World Rock Art Enthralls All

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Ritanjali Hastir, Associate Editor, 6th July, 2016, Shimla  

One can learn a great deal about the ancient rock art and human civilization if one has an eye to see though the ongoing World Rock Art Exhibition that is being organized at the State Museum, Chaura Maidan, in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA).

Dr. Hari Chauhan, Curator of the State Museum said that Rock Art of the world is a fascinating saga of human endeavour to translate aesthetic sensitivity into reality. From time immemorial early man started to record the world around him and his activities for life sustenance and to bring forth his progenies to flourish. He lived in natural caves and shelters which he decorated with paintings and engravings, the subject matter that he could see in nature and life around him. Rock Art is known from almost all corners of the world, except Antarctica. Evidence is found in all the continents, i.e., Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America. Asia, the largest continent of the world, has a diverse Rock Art Heritage.

The huge area can be divided into five regions; Central, West, East, South and Southeast Asia. In Central Asia the two most important Rock Art Zones are Tamgaly in Kazakhstan and Altai.

The subject matter of Rock Art is also varied; starting from the simplest geometrical lines found in the Panaramittcc tradition of Australia to complex geometrical designs executed by the Chumash people of California. Animals are the most favoured subjects of early man as they were source of life sustenance. Naturalistic representation of wild animals and hunting scenes are thus the most common subject. Possessing brute power might have been the most desired aspiration for early man and, therefore, representations of anthopoes (having half human and half animal features) are commonly found from the Palaeolithic period of Europe to the South African Bushman paintings. After the introduction of domestication of plants and animals, the complexity of human life style in material culture as well as in social life was well evidenced in the diverse nature of depictions. The anthropomorphic figures of the Coso Range in California, the shamanistic representations of Texas, representations of ancestral beings from Australia, depictions of the Bushman myths from Southern Africa are all reflections of the religious beliefs, myths and customs of early man. In this great diversity of Rock Art Heritage, instances of the universality of the human mind are also mirrored in the depictions of cupules and hand prints found almost in all parts of the world.

List of World Heritage Rock Art Sites

AFRICA – Rock Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus, Libya; Tassili n’ Ajjer, Algeria; Kondoa Rock Art Site, Tanzania; Chongoni Rock Art Area, Malawi; Twyfelfontein, Namibia; Drakensberg Park; .Matoba Hills;  Tsodllo, Botswana

ASIA – Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, India; Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly, Kazakhstan;  Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai, Mongolia; Gobustan Rock Art South Africa Cultural Landscape, Azerbaijan

AMERICA (NORTH & SOUTH) – Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco, Mexico; Prehistoric caves of Yagul and Mitla in the central valley of Oaxaca, Mexico;  Serra de Capivara National Park, Brazil; Cueva de las Manos, Argentina ; Chavin, Peru

EUROPE –  Prehistoric Sites and decorated caves of the Vezere Valley, France; Rock Engravings of Valcamonica, Italy; Rock Art of Alta, Norway; Cave of Altamira and Palaeolithic Cave Art, Spain; Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Coa Valley and Siega Verda, Portugal and Spain; Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain; Rock Carvings in Tanum, Sweden

AUSTRALIA – Kakadu National Park, Australia

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