GEOGLYPHS: Ratnagiri’s Prehistoric Rock Art

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    • Experts have raised concerns that the construction of a petrochemical refinery in Barsu village of Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district might damage around 250 prehistoric geoglyphs found in the area.

    What are Geoglyphs?

    • Geoglyphs are a form of prehistoric rock art, created on the surface of laterite plateaus by removing a part of the rock surface through an incision, picking,carving or abrading. 
    • They can be in the form of rock paintings, etchings, cup marks and ring marks.

    Ratnagiri’s prehistoric rock art

    • Clusters of geoglyphs are spread across the Konkan coastline in Maharashtra and Goa, spanning around 900 km. 
    • Ratnagiri district has more than 1,500 pieces of such art, also called “Katal shilpa,” spread across 70 sites. 
    • Age: According to carbon dating, these sites are believed to be over 12,000 –20,000 years old.
    • The sites are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

    Figures depicted in the geoglyphs

    • The figures depicted in the geoglyphs include humans and animals such as deer, elephant, tiger, monkey, wild boar, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, cattle, pig, rabbit, and monkey. 
    • They also include a high number of reptilian and amphibian creatures such as tortoises and alligators, aquatic animals such as sharks and stingrays, and birds like peacocks.

    Significance of Ratnagiri’s rock art

    • Ratnagiri’s rock art is evidence of the continued existence of human settlements from the Mesolithic (middle stone age) to the early historic era. 
    • The geoglyphs also show the existence of certain types of fauna that are no longer present in the region today.
    • Imagery from these sites shows how people “adapted to ephemeral wetlands in a dry-arid plateau having shallow rock pools, streams and watercourses”.

    Inclusion in UNESCO’s Tentative List

    • In April 2022, these sites in the Konkan region were added to a tentative list of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
    • The UNESCO listing mentions “Konkan geoglyphs.” However, elsewhere, the term petroglyph (literally, “rock symbol/character”) is also used. 
    • UNESCO’s tentative world heritage list mentions seven sites with petroglyphs in Ratnagiri district — Ukshi, Jambharun, Kasheli, Rundhe Tali, Devihsol, Barsu and Devache Gothane, one in Sindhudurg district –Kudopi village, and nine sites at Phansamal in Goa.

    Source: IE