill obtain. Here water sources are seasonal, especially, on the Vindhyan escarpment. However, that water-supply here was also adequate sometime in the past is a logical conclusion from the excavations which have shown all these painted shelters to have been habitation shelters also.

    The source of Mukkha Dari, Likhaniya and Wyndham Falls is also the Vindhyan Plateau which gathers the annual monsoonal input and then discharges them as perennial rivers named variously as Belan, Garai and Wyndham. These locations evidence painted shelters which are all open air habitation shelters, located in Gorges with almost no soil profile at all, except at Wyndham, on the opposite bank facing the painted shelters.

    Both types of early habitats are also characterized by heavy forested type ecozones and niches with ample access to forest products and wild fauna obtaining here round the year. Thus even if hypothetically these are upper Palaeolithic their location suggests them to be round-the-year hunting-gathering camps.

    VIII. How old are the paintings?

    Subsequent to and consequent to the effort of documenting the variegated figures in variegated colours sizes and shapes our attention has from the very start of this project been drawn towards the question – how old are these paintings or more precisely what age bracket or range should be appropriate. Broadly, the `Out of Vindhyas’ hypothesis has been accepted for the development both of the lowland Gangetic plains Mesolithic Chopani-Mando and Damdama; and Neolithic sites connected with early agriculture Mahadaha, Sarai Nahar Rai, Mahagara, Koldihwa. This is as it were the first and earliest visualization of the rise of agriculture in the Ganga Plains. The idea being that due to post-Pleistocene desiccation and re-hydration and such geomorphic processes the uplands became uninhabitable and therefore an out-migration of human as well as faunal population of the Vindhyas took place around 8,000 B.C – 2,000 B.C. when fully-fledged agriculture obtains as far south (of the River Ganga) at Senuwar and north of it at Chirand. In the last decade or so this picture has not been refuted, although, revised since lower Palaeolithic to upper Palaeolithic stone tool industries have been found in the Son River Valley (Jones and Pal 2010); but a greater chronology obtains in the Vindhyas itself where a direct sequence from lower Palaeolithic to the iron-age cultures is now in no doubt. The rock paintings themselves have on date not been direct-dated and we refuse to accept relative dates as a valid means to be establishing the chronology of rock paintings of this area. Broadly, the stylistics, which is the type and modes of execution of drawings obtaining at the sites studied by us (some slides here) suggest that at the very least painting activity must have started in the upper Palaeolithic, however, at the moment this is just an informed-guess. Why have we advanced such a hypothesis? This is because such faunal species as are reported from the earliest of levels of Damdama (Thomas et al 2002) are indeed found in the Vindhyan rock paintings. Thus if the Mesolithic Cultures in the Ganga valley are of 8,000 B.C. then following the `Out of Vindhyas’ hypothesis, chronologically, the representation of the same fauna in the Vindhyas must necessarily be much older, possibly of the late Pleistocene. Then again as Cockburn has reported paintings from the Son Valley itself, then it also bears examining, what the antiquity of these paintings are.

    IX. Do they depict faithfully what existed?

    This is just a small example of the chaine’-operatoire that we have followed.
    Returning now to the chief issue confronting this project, which is that after we have finished subsidiary deductions regarding current environment and ecology and the past ones, which apparently played some role in determining the hunter-gatherer art of the Pleistocene or the late Pleistocene or the Holocene? What further may we possibly say about the utility of the rock paintings of the Vindhyas as material culture for the historical reconstruction of past societies? Why were they made? It would have been nice to be able to say, as John Coles has for the Scandinavian rock art, that rock art is a picture-show (Coles, 1995). In brief, he suggests that paintings on a rock surface, over a period of time, yield an unintentional series of images, which is likely to mean many things tom many people. And that therefore it is a picture show.

    That is to say that in this medium of archaeological material culture which we call rock art we have a recording of what happened in prehistory, and later, much as in a piece-meal visual record. And therefore that is its final meaning. The tapestry of images at any one site will make sense only in parts and not in its totality, as is presumed by Post-processualists purporting to regard rock art as `text’. This idea was insinuated by John Coles. Even as we reserve our own view of what we think of rock art at this point, John Coles’s view is clearly one amongst many others, on the nature and meaning of rock paintings, all of whom, which in our view, are inferentially no closer than others with regard to assessing the nature of rock art as a medium of representation.

    It may even be said that the business of interpreting the rock art of the Vindhyas is sometimes as confounding as to their ultimate meanings as much as the pictographic Indus Valley Script. For what we have is a series of images which make sense per image but not necessarily when we add-up their sum. For a scientifically valid interpretation of a pictorial phenomenon we need a congruence and consensuality regarding its purpose. On date, that sort of a condition may not be claimed for interpretive studies of prehistoric rock paintings anywhere in the world. All we have are hypotheses with differing theoretical origins – cognitive, ecological, semiotic, landscape, cognitive, shamanistic, statistical, iconographic, art historical, but most of all commonsense-based interpretations, and last but not least explanation of rock art imagery through excavations in painted shelters. Yet, just as the spoken language transcends subsistence behaviour so does pictorial or visual and art activity so that there is little chance of a one to one correspondence between excavations (Technomic aspects) and Rock Paintings (Ideational).

    For as Roland Barthes argued in his famous book `Writing Degree Zero’ there are writerly-texts and there are readerly-texts. This is to say that the intentions with which a writer of a coded text inscribes his/her views may not correspond entirely with the meanings a reader/or more than one readers may draw from it. This is no doubt the problem with all literature and art. Is it the same with prehistoric art? That is another school of thought insofar as decoding the meanings of prehistoric/historic rock paintings is concerned. This position is usually adopted by semiotics-based interpreter’s chief of whom has been the work of Margaret Conkey.

    X. Do they reveal anything about human social relations?

    Without a shade of doubt there are numerous depictions of humans, both realistically, and stylized; individually, and in groups; indulging in various types of activities (kindly check the types of categories into which you have slotted this art until now and list/summarize their value here.)

    XI. What is the meaning of Vindhyan rock art?

    For the purposes of our project we have categorized the documented images into certain discrete groups or boxes which we feel would help us sort and group the pictures best given our project goals of documentation and analysis of the rock paintings of the Vindhyas. These are:

    1. Abstract designs
    2. Activity areas
    3. Animal activity depictions
    4. Animal figures
    5. Archaeological feature
    6. Associated archaeological feature
    7. Binding material
    8. Bones
    9. Catastrophic
    10. Cognition
    11. Colour types
    12. Contemporary animal activity shelters
    13. Erosion
    14. Fading-faded paintings
    15. Hand stencils and imprints
    16. Human activity depictions
    17. Human alterations
    18. Human figures
    19. Landscapes
    20. Lines squiggles and designs
    21. Location on shelter
    22. Overall shelter
    23. Painting material
    24. Painting at height
    25. Painting weathering agents
    26. Post-depositional processes
    27. Raw material
    28. Rock type
    29. Rock weathering
    30. Shelter types
    31. Soil types
    32. Stone tool
    33. Superimposition
    34. Surface
    35. Thematic
    36. Thematic panels
    37. Threats
    38. Tourist impact negative
    39. Tourist impact positive
    40. Unidentifiable
    41. Unrecognizable
    42. Visuality
    43. Water sources
    44. Weathered paintings
    45. Weathering
    46. Weathering of paintings
    47. Work by previous archaeologists

    XII. How does it behave as art?

    Nearing the conclusion of this paper we would like to contend that the origin of Vindhyan rock paintings is an entirely local phenomenon. Moreover, there are elements of difference between one cluster and another such as Morhana, Lekhania, Likhaniya, Chuna Dari and Mukkha Dari, which seems to suggest that this vast geographical area was inhabited in the past by distinct groups of people not necessarily connected in terms of lineage, band or tribe. As a wonderful panel at Wyndham 3 shows there was inter-group conflict over resources. Lukacs and Misra (2002) have observed `parry-fractures’ amongst one or two male and female individuals and have speculated violence to be the origin of these. Finally, some juxtaposed and superimposed paintings also suggest assertion of territorial authority of one group over another. Indeed Tim Ingold has argued that hunter-gatherers appropriate the landscape by placing their markers such as art over their defined territories.

