New Rock Art Discoveries in the Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh, India

Article excerpt



India has a vast amount of rock art of global significance (Bednarik & Chakravarty 1997), consisting mainly of paintings and petroglyphs. Initial investigations began in the late 1800s (e.g. Cockburn 1899; Franke 1902) but most research has focused on north and central India (e.g. Brooks & Wakankar 1976; Neumayer 1983, 1992, 1993; Chakravarty 1984; Mathpal 1984; Pandey 1992; Ghosh 1998; Pradhan 2001; Bednarik 2002; Chakraverty 2003). However, earlier finds from the south (e.g. Gordon 1951; Allchin 1963) have more recently been followed up by investigations which demonstrate that south India also possesses a wide range of rock art (e.g. Allchin & Allchin 1994-95; Mathpal 1998; Chandramouli 2002, 2003; Sridhar 2005).


For several years Boivin and colleagues have conducted rock art research in various parts of south India, beginning on the Deccan Plateau (Boivin 2004; Boivin et al. 2007) and more recently in the Kurnool area (Boivin et al. 2009; Petraglia et al. 2009b). In this paper we report on the significance of recently recorded paintings of animals, human-like figures and other designs from sites in the three valleys of Katavani Kunta, Yaganti and Jurreru near the village-town of Banganapalle, Andhra Pradesh (Figure 1).

The rock art sites are located in an archaeologically rich area noted for the highly significant Palaeolithic deposits at Jwalapuram (Clarkson et al. 2009; Petraglia et al. 2007, 2009a & b) as well as an abundance of varied Holocene sites, including those of hunter-gatherer, Neolithic and Megalithic peoples (Allchin 1963; Murty 1985, 1992, 2003b; Blinkhorn 2008; Petraglia et al. 2009b). Field survey since 2003 has located 63 rock art sites in the three valleys of the Kurnool area sampled, but there are many valleys and hilltops that have yet to be studied (see also Boivin et al. 2009). Several different styles of rock art associated with various time periods have been identified and are outlined below.

The Kurnool valleys

Chandramouli (2002: 92-141, 2003) documented a number of pictograph sites within 30km of Kurnool, especially near Kethavaram. The 2007 survey was focused on the three adjacent valleys of Jurreru, Katavanti Kunta and Yaganti (Figure 1), and was aimed at better understanding the distribution of sites within the landscape, and their correlation to surface archaeology. Detailed recording at a number of key sites took place in early 2009.


The Jurreru Valley (Figure 2) is steep-sided but relatively wide, and runs along an approximate east-west axis. Five rock art sites have been identified on its northern slopes. Most of the paintings, in red or white, are found on the southern overhangs of the variously sized quartzite boulders that litter the limestone slopes. These boulders are derived from the quartzite escarpment some 300m above the valley floor. All but one of the shelters bearing rock art is on the lower slopes of the hill. This valley contains the excavated site of Jwalapuram Locality 9, which dates to 35 000 years ago, and also has paintings that were examined in our survey (see below).

Katavani Kunta (Figure 3) is an upland valley that cuts into the quartzite plateau; it runs on a north-west to south-east axis and lies above the Jurreru Valley. It is significantly smaller in size than Jurreru, but contains many more quartzite boulders and painted sites, most of which are found on the lower slopes of the valley, often close to the long-travelled dirt road that winds along the valley floor. A total of 50 sites were found here. Today, the valley lies on a pilgrimage route between two Hindu temples, one of which stands at the south-east entrance to the valley, and some 13 sites in the valley appear to relate to contemporary or recent Hindu religious activities. These sites are located on both the western and eastern sides of the valley, close to (and facing) the road. …