Daraki-Chattan Cave, Madhya Pradesh: Acheulian Petroglyph Site, c. 200,000 - 500,000 BP

Daraki-Chattan Cave is a small, narrow and deep cave in the Indragarh Hill, Tehsil Bhanpura, district Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. It overlooks a tributary (now dammed) to the Chambal River, near the Gandi Sagar Resevoir, in central India. (See location on map of associated central India rock art sites, Bhimbetka gallery.)

The cave walls bear over 500 cupules and another 28 cupules have been found on exfoliated slabs within the excavation at the cave entrance. At least two engraved grooves have been found in the excavation and stone floors.

The Daraki-Chattan cupules were discovered and made known by Ramesh Kumar Pancholi, Tehsil Bhanpura, Mandsaur, MP, in 1992 [Pancholi RK. (1994) Bhanpura khetra me navin shodha (Hindi). Purakala 5(1-2):75].

Giriraj Kumar studied and documented the site since 1995 and commenced excavation at Daraki-Chattan 2002 and research continues. Site stratigraphy and generalized section view of the excavation as reported in Bednarik et al (2005) are shown in images in this webgallery. Levels might be summarized as:
Levels 1 and 2: Acheulian or Acheulian - Middle Palaeolithic 'intermediate' stage, with flakes, few handaxes, cleavers, Levallois
Level 3: Early Palaeolithic cobble and flake tools, Levallois and discoid cores
Level 4, 5 & 6: Chopping tools and cobble tools, spheroids, discoids, rare polyhedrons, with rare handaxe and cleaver in Level 5 and hematite nodule in Level 6.

For comprehensive research report on and analysis of the Daraki-Chattan petroglyphs see Bednarik RG, Kumar G, Watchman A and Roberts RG. (2005). Preliminary results of the EIP [Early Indian Petroglyphs] Project. Rock Art Research 22,2:147-197; and Harrod J. (2006) Comments with Bednarik RG, Kumar G, Watchman A and Roberts RG Response, Rock Art Research 23,1:113-118. Also Kumar G. (1996). Daraki-Chattan: A Palaeolithic Cupule Site in India. Rock Art Research 13,1:38-46.

Dating. Currently the Early India Petroglyphs Project, Giriraj Kumar and Robert Bednarik, joint project directors, founded in 1999 under the aegis of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO), is attempting to date the cupules and other petroglyphs at Daraki-Chattan, Bhimbetka and other sites in India.

"Daraki-Chattan is a Lower Palaeolithic site, yielding Lower Palaeolithic artefacts right from the surface and from all layers below it… In the early phase of the Lower Palaeolithic, the cave was a tool-manufacturing site… The excavation …has yielded definite evidence of human visualcreation from the Lower Palaeolithic in the form of petroglyphs, both cupules and engraved lines, and also hammerstones used for producing cupules. This is evident from the discovery of slabs bearing cupules and engraved lines, and of hammerstones right from the lowest layer 6 onwards" (Kumar in Bednarik et al 2005:168-169). ""[T]he period of cupule manufacture at Daraki-Chattan, or at leasts its earliest phase…coincides with this chopping tool industry with occasional handaxes. The archaeology has shown this unambiguously" (Kumar and Bednarik in Bednarik et al 2005:176). The EIP team has collected OSL soil samples and full results are anticipated.

In the general scheme of Indian dating (considering Bori and other Maharashtra sites and Attirampakkam, Tamil Nadu) the Later Acheulian dates back to ca. 500-700K BP and the Final Acheulian ca. 200K BP, and thus the Bhimbetka petroglyphs would fall within this range and possibly some date from the Early or Middle Acheulian.

Illustrations © Rock Art Research. OriginsNet thanks Robert Bednarik for permission to publish images credited to Rock Art Research. Photo © James Harrod or as otherwise noted. All James Harrod site photos taken on tour of Bhimbetka, International Rock Art Congress - 2004, Rock Art Society of India, 12/4/2004. This gallery first posted 10/17/2006.

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