    The placing of rock art in cave-hollows of Morahna and Lekhania suggest that these shelters were inhabited later than those at Likhaniya, Chuna Dari, Mukkha Dari and Wyndham by groups of hunter-gatherers of the forager type who used these shelters as home-bases in their foraging economy. Except Wyndham, and Mukkha Dari, as all these sites evidence historic period paintings laid on or juxtaposed with earlier paintings it is likely that these shelters were inhabited well into the iron-age when rhino-hunts, wheel-drawn chariots, horsemen with swords and shields are a commonly depicted theme. The earlier or Late Pleistocene painting sites or layers evidence mainly faunal depictions, decorative designs and in some cases immature designs and figures which suggest that they were made by infants or children.

    XIII. Conclusion

    To conclude, our work of `documentation’ and `analysis’, although still in progress, has over four field-seasons (2009-2011) has led us to document some 30 sites in 6 clusters, in various zones selected in the Vindhyan Range south of the Varanasi district in Mirzapur. These are separated from each other by considerable distance and occur in a variety of ecological niches. A further goal of our research project is to be able to also document the erosive processes active on the rock art of the area such that a comprehensive conservation plan may be developed and recommended to the Department of Archaeology, Government of Uttar Pradesh, and, the Archaeological Survey of India. Last but not least the social meanings of the Vindhyan rock paintings still remain to be analysed fully.


    Allchin, F.R. 1963. Neolithic Cattle-keepers of South India. A Study of the Deccan Ashmounds. University of Cambridge Oriental Publications No. 9. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

    Appadurai, A. 1988. Social Life of Things. commodities in cultural perspective. Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Cambridge University Press.

    Beck, U., Giddens, A., Lash, S., 1994. Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order. Polity Press. Cambridge.

    Bednarik, R.G. 2007. Rock Art Science. The Scientific Study of Palaeoart. Aryan Books International. Delhi.

    Bell, J.A. 1994. Interpretation and Testability in Theories about Prehistoric Thinking. pp. 15-28. In Renfrew, C. and Zubrow, E (Eds.) The Ancient Mind. Elements of Cognitive Archaeology. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

    Binford, L.R. 1963. An Archaeological Perspective. Seminar Press, New York.

    Bradley, R. 1994. Symbols and signposts – understanding the prehistoric petroglyphs of the British Isles. In A.C. Renfrew and E. Zubrow (Eds.), The Ancient Mind: Elements of a Cognitive Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 93-5.

    Bradley, R. 2002. The Past in Prehistoric Societies. Routledge. London.

    Brainerd, G. 1951. The place of chronological ordering in archaeological analysis. American Antiquity 16: 310-13.

    Bruck, J and Goodman M. (Eds.) Making Places in the Prehistoric World. Themes in settlement Archaeology. UCL Press, London.

    Chippindale, C, Tascon, P.S. (Eds.) 1998. The Archaeology of Rock Art. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

    Cockburn, J. 1899. Cave drawings in the Kaimur Range, North West Provinces. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Pp. 88-97.

    Cockburn, J. 1988. On Palaeolithic implements from drift gravels of the Singrauli Basin, South Mirzapore. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 17: 57-65.

    Coles, J. 1995. Rock art as picture show. In Helskog, K.A. and Olsen, B. (Eds), Perceiving Rock Art: Social and Political Perspectives. Novus. Forlag.

    Conkey, M. 1982. Boundedness in art and society. In Hodder, I. (Ed.) Symbolic and structural archaeology. Pp. 115-128. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

    Conkey, M. 2000. Structural and semiotic approaches. In Whitley, D. (Ed.) The Handbook of Rock Art Research. Pp. 273-310. Altamira Press. Walnut Creek, California.

    Conkey, M. 2001. Hunting for images, gathering up meanings. In Panter-Brick, C, Layton, R.H., Rowley-Conwy, P. (Eds.), Hunter-Gatherers. An interdisciplinary perspective. Pp. 267-291. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

    Cornwall, I.W. 1960. Bones for the archaeologist. Phoenix House Ltd. London.

    Ghosh, M. 1932. Rock paintings and other antiquities of prehistoric and later times. Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India, No. 24., Reprinted 1938, 1998. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.

    Gosden, C. 2001. Postcolonial Archaeology: Issues of Culture, Identity, and Knowledge. In Hodder, I (ed.) Archaeological theory today. Polity. Cambridge.

    Gurukkal, R. 1997. The Edakkal Rock Engravings: morphology and meanings. Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences 4(1): 43-61.

    Hodder, I. 2001. Archaeological Theory Today. Polity Press. Cambridge.

    Johnson, M. 1999. Archaeological Theory. An Introduction. Blackwell. London.

    Jones, S. C., and Pal., J.N. 2010. The Palaeolithic of the middle Son valley, north-central India: Changes in Hominin Lithic technology and behaviour during the Upper Pleistocene. ???

    Leonard, R.D. 2001. Evolutionary Archaeology. In Hodder, I. (Ed.) Archaeological Theory Today. Polity Press. Cambridge.

    Lukacs, J.R. and Misra, V.D. 2002. Human Skeletons at Lekhania. In Misra V.D. and Pal J.N. (Eds) Mesolithic India. Allahabad University, Allahabad. 289-288.

    Lorblanchet, M. (Ed.) 1992. Rock Art in the Old World. Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, Delhi.

    Mithen, S. 1989. Ecological Interpretations of Palaeolithic Art. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 57, 103-14. Reprinted in Preucel and Hodder (eds.) (1996), 79-96.

    Mithen, S. 1990. Thoughtful Foragers: A Study of Prehistoric Decision Making. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

    Mithen, S. 2001. Archaeological Theory and Theories of Cognitive Evolution. pp. 98-122. In Hodder, I. (Ed.) Archaeological Theory Today. Polity Press. Cambridge.

    Mitra, P.1923. Prehistoric India. Its place in world cultures. Reprint 1979. Bharatiya Publishing House. Varanasi.

    Neumayer, E. 1993. Lines on Stone. Prehistoric rock art of India. Manohar.

    Pandey, R.P. 2010. ?

    Pappu, S et al. 2011. Early Pleistocene Presence of Acheulian Hominins in South India. Science 331, 1596-99.

    Prasad, K.N. 1996. Pleistocene Cave Fauna from Peninsular India. Journal of Caves and Karst Studies. April. 30-4.

