The Marvels of Ancient Times – Petroglyphs
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?
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.
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 ? Read here