Monday, January 3, 2011

Indian Archeologists discover prehistoric maps

          An archaeological team, led by T M Keshava from Bangalore, discovered maps that date back to 1500-2000 BC. The place is located around Tungabhadra River near Hampi in Karnataka, India. Unlike modern maps that rely on technology, ancient men banked on their eyesight and memory.

          The map was depicted on the roof of caves of Chikramapura village. What was once thought to be a megalithic burial site with just paintings of animals and humans; is proof of the prehistoric man’s cartographic skill. Keshava’s finding is believed to be the first-ever aerial map of a region drawn by a prehistoric man. While paintings of animals such as cows, hunting scenes and human figurines are common across pre-historic settlements, only the Chikramapura village caves, also called Kadebagilu rock shelters, feature maps.

          “A previous study in 1984 at these caves by scholars like Dr R Sundara had concluded they were just megalithic burials, but we can now say that they are maps,” Keshava said. According to Keshava, the prehistoric man obtained a bird’s eye view of an area by climbing a hillock and standing at a vantage point. He would then observe his settlement — houses, pathways, waterbodies, etc. With these images in mind, he would paint them in his cave. “We compared them with the present maps and we were dumbstruck with the findings,” he said.

          Researchers found many similarities with the modern-day maps. The triangular marks used to represent hillocks on these maps are similar to the symbols used by surveyors. Further, the narrow passage has been compared to the figure of a human being, while the ladder-like symbol indicates a pathway. It took Keshava and his team almost a year to confirm the findings.

          The paintings have been depicted on granite and done with red laterite clay. The circular-shaped settlement is 35 metres in radius. “However, due to the exposure to elements, some parts of the paintings have got spoilt,” said an archaeologist.