    Renfrew, C and Bahn, P.G. 2005. Archaeology. Key Concepts. Routledge, London.

    Renfrew, C and Zubrow, E. 1994. The Ancient Mind. Elements of Cognitive Archaeology. New Directions in Archaeology Series. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

    Renfrew, C. 1982. Towards an Archaeology of Mind. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

    Renfrew, C. 2001. Symbol Before Concept: material engagement and the early development of society. In Hodder, I. (Ed.) Archaeological Theory Today. Polity Press. Cambridge.

    Rowley-Conwy, P, Layton, R. 2011. Foraging and farming as niche construction: stable and unstable adaptations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 366, 849-862.

    Rowley-Conwy, P.A. 2001. Hunter-gatherers. In Panter-Brick, C., Rowley-Conwey, P. And Layton. R.H. (Eds.) Hunter Gatherers Today. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

    Singh, I.B. 2005. Climate change and human history in Ganga Plains during Late Pleistocene-Holocene. Palaeobotanist 54: 1-12.

    Singh, P. Megalithic burials in the Vindhyas. In Misra, V.N. and Bellwood, P., 9Eds.) Indo-Pacific Prehistory.

    Tewari, R. 1990. Rock Paintings of Mirzapur. Eureka Printers. Lucknow.

    Thomas, P.K. Joglekar, P.P. Misra, V.D., Pandey, J.N. Pal, J.N. 2002. Faunal Remains from Damdama: Evidence of the Food Economy of the Gangetic Plain. In Misra, V.D.a nd Pal, J.N. (eds.) Mesolithic India. Allahabad University. Allahabad. 366-380.

    Wakankar, V.S. Brooks, R.R. 1976. Stone age paintings in India. D.B. Taraporevala Sons & Co. Private Ltd. Mumbai.

  • The Parking Ticket

    Author's Note:


    In this short story, which in time may, and with the grace of my Readers, develop into a somewhat a longer narrative, the plot or the story in revolves around a Gujarati Boy, who grows up in small-town Bhagalpur, Bihar, and is therefore just a small-town Hero and falls hopelessly in love with a Bihari Girl who has grown up in Baroda, Gujarat, and is therefore much much more urbane, even very very professional.

    The story or a novelette that this may, I hope to Dear God that it may eventually become, revolves around the meeting of these two worlds of the Gujrati Boy and the Bihari Girl, and the several worlds that lie between Bhagalpur, Bihar and Baroda, Gujarat.

    Anthropologically informed though, this short story or novelette as the case may turn-out to be, is absolutely the most ridiculous sort of fiction


    Mannav Patel of Chotee Khanjarpur has just used his Dad Amrit Bhai's Vespa Scooter for the very first time. In having plied it all the way from the Kachahari to Tilkamanjhi Chowk to fill-up Petrol at the most famous Aapka Auto Service, when two of the heftiest of Nathnagar Chowkee Traffic Cops nabbed him and served him the very fist parking ticket, of his entire, which is say the very first fifteen-odd minutes, of his very very first-ever, scooter-ride in Independent India. Being no less than the very famous Amrit Bhai Patel's son, who owned the Bela Store, which was the largest multi-purpose shop in town, where all of this city's well to do and even not so well to do people descended for most of their shopping-needs everyday, Mannav Patel was quick to take a look at his ticket and read that he was being asked to pay some Four Hundred Rupees as a Mis-parking fine or faced with Court-Action, he reached for his well-supplied wallet and in full view of the Cops, pulled-out and counted four crisp blue one hundred rupee notes. Then he handed these most courteously over to them. Equally courteously he was issued a receipt.

    At a distant but not too distant a tea-stall Manavee was standing and watching.


    Thank you,


  • Human Evolution in India: An assessment in 2014

    Human Evolution in India: An assessment in 2014


    Ajay Pratap,
    Department of History,
    Faculty of Social Sciences,
    Banaras Hindu University,
    Varanasi - 221 005

    "History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possessed." (Kuhn, 2012, 1)


    There are some front-runner researchers (Dennell, R., Mellars, P.A., Pappu, S. et al, Reich, D. et al) understanding whose work is central to this enterprise of evaluating the status of human origins research in India. Research on the earliest human or hominin presence (Kennedy, Pappu) must not be confused with research on the evidence related with the presence of earliest modern humans in India (Mellars, Reich).

    We shall turn first to assess the archaeogenetic evidence. This is mainly since this is in India a still emerging field or approach and true to its worldwide reputation it is yielding some astounding and archaeologically most relevant conclusions, insofar as Human Evolution in India is concerned. Thereafter, as proposed we shall consider the archaeological evidence to see if if this corroborates to any extent the archaeogenetic model of Reich et. al. Finally, we shall consider the skeletal fossil evidence of South Asia (studied first by those such as Kennedy and Lukacs).


    Reich, Thangaraj, Patterson, Price and Lalji Singh

    The very first point I would like to make in this regard, as a preface, is that this is a very novel piece of work as it takes an archaeogenetic route to identifying and possibly remedying genetic diseases (recessive ones) inherent in the Indian population, arising from our ancestry, over tens of thousands of years ago, both in northern and southern parts and populations of India.

    Why do I say so? As an Indian Archaeologist, who has been looking at our Indian Archaeology and Indian Prehistory in particular, since 1979, I find that the issue of human origins on the Indian Subcontinent is a much neglected subject, the plethora of archaeological evidence notwithstanding. From the discovery of the earliest Soan Valley Acheulean Assemblages discovered by De Terra and Patterson (the famous Yale-Cambridge Expedition) of 1930s, to the more recent ones at Attirampakkam, we have heard about the discoveries of Acheulean stone-tool assemblages ad nauseum.

    Ad nauseum, because, as with me, even though Professor K. Paddayya, Professor M.K. Dhavalikar, Professor V.N. Misra and Professor M.L.K. Murty laboured us ceaselessly to believe that after all India too had a distinct Acheulean tradition, in the absence of clear evidence, such as of the archaeogenetic type evidence present in this research article at hand, it was indeed very difficult to buy this argument. There is K.A.R. Kennedy's paper (here uploaded, and by the way for the umpteenth time here on this Blog I feel pushed to raise again the issue of whether the Harvard Citation System has sought to include a citation system for Blog-writing? no doubt, I shall also go through the above post and the urls indicated to find an answer) which deals with the fossil human skeletal remains of South Asia, however, even this suggests that the relevant fossil human remains pertaining to Homo zinjanthropus, Homo habilis and ultimately Homo erectus are clearly not found in appreciable quantities in south Asia. Therefore, as M.A. students, we generally had to walk away from such lectures, assuming that such Acheulean assemblages as are found in India must all have been somehow imported stone tool-technology from Africa to India. These could not possibly have been the product of genuine early hominids/hominins that produced these locally, which is to say in the Soan Valley and elsewhere.

    If you read Professor H.D. Sankalia's monumental work the Pre and Protohistory of India and Pakistan, and this work is very rightly regarded as a bible for Indian prehistorians, then you would no doubt notice that the very earliest of stone-tool technology of the Old Stone Age, the Lower Palaeolithic, are not only abundant in India, but they are also very evenly spread all over this continental shelf, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Thus it is that prehistorians like us, some thirty years after the 1970s, come to a dead-stop, a cul-de-sac, wondering why it has taken this long to think that the earliest of the humans did actually exist on this continent. However, that is another story. Let us return to discussing the paper at hand.

