The Marvels of Ancient Times – Petroglyphs

An invaluable record of ancient human civilisation
An invaluable record of ancient human civilisation

In a recent (re)discovery, hundreds of petroglyphs (or in other words, rock sculptures) have been found in about 150 sq km area in the Konkan region. These unique rock sculptures are spread from as north as Jaygad in Ratnagiri district to Prindavan and Sawantwadi in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. In fact, a little more southwards, in Goa, there indeed is such a site developed by Goa tourism. However, this site at Usgalimal is a solitary carving along the river bed. Whereas these new found petroglyphs, are literally in hundreds of numbers around Ratnagiri. Numerous hamlets and villages have such carvings known to the locals since years. However, it’s just now that these are coming to the limelight. A few enthusiasts are trying to catalogue the locations and details of these petroglyphs.

What’s most interesting about these sculptures in Konkan is that these are unique in the world. The petroglyphs found world over are mostly on the walls of caves or on boulders. I remember such a glyph I had seen a few years ago in Utah, USA. There’s an interesting story about it, but I’ll spare it for some other time. What makes the petroglyphs found around Ratnagiri unique is that these are carved on the ground! And even more fascinating is the fact that these are carved on laterite. Incidently, there are no glyphs done on laterite anywhere else in the world. When I learnt about these the explorer in me was jumping with excitement. I had to visit at least few of these places. Luckily, I knew a professor who knew more about these petroglyphs. So one weekend I rode my bike exploring my own backyard in search of petroglyphs in laterite.

The most magnificent of these was near a village called Barsu. What does this look like to you?

A human figure and two big animals on its two sides.

It feels as if it’s a boat from one side but appears as if it’s a man and two big animals on his two sides. Incidentally, people in the region knew about this glyph since years. When there were no roads the trail to the town of Rajapur would pass from here and the place was referred to by same reference of the boat. In recent times, a number of such glyphs have been found near this boat.

I visited another such petroglyph in a small village nearby: Devache Gothne. An old rock-built path goes up the hill through this village. At the end of it, there’s a vast mesa of laterite. Somewhat in the middle of it is a single lifesize figure of a man. There are no other glyphs in the close vicinity of this man. What makes this man interesting is that, there’s a strong magnetic anomaly in this locale. I wanted to verify this information. So when I reached and checked my phone compass for any signs of disorientation, I was surprised to find it normal. Only later that I realised that my most modern phone had re-calibrated the compass as I entered this new magnetic field ! This magnetic anomaly is said to be much stronger even for a few feet above ground level and is highly non-uniform. Also, it is really special because it is believed that nowhere else in the world have geologists found any magnetic anomaly in laterite rocks.

Strong magnetic anomaly near this petroglyph. (Location: Devache Gothane, Ratnagiri)

The age of such petroglyphs usually is determined by carbon dating. However, while in usual sites there is carbon deposition on these scupltures in some form (like ancient paints) which makes the job possible, these laterite petroglyphs are on ground and hence are eroding slowly and no clear trace of carbon is found. So it is difficult to determine the age of these petroglyphs which eventually could lead to more discoveries of this ancient civilisation. Some experts propose that these are definitely pre-historic. However, the fact these petroglyphs exist in this region in huge numbers is a proof enough that Konkan was once inhabited in ancient times and it has much older history than currently known. There are no other sites in Konkan found till date which indicate any links to the Indus civilisation that gradually spread to the south of Indus river. These petroglyphs include various birds of prey, fishes, tigers/lions, life size human figures. Interestingly none of the animals have any toes. These archeological evidences provide references to Neolithic era.  I find this very exciting. Isn’t it so!?

The petroglyphs around Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg are great destinations for a weekend exploration. Have you read about my take on exploring Ratnagiri town? Read here


  1. OMG WOW… What a wonderful discovery and even better narration by you.

    Thanks for pointing me to your blog.


    • I’m glad you like this post Shubham! Coming from an experienced blogger like you, it means a lot to me.
      Thank you.

  2. That was an lovely narration. Though I wish you did not share it, I know I am being judgemental here, but I can see waves of tourists, landing there clicking selfies and discarding their water-bottles, tissues and wafer packets. Vijay Sardessai voiced our anguish. pa

    • Thanks for your comment (which probably got cut halfway for some reason). I know what you mean and I don’t think your fear is completely unfounded. However, the issue of tourists changing the whole scenario by littering is already happening everywhere. I think it is more about the psyche and lack of awareness about our planet. I do hope, however, such places get the required attention, since this is a heritage we must preserve. I’m sure by promoting responsible tourism we can avoid misplaced priorities of tourists. Would you not agree?

  3. Thanks for the write up. Can you give some directions on how one can reach these petroglyphs by road? If you can point their location on google maps, that would be ideal.

    • Hi!

      Sorry for responding so late. I have given more than a few hints in the text but deliberatelly avoided geotagging. The perils of geotagging are all around us and I truly care for this little but significant marvel of Konkan. I believe those who are really enchanted by this and care for such places will be responsible individuals and will find a way to reach the spots. You can send me an email if you are not satisfied. 🙂

  4. Thank you!! Though I must say I am glad you wrote about these (I have been searching for this info for last 3 yrs) but network connectivity isn’t great around here so when I finally found the one near Hasol I had to visit but my worst fears came true..people just couldn’t care less..there were vehicles parked and people selling stuff all around for an annual event – right on top of these precious finds( all except one)! Aaarrrghhh!! Anyways hopefully they leave it all alone until the next year and someone can do something to save these

    • Not sure, how I missed this comment earlier. But thanks for dropping by here Shalaka! I absolutely detest that and I’d rather have people be more considerate and sensible. Thankfully, this treasure is slowly gaining publicity the right way. Earlier efforts by aware enthusiasts are now receiving help from archeology and other professionals 9especially after that BBC article). I am hopeful we will preserve these for the centuries to come.

      P.S. Do consider subscribing to my blog if you liked it 🙂

  5. First article of Bhingri read by me! As expected, khup mast ahe.
    Btw, what does following sentence mean?
    “Only later that I realised that my most modern phone had re-calibrated the compass as I entered this new magnetic field !”
    Which was your phone? Was it showing North with GPS or with an inbuilt sensor?

    Fakt ek ahe, site load vyayla khup vel lagto. High resolution graphics content ahe, mhanun vel lagto ki ajun kahi karan ahe?
    Not all people will see zoomed version of your image, so you may upload compressed images.

    PS: This might be interesting for you

    • Hey Mak!

      Not sure how I missed your comment earlier. Thanks a tonne for the useful feedback. I suppose it is indeed because of the HiRes images, but perhaps I can try and reduce the load time with some more tricks. Just been really demotivated last few months to write anything here so haven’t paid much attention. But this coronavirus situation probably is a good excuse to restart blogging.

      The link you have shared is amazing. In my case, and I believe this would for any android phone, if you are long enough in the magnetic field, the phone compass recalibrates it automatically. So the moment you are away from it, it starts showing wrong directions. At least in my case that’s what happend since no GPS in Devache Gothane.

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