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Prehistoric man drew maps

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« on: December 29, 2010, 11:56:22 pm »

Prehistoric man drew maps

Archaeologists from Bangalore discover maps near Hampi; unlike modern maps that rely on technology, ancient man banked on his eyesight and memory

Niranjan Kaggere & Suchith Kidiyoor

Posted On Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 12:14:31 AM

Satellite technologies have made the task of locating places easily, thanks to GPS or global positioning systems.

However, a team of researchers from Bangalore have unearthed maps in Karnataka that date back to 1500-2000 BC.

A team from the Archaeological Survey of India has found the proto-historic man, who had inhabited the region around Tungabhadra river near Hampi, had drawn maps similar to those found on the internet.

The map was depicted on the roof of their cave dwellings. What was once thought to be a megalithic burial site with just paintings of animals and humans, is proof of the proto-historic man’s cartographic skills.

The discovery by deputy superintending archaeologist T M Keshava and his colleagues a few months ago in the caves of Chikramapura village on the Tungabhadra river’s left bank (Koppal district) has drawn the attention of many researchers across the country.

Keshava’s finding is believed to be the first-ever aerial map of a region drawn by a pre-historic man.

While the present-day maps rely heavily on satellite images and other optical instruments for precision, the proto-historic man had only his eyes and memory to bank on.

While paintings of animals such as cows, hunting scenes and human figurines are common across pre-historic settlements, only the Chikramapura village caves, also called Kadebagilu rock shelters, feature maps.

“We were stunned by the discovery,” said Keshava. “A previous study in 1984 at these caves by scholars like Dr R Sundara had concluded they were just megalithic burials, but we can now say that they are maps,” he said.

According to Keshava, the pre-historic man obtained a bird’s eye view of an area by climbing a hillock and standing at a vantage point. He would then observe his settlement — houses, pathways, waterbodies, etc. With these images in mind, he would paint them in his cave. “We compared them with the present maps and we were dumbstruck with the findings,” he said


Deciphering the exact meaning of the paintings was not easy for the experts. Reaching the site itself was an arduous task as it was surrounded by a hillock overlooking a valley and accessible only through a narrow passage.

Researchers found many similarities with the modern-day maps. The triangular marks used to represent hillocks on these maps are similar to the symbols used by surveyors.

Further, the narrow passage has been compared to the figure of a human being, while the ladder-like symbol indicates a pathway. It took Keshava and his team almost a year to confirm the findings.

The paintings have been depicted on granite and done with red laterite clay. The circular-shaped settlement is 35 metres in radius. “However, due to the exposure to elements, some parts of the paintings have got spoilt,” said an archaeologist.


The experts say credit for the discovery goes to some shepherds of Anegundi village. “We were camping at Hampi late in 2008 when some youngsters led by Veeresh and his friends told us about these paintings,” said Keshava.

“Later, along with colleagues G S Narasimhan, M V Visveswara, C S Sheshadri and others, we visited the spot and undertook a detailed study around the site for more than three months. Though many rock paintings were reported from Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh. There were no sketches that could be identified as maps of proto-historic settlements.
This is the first such painting,” he said.

The paintings, however, are in danger of being lost forever, unless measures are taken quickly to safeguard them. Areas surrounding rock shelters have become quarrying centres and this could destroy the paintings.

Archaeologists believe the area could be turned into a tourist site as it is close to Hampi, a world heritage centre. It will also ensure the paintings are well preserved.
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