    As a teacher of Ancient India History at the Banaras Hindu University, of approximately nine years standing, and constantly on the look-out for new material to be discussing in the B.A. Part I class, mentioned before in this post, I distinctly remember that one of the English Language Dailies of Banaras carried a news item which caught my attention, very squarish-ly, some four or so years ago. It was titled "Not Much Difference between Aryans and Dravidians" or some header to that effect. I read and re-read that and even discussed it with my departmental colleagues ad nauseum, and then proceeded to lecture the then class of my First Year students about the most remarkable paradigm-shift which had occurred in our understanding of the ancestry of the human groups of Indian, thus far quite incorrectly classified into "Races", by 18th and 19th century anthropologists, historians, geographers and many scholars of a most diverse range of callings, and most of which provide an extremely mirthful corpus of readings today. Of course, you may well like to ask me why then there still exist in India many most scholarly journals devoted to Craniometry and Dermatoglyphics; however, I should then like to say, that most certainly I am in no way responsible for all of this world's ills.

    Leaving aside then this debate about which parts of Physical Anthropology hold still relevance today, and just how much inherent sociobiology and socio-politics informs Physical Anthropological Research in this 21st century...this review of the article above would now like to move onto more substantive issues. Nearly the only valid opening idea of this article which we find admissible is "that India contains deep-rooted lineages which share no common ancestry with groups outside of South Asia for tens of thousands of years." However, tens of thousands of years sort of turn of phrase means nothing in particular as it is more rhetorical and therefore quite imprecise, chronologically speaking.

    If the above point deals largely with the opening para of this most learned of articles, then the two subsequent ones, to my mind, reveal, in the final or ultimate analysis that the authors here, of this learned article are trying to grapple with the truth-content of the hypothesized theory of discrete racial structure of the Indian Population, which was an idea largely advanced through nearly two centuries of colonial physical anthropological assays of the Indian Population which (H.H. Risley, W.W. Hunter etc.) always categorized into the Aryan, Mongoloid or Proto-Mongoloid, Austro-Asiatic, Australoid, Caucasian, Proto-Australoid and such discrete groups based on measures such as Dolichocephalism and Brachycephaly, the nasal index measurements, dermatoglyphic variations, hair-types, which is to say largely outward appearance of various linguistically and culturally distinct groups of Indian peoples. Clearly then, the approach of the present authors is at a great remove from the earlier approach to racial classification enshrined in such great works as Risley's on the Races and Cultures of India and W.W. Hunter's classic work The Annals of Rural Bengal.

    The following section on page number 489 reports on the results of the hypotheses which are but very briefly posed in the concluding para of the previous section, which we have been discussing until now, in an explicatory mode for the benefit of my B.A. Part I students. It would seem from the questions enumerated in the para that the authors would like to see if there is specific genetic or DNA signature caste-wise and tribe-wise, from a sample of the Indian population.

    The following para begins to elucidate the results of such genetic sampling of assumedly or presumably discrete cultural groups such as castes and tribes. Here, in my most humble opinion, there is Dear Students, absolutely no need whatsoever, to get daunted by such terms as Principal Component Analysis and Fst etc. What is basically, and most fundamentally being said in the para on the right-margin of page 489 is that the authors did find significant genetic signatures to the DNA types extracted from such groups as they have discussed. In the Siddi case, for instance, it has been hypothesized even ethnographically that they have been migrants from Africa, and lo and behold the authors have detected that their genetic signatures correspond with an African sort of ancestry. In the case of Nyshi, Ao and Naga tribes they have found that their genetic or DNA signatures correspond with or have ancestry links with the Chinese type but then again I have myself had the chance to see a book edited by Drs. J.P. Singh and G. Sengupta on the ethnohistory of the culture-groups of the North-East of India where their South-East Asian cultural links are demonstrated not only in terms of their oral tradition and extant historical records, but there is also, as Singh and Sengupta discuss, an affinity in the stone tool-kits of North-Eastern India and those of South-East Asia with sites like Ban-Chiang and Knon Nok Tha. Minimally, therefore, and as you may well see, how the work of the present authors has served most scientifically to corroborate what were, some would say, previously only archaeological and ethnohistorical hypotheses. Finally, and still sticking to the parameters this post has set for itself, we have to suggest that for all that you may learn about principal component analysis from the URL given above in this post, this method in statistics is one which helps you sort out the distinct components of a system, whichever type of system it is. Finally, as it is said in Systems Theory, and it would be useful, Dear Students, to re-capitulate that here: the sum of the parts of a system is greater than the whole! Try reading David L. Clarke's Analytical Archaeology, for instance.

    We now move to consider the further parts of this most learned of article. The remainder of page 480 and the table and the first para on the following page 481 lead us to behold a fantastic claim. This is that the present authors seem to think that caste lineages which were sampled seem to have founder events which go back to earlier than 30 generations (pp. 480). I am inclined to take a generation at 100 years so the product regarding the antiquity of a majority of caste and tribe groups' founder events rests at around 3,000 years (Vysya being an exception to this rule!). The authors state that this could be possible only because of endogamy which leaves, according to them, distinct genetic signatures in the Allele.

    As I have had the benefit of having heard one of the above authors namely Dr. Lalji Singh, in his Inaugural Lecture, at the Swatantrata Bhawan, BHU, and to have listened very carefully to this lecture, I wish here to add that in that lecture he had posited that the origin of Caste and Tribes in India may well go back to the end of the last Ice-Age, which is the Terminal Pleistocene. As Climate Change ensued and a warmer climate started with the Holocene perhaps changes in Biota caused faunal migration and a largely Upper Palaeolithic sort of Indian Society at the time , which then were largely all Tribes and forest-dwelling, found it reasonable to migrate into River Valleys, hunt out the last of the mega and other fauna and then as they were busy doing this say between c. 10,000 BCE to about the c. 4,000 BCE, which is the Mesolithic, of which there are more than enough sites in the Mid-Ganga-Plains, they gradually, and due to the paucity of any further fauna, domesticated wild species of plants and animals, and started, that is with the Neolithic, a sedentary-farming lifestyle. To sum up, he added that those who chose to remain in the hills and forests, and the rock art from the Vindhyas does suggest that people had lived up there right into the Iron-Age, which would be well past the Neolithic and the Chalcolithic too, became in due course Tribes, and those that migrated down from the Vindhyas at the start of the Holocene at around c. 10,000 BCE in due course became the Caste Society. In a sentence therefore, it is implied here by the author's that Caste and Tribe are a) Social Constructs, b) There is no genetic basis to Caste or Tribe, c) However, due to demographic segregation and endogamy, acting in conjunction with such social processes of status and rank differentiation as was unleashed by the faunal and human dispersal, that Caste and Tribes all as social entities came into being entirely due to social processes and not genetic ones!

