Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of rock carvings that could be linked to an Indian hunter-gatherer civilization from 10,000 years ago.
The incredible images were found hidden beneath the soil atop hillocks in the Konkan region of Maharashtra in India.
Experts believe the carvings, known as petroglyphs, were created by a hunter-gatherer community because many of the images are drawings of animals, the BBC reports.
The discovery suggests the civilization could have migrated to India from Africa, where many of the animals depicted are found.
And the archaeologists believe the drawings may be the oldest petroglyphs ever found, possibly dating back to the year 10,000 B.C.
The etchings were found by a group of explorers led by Sudhir Risbood and Manoj Marathe, who began searching for the images in earnest after observing a few in the area. Many were found in village temples and played a part in local folklore.
Risbood told the BBC: “We walked thousands of [miles]. People started sending photographs to us and we even enlisted schools in our efforts to find them. We made students ask their grandparents and other village elders if they knew about any other engravings. This provided us with a lot of valuable information.”
The pair found petroglyphs in and around 52 villages, but only about five of the communities were aware that the images existed.
Tejas Garge, director of the Maharashtra state archaeology department, also told the BBC: “We have not found any pictures of farming activities. But the images depict hunted animals and there’s detailing of animal forms. So this man knew about animals and sea creatures. That indicates he was dependent on hunting for food.”
All kinds of animals, including sharks, whales and turtles, feature in the carvings, while human figures and geometrical designs also appear.
Since the remarkable discovery, the researchers have been working to document the thousands of ancient carvings and spur efforts to preserve them.
The state government has designated 240 million rupees ($3.6 million) to study 400 of the petroglyphs in greater detail, according to the BBC.
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