Academic journal article Rock Art Research

Understanding the Technology of the Daraki-Chattan Cupules: The Cupule Replication Project

Academic journal article Rock Art Research

Understanding the Technology of the Daraki-Chattan Cupules: The Cupule Replication Project

Article excerpt


Daraki-Chattan is a small, narrow and deep cave in quartzite buttresses of Indragarh Hill near Bhanpura, district Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, India (Fig. 1). It was discovered by our friend Ramesh Kumar Pancholi in 1993 (Pancholi 1994). The cave is slightly more than 4.0 m wide at the dripline, and 1.4 m at its mouth. From here it continuously narrows down in width, to 34 cm at a depth of 7.4 m, it then becomes slightly wider, up to 40 cm, finally closing at the depth of 8.4 m from its mouth. The cave is maximal 7.4 m in height. It bears more than five hundred cupules on both of its vertical walls. A cupule is a petroglyph of hemispherical shape or its variation, created by percussion technique on a horizontal, inclined or vertical rock surface.

The cave overlooks the valley of the river Rewa which opens in front of it into nearly 3-km-wide agricultural fields. The area was a dense forest with rich fauna including tigers even just 50 years back, in the 1960s. The hills and their foothills on both sides of the river were also a rich source of quartzite for manufacturing of stone artefacts by hominins in the Lower Palaeolithic, as indicated by extensive surface occurrences of artefact scatters as well as in stratified exposures. We discovered early Acheulian factory sites with finished artefacts, big flakes and cores from nearby, especially from the foothill on the opposite hill on the right bank of the river and on the Chanchalamata Hill near Daraki-Chattan. We also discovered Acheulian artefacts on the plateau of Indragarh Hill above the cave, as well as artefacts representing the transitional phase from Lower to Middle Palaeolithic industries from inside the cave. No other artefacts of later cultural phases were found in Daraki-Chattan in 1994-95, hence one of us postulated that the cupules inside the cave may belong to the Acheulian or the following transitional phase (Kumar 1995, 1996).

Most of the first half portion of the southern wall is devoid of cupules on its surface (Fig. 2). It must have been exfoliated and fallen below and become stratified. This meant that the sloping sediments in front of the cave should contain pieces of cupule-bearing slabs and also some of the hammerstones used for their production. Both were indeed amply found during excavations (Kumar et al. 2005; Bednarik et al. 2005).

The EIP Project

In order to study the early cupules in India and es- tablishing their antiquity the EIP Project was established during the Third AURA Congress at Alice Springs in 2000. Its name is an acronym of Early Indian Petroglyphs: Scientific Investigation and Dating by International Commission. It is a joint venture by Indian and Australian scientists conducted in collaboration of RASI and AURA under the aegis of IFRAO, with Giriraj Kumar and Robert G. Bednarik as its Indian and Australian directors. It has been supported and supervised by the Archaeological Survey of India. Support was also given by the Indian Council of Historical Research and the Australia-India Council, Canberra.

Under the EIP Project excavations were carried out at Daraki-Chattan for five seasons from 2002 to 2006, under the supervision of the first author (Kumar et al. 2005; Kumar 2006), and 325-cm-thick sediments were excavated. The preliminary results of the EIP Project have been published in India, Australia and other countries from time to time (Kumar et al. 2002, 2005, 2012; Kumar 2008, 2010a, 2010b, 2010c; Bednarik et al. 2005; Bednarik 2009a, 2012; Bednarik and Kumar 2012; Krishna and Kumar 2012a, 2012b, 2012c). However, a summary of the excavations is provided here to define the typological-cultural deve- lopment of lithics and correlation of the ex- foliated cupules and hammerstones found in different layers with them.

Summary of the excavations

The Lower Palaeolithic stone tool se- quence in the Daraki-Chattan sediments commences from the uppermost levels of the floor deposit, which comprises only a very thin layer of more recent strata. …

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