    Archaeological Evidence

    You may like to check my website www.rockartofindia.webs.com where I have just uploaded an album containing some human activity depictions in the Rock paintings of the Vindhyas. I tend to think that there are amongst these rock-art depictions which suggest that from the Upper Palaeolithic through the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and the Iron-Age, people continued to live in the Vindhyan Uplands. Subsequent disappearance of fauna such as is depicted and of people is entirely due to the climatic change engendered by the onset of the Holocene. Of course, if you have read Ester Boserup's The Conditions of Agricultural growth (ref. to be cited!) then in this book she has argued that in the course of agricultural growth population tends to act as an independent variable. I am here and therefore suggesting that the out-migration of people from the Vindhyas was also as a consequence of population growth. archaeologically speaking

    What then, in my view, are the evident weaknesses of this article, archaeologically speaking. In a sentence, we are left wondering if the archaeogenetic evidence marshalled in this paper is actually borne-out by any sort of archaeological corroboration by way of material culture remains which would confirm such a theory, or, as the case may be, refute it? For in the long-run such a theory may not stand at all without archaeological corroboration which are too simplistic to state just yet, in this review.

    My main observations in such a regard are:

    Consider that if an Out of Africa, and eventually into India, model of Modern Human populations has been accepted by the authors, as does seem to be the case, then even if archaeogenetics supports such a theory or a hypothesis, then where indeed is the archaeological evidence which would support such a claim? If, as has been proposed by the authors, the ASI (the Ancestral South Indian group) arrived here some 75,000 BP, and following a part sea part land route out of eastern Africa through West Asia and into Southern Asia then with which Middle Pleistocene archaeological assemblages and industries would the authors connect such a migration? A bit tricky this but it must be said that in Philosophy of Science only phenomena which are observable are indeed admissible as scientifically existing. Thus, and therefore, without an or any archaeological corroboration as to its observability from an independent quarter, such as an archaeological one, as in stone-tool industry sort of correlate to this archaeogentic model, in my view as as a prehistorian, then such a syllogism really stands only on one leg.

    It has been stated that both the ANI (the Ancestral North Indian) and the ASI populations are genetically radically different from other groups such as the Chinese and the Europeans. This is very well. However, it has been stated that the Hominin migrations out of Africa passed through India, most likely northern and central India, onwards to South East Asia and the Far East. Where are the archaeological traces of the modern humans having taken such a route, or at least their presence in northern and central India, during middle to late Pleistocene? Perhaps the authors might consider including such evidence in a future publication.

    Paul Mellars Going East

    An alternate route, to resolving this seeming impasse is to take a look at Paul Mellars's article given above. By virtue of being an archaeologist who has almost ceaselessly worked on the issue of Human Evolution or Human Origins and the archaeology connected with it, Professor Mellars has made many splendid contributions in such a direction. I have here uploaded a key article which throws some light on our debate at hand: why and how did the first of modern human groups find it necessary to migrate out of Africa, and why and how did they possibly come to the South Asian region and populate it. Let us read this important paper together.

    Insofar as India is concerned Professor Mellars has this to say:

    "Large areas of...India in particular are at present largely blank areas on the archaeological map (Surprise! I would have thought the reverse to have been the case!!) over the critical range ~50,000 to 60,000 B.P. in question. And of course, all the coast-lines of this period are now deeply submerged below the rapidly rising sea levels of the past 15, 000 years." (This is true!). (Pp. 797, Parentheses mine).

    The arrows showing routes of modern human migration on the accompanying map, on this page, seems to enter India from the North-West, lead along or near the West Coast line, across Patne, and then still continuing almost in a straight-line it heads ostensibly into Madras Territory (Attrampakkam?). A distended or broken or a fresh line now emanates a little distance away from where the previous ended just a little before Jwalapuram (where microliths have been found in a strata below the Ash and other debris deposits from the eruption of the South East Asian volcano and the term Toba Ash has been preferred for this by Indian archaeologists. This volcanic eruption is estimated to have taken place some 75,000 years ago!) and then the line of modern human migrations (let's call this the LMHM), continues along or near the East Coast this time across the Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal Territories from where it turns from either the Seven Sister States or the Sunderbans Delta into Bangladesh, then Myanmar across Thailand (again its East Coast line) into territories further South. However, Mellars is too thin in marshalling the archaeological evidence to support this claim other than Patne and Jwalapuram (pp. 797).

    Now it is my pleasure to discuss an article by my colleague Dr. Shanti Pappu, Director of the Sharma Center for Heritage Education, Pune, as also a Professor of Prehistory at the Department of Archaeology, Deccan College, Pune, who has just published a fantastically well-researched paper, on her excavations of a Paleolithic site in Tamil Nadu called Attirampakkam. Just look at the wonderful plates of hand-axes which she suggests in this article may be as old as 1.5 MYA, and therefore connected with the Homo erectus ancestor.


    However, and in her own words "The Acheulian is a phase of the Lower Paleolithic typified by assemblages of large cutting tools primarily composed of bifaces. So far, evidence from Africa suggests that it emerged around 1.6 million years ago (Ma). Determining when hominin populations routinely crafting these Acheulian stone tools inhabited India is critical for understanding the dispersal of this distinctive technology across Eurasias. Limited evidence has suggested that Acheulian hominins appeared in India substantially later than in Africa or southwest Asia." (PP. 1596)

    The accompanying map provided by the authors on this page shows the location of ATM (Attirampakkam) at the coastal confluence of the tributaries of the River Kortallaiyar (the Kortallaiyar Basin) which from this map seems to drain itself into the Indian Ocean, which by the scale of this map seems some 1200 kilometers from ATM.

    The South Asian Skeletal Human Fossil Record

    K.A.R. Kennedy

    Subsequently, we have a more recent and interesting piece of research done by Patnaik et. al. in the Narmada Valley which deserves mention as a very significant piece of research done by way of trying to correlate the human or hominin fossil record (Homo erectus) of the Narmada Valley, with broad spectrum investigations into the palaeontology, palaeobotany and the archaeology in the Narmada Basin. I have read this article thoroughly and do tend to like it sufficiently enough as to be uploading it here (copy courtesy: Parth S. Chauhan).

    Patnaik et al. 2009 (JHE)

    J.R. Lukacs's and J.N. Pal's work dates to about 2003 and is earlier than this, and deals with modern humans (Mesolithic skeletal record) properly speaking. (Hunt for a PDF version is currently on! Kindly bear with me!)



    Agrawal, D.P., Bhatt, D.K., Kusumgar, S., Pant, R.K. 1981. The neogene/quaternary boundary in India: a review. Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Science. 90(2): 111-13.

    Boserup, E. Conditions of Agricultural Growth. Chicago. Aldine.

    Reich, D., Kumarasamy, T., Patterson, N., Price, L. A., Singh, L. 2009. Reconstructing Indian Population History. Nature 461 (24): 489-94.

    Singh, J.P., Sengupta, G. (Eds). 1991. The Archaeology of North Eastern India (NEHU History Series). Delhi: Sangam Books.

    Mellars, P. 2006. Going East: New Genetic and Archaeological Perspectives on the Modern Human Colonization of Eurasia. Science. 313 (5788): 796-800.

    Pappu, S. http://www.antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/pappu297/

    Pappu, S., Gunnell, Y. Akhilesh, K. Braucher, R., Taieb, M., Demory, F., Thouveny, N. 2011. The Pleistocene Presence of Acheulian Hominins in South Asia. Science 331: 1596-1599.


