Pre-historic rock art in Kurnool, India
The region of Rayalaseema is comprised of four districts within the state of Andhra Pradesh - Anantapur, Chittor, Kadapa and Kurnool - all of which record a very good cultural evolution from the Palaeolithic, all the way through to modern times. The area, wherein archaeological explorations have been carried out, is a part of the Erramalai hill ranges, which has a hot and humid climate and is principally fed by the south-west and north-east monsoons. The low-lying areas near the foot-hill, and some dried up water tracts show the existence of Palaeo-water-channels. The presence of fertile soils, the availability of raw materials for the preparation of stone implements, continuous water supply and grazing grounds, might have prompted ancient humans, as well as animals, to settle in this region from prehistoric times.
In December 2013, archaeological explorations were carried out in and the around the village of Akkampalle in the Kurnool district, which brought to light important archaeological sites consisting of three natural rock shelters. Of the three sites, one is a painted rock shelter locally known as “Mosalla-gundu” (‘Boulder of Crocodiles’), while the remaining two are naturally formed rock caves. Artworks found within the caves reflect the life, culture, traits and beliefs of the era.
The Boulder of Crocodiles is open on three sides towards the west, north and south, and contains a large number of paintings, drawn in red ochre colour, including human figures, geometric designs, and three life-sized reptiles. The rest of the figures have been obscured by vandalism and by natural weathering of the rock.
The first crocodile is large in size compared with other two, measuring 1.38 m in length (see featured image). The second one is depicted just beside the western side of the first one, measuring 0.78 m in length. The third one is only partly visible, depicted at the northern side. These paintings may be assigned to the Mesolithic period due to the nature of their depictions and application of red-ochre colour.
The third crocodile drawn in red-ochre colour, which is only partly visible. Credit: K. Reddy
The second cave is a natural rock cave facing north and situated 30m south of the Boulder of Crocodiles. The cave was intentionally closed on three sides with huge boulders, which might have been to offer protection from the cold-winds and other natural hazards. The inner face of the cave is decorated with vertical strips of white lime coating.
Left: Researcher K. Reddy in front of cave no. 2. Right: The natural bed rock flooring
The final cave is a natural formation facing towards north, which appears to have been used for the purpose of dwelling. Its three sides – east, west, and south – are closed off with huge boulders of quartzite. There is a roughly rectangular area with uneven natural bed-rock as its floor.
Left: K. Reddy in front of cave 3. Right: The uneven natural bed rock flooring.
The discovery of the three caves has been described as archaeologically significant, as they shed light on civilisation and culture as early as 7,000 years ago.
Meticulous study of the nature of above said rock-cut shelter, caves and paintings, particularly the paintings which were drawn in red-ochre colour in rock-shelter no. 1 (the Boulder of Crocodiles), suggest that the caves might have been in existence right from the Mesolithic period. Further extensive and intensive survey is needed to establish the archaeological potentiality of the valley in and around the Akkampale village.
Although the rock art caves in Akkampale have clearly been visited in recent times, evidenced by vandalism inside the caves, there are no archaeological records of the caves and they have not yet been examined in academic literature. Mr Reddy conducted a study on the caves as part of his doctoral thesis.
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