    Sonakia, A. http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/the-narmada-fossil-files/996409/

    Sankhyan, A.R. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9034953

    Rajendran, P. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=emoMAQAAMAAJ&q=P+Rajendran+human+fossil+find&dq=P+Rajendran+human+fossil+find&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pilRU5e5CI-IrAeHuIGYAw&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAg

    Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. http://press.princeton.edu/titles/5313.html

    Dennell, R. 2008. The Palaeolithic Settlement of Asia. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

    Kennedy, K.A.R. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=W6zQHNavWlsC&pg=PA416&lpg=PA416&dq=K.A.R+Kennedy+archaeology&source=bl&ots=E3RgeF0Y3W&sig=X3vdyEZKcvayvj1xfq4bJgwMm88&hl=en&sa=X&ei=diZRU7MRyZSuB_7BgYgF&ved=0CDoQ6AEwBA

    Patnaik, R., Chauhan, P.S., Rao, M.R., Blackwell, B.A.B., Skinner, A.R., Sahni, A., Chauhan, M.S., Khan, H.S. 2009. New Geochronological, Paleoclimatological, and Archaeological Data from the Narmada Valley Hominin Locality, Central India. Journal of Human Evolution 56: 114-133

    Lukacs, J, R., Pal, J.N. 2003. Skeletal Variation among Mesolithic People of the Ganga Plains: New Evidence for Habitual Activity and Adaptation to Climate. Asian Perspectives. 42(2): 329-351.

    Kuhn, T.S. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.



    Polymorphism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymorphism_in_object-oriented_programming

    Genotyped: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genotyping

    Clusters: http://www.techterms.com/definition/cluster

    Sampled: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampling_(statistics)

    Caste: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste

    Tribe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribe

    Human Genome Diversity Panel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Genome_Diversity_Project

    Allele frequency differentiation: http://userwww.sfsu.edu/efc/classes/biol710/amova/amova.htm

    HapMap: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HapMap

    Principal component analysis (PCA): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principal_component_analysis

    Single nucleotide polymorphisms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-nucleotide_polymorphism

    Endogamy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogamy

    Genetic signatures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_signature

    Gene flows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_flow

    Substructure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substructure

    Genetic ancestry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogical_DNA_test

    Genetic clusters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_cluster

    Founder event or effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founder_event



    Thank you,


  • Field Life in India or The Journeys and Journals of an Indian Archaeologist

    Field Life in India or The Journeys and Journals of an Indian Archaeologist


    Ajay Pratap


    It would be a good question whether putting your children in an Indian school-hostel from very early-on predisposes both the student and the parents to grow-up appreciating Indian Archaeology. For hostel life in India requires nearly just as many journeys as does the practice of Indian archaeology. Equally, what sort of a field vehicle is used by an Indian archaeologist, is of the utmost importance: in my case, this was a 350cc Royal Enfield motorcycle, but then that was just during the second year of my doctoral fieldwork in the Santal Parganas District. In the first of these, like most of my doctoral colleagues, I walked a full year surveying for archaeological sites, visiting tribal usually the Paharia Tribe's villages for ethnographic surveys; however, on longer walkathons in the Rajmahal Hills, where the Paharia reside to this day, one was bound to come across numerous Santal villages too which are situated in these hills.

    Welcome here to some anecdotes which I shall hope shall thrill you to some extent. However, whether that happens or not, please rest assured that such stories as I shall try to recount here, are all almost true. I am writing this post primarily to suggest that relics of the past are necessarily those locations where humans dwelt in one sort of configuration (e.g. those living within a forest and those without etc.) or the other. In any case, the fact that these locations were only partly shared with wild animals at the time these relics were actively dwelt within and without, by human populations, that now today that they should entirely be dwelt within and without, mostly by wild animals, surely needs an archaeological comment. Thank you. Ajay

    The Vindhyan countryside, heading southward from Benaras, is simply glorious. Even if the actual forest cover has depleted and shrunk miserably. The Imperial Gazetteer of Mirzapur is a very good place to start to acquaint yourself with this district. Archaeologists tend to become naturalists more from necessity than choice.

    Several times, in my archaeological work in Mirzapur, and thus and therefore, in the course, several times, of having driven upwards of 150 kilometers in a day, the mind tends to wander, although this condition is alleviated somewhat by some small gossip with students accompanying, some tea at a wayside Dhaba.

    It is just sheer pleasure to behold a very large herd of the very large and sturdy Nilgai, who quite suddenly stampede helter-skelter, as once upon a time we saw, while surveying within a few miles of Sidh Nath Ki Dari.

    One of our rock painting sites, now labelled as WYN 1 or Wyndham 1, occurs some distance inside the Barkacha Forest Reserve, at Wyndham Falls. The said painting at WYN 1 is a painting at a height, located some fifteen to twenty feet high up on the wall of a sandstone cliff right beside the Falls. Standing at this vantage, one is also afforded a glorious view down to the waterfalls. As I looked down at the gushing and frothing waters below, one field trip there, I saw a very big Mongoose dart out of the bushes, dipping its snout into the water, and in a matter of seconds, making off with a huge fish. This one was remarkably hefty no doubt on account of such a high protein diet.

    Our Indian Grey Wolf sighting was a little deeper inside the Barkachha Forest Reserve. As my students and I were returning bone-tired after miles of trekking and recording a reasonable amount of rock-art data, our field guide tapped me on my shoulder gently and then whispered, "Sahab, Janwar!". My first thought was to say a quick prayer as my adrenalin jumped just in case it was a 500 kilogram striped big and very very clawy sort of Janwar. Then, he pointed towards it and my student and I were very very lucky to have our first sighting of a fully grown Grey Indian Wolf. It stood very still, turning its head backwards to take a good look at us. Then his curiosity satisfied, he looked forward and loped-away for his evening constitutional.

    Another time, as we were driving in Mirzapur, on a road with paddy-fields on either side of the road, down in the plains part of the countryside, three or four fox-like animals darted across the road, however, not fast enough for us to miss noticing that they all had black, I mean absolutely black fur. Wild dogs? I'm still searching the Internet and such documents as we have on Mirzapur for any evidence to support this claim.


    Chronologically speaking, I saw the Rohtas Fort on the Bihar side of the Kaimurs, first. In the early 1980s, it was still very very grand, but hopelessly desolate and village speak had it that it was infested with the most dreaded dacoits of the area. The Banda Fort, I saw in the early 1990s, and although there were about two guards of the Archaeological Survey of India, posted here at that time, the location was still very very wild at night, indeed in our perambulation of this fort, we managed to locate an active Leopard-den complete with bones of various kinds and descriptions. There are some ten very outstanding buildings within the perimeter walls of this fort, and they were all and very similarly very ruined. The Chunar Fort is perhaps the very best of them as it is well-maintained. However, how many tourists actually make it there is a burning question. Finally, the Vijaygarh Fort at Robertsganj, which we visited this year. It is almost completely wild and equally ruined. If there should be a moral to this story then that should be evident. Isn't it?


    Although the only living example or a live specimen black buck, which my students ever saw, was a young fawn, with it's characteristic size, body and horns was one that was a Paltu or friendly one, by the gate guards of the Chandraprapha wildlife sanctuary...Without doubt this species has been hunted viciously in it's habitat for a long time now. I remember that when I visited the Nawab's Gallery at the State Museum at Lucknow, a few years ago, I was stunned to see that amongst the many many period pieces of weapons and arms of that period on display here, there was a certain dagger of metal which was mounted on the reverse of a Black buck deer's horns. It was truly difficult to decide which side would have inflicted a worse injury, but let's assume the side with the Black Buck's curvilinear horns would.

    The good luck which did visit us however during this trip was that my student Shri P.K. Singh and I and our most helpful and jolly field assistants on this trip to Vijaygarh were indeed also quite able to see some three or four Black Partridges or Kala Teetar walking about in a group in some very distinctly Mirzapuri Bamboo thickets on a high ridge. That was a glorious sight indeed!

    The Mirzapuri Bamboo is quite thin and well-rounded, as would appear from a look at these Bamboo thickets,and are well-shaped to make such spears as are often depicted in the rock-paintings of Ghormangar and Harni-Harna painted rock shelters at the base of the Vijaygarh promontory. Here there are numerous such spears shown in the rock art depicting rhino-hunts by groups of prehistoric hunters.


    As is usual one doctoral student helps another, thus it is that I was also thus privileged, once upon a time to have assisted two of my colleagues in some mundane fieldwork chores like taking their field photos for them and the such like.

    Thus variously I found myself at such very distant climes from the Rajmahal hills, the field for my own doctoral fieldwork, and such places as the Juanga Hills of Keonjhar and the Gond Hills of Adilabad.

    Thus and therefore, apart from gaining a comparative view of shifting cultivation in the Rajmahal hills, with these far flung places which also have shifting cultivation systems intact to this day, I also had a chance to see and hear something of the wildlife of these respective areas! This was a good enough pay-off.

    Until the 1980s, in Keonjhar, the Juanga shifting cultivators are probably the best artists in the world, in that they paint their huts with some of the most wonderful colours and designs, which I have ever seen anywhere. Again, and until the 1980s, the Gond shifting cultivators of Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh, were amongst one of the most wonderful singers and dancers as compared with any people anywhere else. In fact, and as a matter of fact, they were at that time, also surely and with great difficulty winning a very tough livelihood from a fast receding forest cover.

    In Keonjhar, I saw a fair-sized parrot-green snake, which was resting in the open, however upon sensing our footfalls, it jerked into motion, whisking its girth away from us, and into the nearby bushes.

    The King Cobra, is a grand sight to behold in the wild. This particular one was comfortably ensconced next to the chicken-coop of a Gond hut, to the right hand side of this particular and frequented village road, right in the middle of the forest range of Adilabad. On hearing our Willys jeep approaching as we were leaving this area, it must have been alarmed to the extent that it whipped across the road at blinding speed even as I applied the not too new nor very effective brakes of this very second world war sort of but delightful roofless jeep. I saw this grandest of our jungle creatures spanning at a time the entire width of this forest road which was easily more than ten feet wide.

    In both cases, and to more than a marginal extent of difference, a lot of surprise is followed by lots and lots of fear and then laughter.


    The one and only time when my opinion has been sought on an extraneous sort of subject, that is other than on my own area of research, as an archaeologist, was by now well-known architect and heritage conservationist Shri Karan Grover of Baroda. Smt. Harshad Kumari of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage was kind enough to put us in touch, suggesting that Karan was in need of some pressing archaeological advice. Subsequently, and as I was the working at Delhi's Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute and was thus placed at Delhi, Karan Grover called me tp meet him on one of his visits to Delhi.

    I went to the India Habitat Center where he was put up and I was delighted, in a long long time, to meet a man who wore a very antiquated sort of beard, parted in the middle and combed-up on either side of his jaws. He suggested that he would like me to visit Baroda or Vadodara, such that we would then together visit Champaner in Gujarat State, a location about forty kilometers away from Baroda, with a view to my suggesting to him, from an archaeologists point of view, how best the complex of built heritage at Champaner, then fast degenerating may be best preserved in the long term.

    Looking at my scheduled, I suggested in turn that I would have liked to have undertaken such a piece of work along-with my friend and Journalist associate Shri Raju Mansukhani who had also written a book already on the Jagmandir on Lake Pichola, as he was no doubt better placed and far more knowledgeable on the Geography of Gujarat than I. Karan agreed that a proper knowledge of Geography was of the utmost importance in such matters and that second only to archaeology and conservation.

    Soon a date was set for our visit there and Raju and I left for Baroda by train from Delhi and on arriving there we made our way to Karan's house at Alkapuri. Here we had a brief stopover to exchange pleasantries and gifts, to drink water from very nice pure silver goblets and some very fine Tea. We also freshened-up before moving again to a nearby luxury hotel whose name I now forget. The idea was, that we were to first receive a briefing from Shri Karan Grover, on Champaner and on what he expected from the two of us by way of advice after a site-visit, later in the day, and then to leave for a site visit a day later after we were fully rested, the day following.

    Raju Mansukhani and I, spent the time in between, roaming the streets, in the nearby areas of Baroda. The streets were spanking-clean, traffic-islands bore exquisite landscaping and metallic modern sculptural works of art, very good tea-stalls, an excellent book-shop and thus, and therefore, we even managed to hop across to the Archaeology Department of the M.S. University and spent some time chatting with Professor V. H. Sonawane, the Head of the Department quizzing him about Champaner. Among many most enlightening things we also learnt about the Baroda Heritage Trust.

    Karan Ji, However had been most unhappy with the performance of this notable body insofar as the proper development of Champaner was concerned and hence our visit and that of those many other scholars from very far-flung places like Japan who were to advice him on the Dos and Donts in the matter. Thereafter, as Raju retired to our hotel, I scouted my way to the local office of the Archaeological Survey of India, Baroda Circle, in order to meet my old friend and class-fellow Dr. Vilas Jadhav who was then a staffer of the Survey, and In-charge of Office as well. Having chit-chatted with him for a long while, as old classmates are wont to do when they meet after a longish spell, and after having heard something from him about Champaner, I decided to head back to our very comfortable hotel, for a bite of lunch and to rest a bit. We were set to depart for Champaner for a site-visit the very next day.

    If the silver-goblets filled with water were an introduction to how class architects live, then watching his Tata Safari being loaded with all sorts of goodies and eatables was quite another as to how they do their fieldwork. Soon the car was ready to Karan's satisfaction and Raju Mansukhani and I were told to take the comfortable seats (Karan was to drive the vehicle himself), as the liveried attendants and the Khansama took up rear positions accompanying the caches of the aforesaid eatables.

    We exited the city of Vadodara and soon hit a fantastic highway at the beginning of which a toll-tax plaza charged us toll charges, apparently since it was new enough to be doing so. Once we got-off this highway, where it ended, the usual country roads appeared as if on a cue, and at some of these Karan stopped his car to give us a look-see of some exquisite monuments of the Medieval period in various states of disrepair. While giving us a walkabout at these sites he suggested that he had appealed to the Archaeological Survey of India to conserve and protect them but thus far nothing had been done. Apparently, this also explained his personal interest in his quest to have properly conserved the Champaner complex of heritage sites which consisted of Rajput period forts and fortifications and a Shahar built by Mahmud Shah Begada. We also visited the site of Professor R.N. Mehta's excavation and thereafter his jeep started the breathtaking ascent up the Champaner-Pavagarh Hill.

    It takes a bit to complete the ascent and almost nothing of Mahmud Shah Begada's structures are on this hill at all rather it is the Rajput Forts which are placed here. The Jeep stopped at one of these and a short walk later to one of these Karan answered our basic question as to how such structures were held in place without any cementing. I recollected seeing such joints at Delhi's Tuglakabad Fort. He said it is an architectural building technique called `Dry Bonding'. We soon stopped at a site office of the Archaeological Survey of India and Karan walked across to chit-chat with the officials. We busied ourselves with the Khansama and the liveried attendants.

    The Jeep stopped next at the top of the Pavagadh Hill. There are some rather well carved historic period temples on this hillside and some of these have fallen into disuse owing to their age. The Pavagadh Hill sports a Devi temple at its apex, and pilgrimage to this spot is as intense in the rainy season as elsewhere. We walked through various bazaars full of devotional goods meant for the pilgrims and slowly but steadily reached the top. There are a number of rock-cut water-reservoirs on top of the Pavagadh Hill, which reminded me then of similar water harvesting structures which for instance I had already seen at the top of the Simhagadh Fort in Maharasthra, and much much later at the Vijaygarh Fort in Uttar Pradesh.

    The best, by way of water harvesting structures, was yet to come, though, as we started our descent down the Pavagadh Hill and its multitude of heritage structures now to be taken for a looksee at the base of this hill. Well, not exactly the base. We had to drive out to the east for a few miles and then we hit a waterbody which was very vast. Karan parked his Jeep near a small but very histrionic period pavilion built near this lake. We disembarked to stretch our limbs and to take a look at this fantastic lake. Karan suggested that this lake was also built by Mahmud Shah Begada to provide water to his city. While Raju and I and the liveried attendants, Khansama and Karanji beheld this magnificent view, Karan added that the value of such waterbodies is that they were able to supply water to local residents to this day.

    Much much later and upon having met Shri Anumpam Mishra of the Gandhi Peace Foundation at Delhi and luckily having read his now famous book which has won him a Padma Shri Aaj Bhee Khare Hain Talab, upon reflecting upon his very historically accurate documentation of water-harvesting practices in India from ancient times, I do actually tend to feel that Mahmud in Gujarat as Jehangir at Maner in Bihar did a pretty good job, isn't it? We then had our lunch here and proceeded to have an exhausting look at Mahmud Shah Begada's walled city which was in a remarkably good state of preservation given that the last of it must have been built in the 16th century. There were upwards of a hundred buildings built of a pinkish stone and all alike marvellously and most intricately carved and architectured. It was as if time stood still here. To say the very least, this medieval city must have supported a very high population of citizens.

    By evening, we returned.


    Karanjia, the abode of Verrier Elwin makes for another interesting story, here. Sometime in the 1990s the then extremely popular magazine The Illustrated Weekly of India gave me Verrier Elwin's famous diary called Leaves of the Jungle for the purpose of writing a book-review of it, which they said they would like to publish.

    Having published some five or six book reviews already at this time I entertained little doubts that I was indeed capable of accomplishing this task. The fact that I had approached them on the recommendation of the veteran journalist Shri M.V. Kamath, which helped enormously with their decision-making process, and with whom I had had an extremely privileged and most benign sort of a chat in advance. He exhorted me to write for each and every magazine, newspapers and what have you, but with the caveat that in the long-term creativity, howsoever defined is what pays!

    As an ethoarchaeologist trained by the very best at India and in England, I decided on a very leisure-work sort of a book-review in which I would first read this very famous author and work line by line, and then after having made my perfunctory notes and comments for this review that I would then undertake to travel to the setting or location which this Diary of Verrier Elwin is set in: his home village of Karanjia in Madhya Pradesh.

    Gory details regarding ethnographic fieldwork are and are not necessary since if we follow Clifford and Marcus's writing, then it is amply clear that disciplinary contingencies in both ethnography as ethnoarchaeology require that we leave-out far more than we write in what we do end up writing about our field visits. In fact there are a lot of very similar very loud fieldwork manuals written. In time, as Valentine Ball, I do wish to write my own manual for the students of Indian archaeologist anecdotally.

    That is how my own story of my experiences at Karanjia have been dormant for nearly two decades now. Like many other specialists, like geologists and geomorphologists, strictly speaking an ethnoarchaeologists is also never never strictly speaking on a holiday! Thus it is that after alighting from a Bombay train at Katni Junction I boarded a MP Tourism Bus to Amarkantak, and the long but winding journey up the ravines and ghats of the Maikal Hills afforded many a salutary view of glorious and very forested landscapes. It was winter and there was a lot of mist around in the Maikal Hills. The bus which I had chosen was laden with very normal sort of people doing their domestic journeys flitting from one village to the next. Some visiting relatives and friends others simply travelling to the pilgrimage at Amarkantak where the river Narmada has her origin in a rather small waterfall.

    Now the point of an archaeologist remembering is not necessarily to suggest that the my narrative has precedence over that of the others. Cool? That said, If I did travel to Dindori, subsequent to a change of Buses at Amarkantak, and did meet Mr. Ratan Singh Dhurve, who this book of Verrier Elwin's said is the brother-in-law of Bade Bhaiyya (that is how Verrier Elwin according to his book published by the Oxford University Press suggests that he was popularly known), and a good meal later, and after a local woman village Pradhan, with all her supporters in Ratan's hut, with a good log-fire going, harangued me about the ills of government development yojanas in the area. Thus and therefore, and as a former scribe of my old scout troop, at a Patna School, I did after-all did record her something of her elocution.

    The following morning, Mr. Ratan Singh Dhurve dispatched me to Karanjia in the company of a young man who wheeled his bicycle all the way over a few kilometers and we chatted about this and that until we reached Karanjia and were ushered into the Elwin Hut. Ratan had already revealed to me the night before, and to my most pleasant surprise, that Verrier Elwin's Son Shri Vijay Elwin lives at Karanjia, and that that is where I should be headed, for the purpose of my said book-review.

    Vijay Elwin emerged shortly after we were seated in the veranda of his house and it was most pleasant to see him sporting a chequered lungi and a simple banyan. He is a most unassuming person and he was quick to make me feel at home. So much so that I spent perhaps the two following days and nights at his home chatting while the young man who had escorted me left the next day to return to Dindori.

    Roughly, there was a tour of a school run at Karanjia by Vijay, a visit to the site of Verrier Elwin's Kusth Ashram, now no longer there, and which is mentioned in this book, meetings and chats with a few other locals, but primarily and happily a peep into Vijay's family album of old and new photographs, the briefest of meetings or just a glimpse of his mother Kosi Bai, and loads of discussions about his father. Or rather, his memories of him!

    I was lucky that I did read a few of Verrier Elwin's books at the Deccan College Library as far back in time as 1981, in preparation for my own ethnoarchaeological ventures in the Rajmahal Hills and thus there were a few relevant question which I could pose to and expect an answer from a very very cool-headed person that is Vijay.



    Thank you,



The content of this website belongs to a private person, blog.co.uk is not responsible for the content of this website.

"Integrate the javascript code between and : Integrate the javascript code in the part :