First announcement (May 2001)


Rationale for an international commission

During the 1990s, several extraordinary observations were reported from India, suggesting that the earliest known rock art may exist in that country. First, it was noted that two of the eleven petroglyphs in Auditorium Cave, Bhimbetka, were covered by undisturbed upper Acheulian occupation deposits, indicating their Lower Palaeolithic age, and that the remaining cupules in that quartzite cave were of a similar antiquity (Bednarik 1994). Next, a large concentration of cup marks was discovered in Daraki-Chattan (Kumar 1996), and again there were indications of a very great age. Finally, two granite shelters, Bajanabhat 1 and 2, were located and their similar markings seemed to be of comparable age.

These propositions are of the utmost importance to world archaeology, to hominid evolution and to profound questions of the origins of culture, cognition and art-producing human behaviour. Extraordinary claims deserve extraordinary care in their consideration and scientific testing, and it is the purpose of this project to conduct such testing. This project will assemble an international commission to review the claims concerning four central Indian petroglyph sites. The EIP Commission, assembled by the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations and various other scholarly bodies, will investigate these matters thoroughly, using methods such as carbon isotope analysis, optically stimulated luminescence dating, microerosion dating and archaeological excavation. The Commission will report its findings to the international research community and then to the public. It will consist of more than twelve geologists, archaeologists, rock art scientists and archaeometrists, especially from India and Australia. This Commission will conduct research in the four sites concerned, to be followed by laboratory work over several months, before publishing its findings and subsequent recommendations.

Fieldwork is commencing in 2001 and will peak in 2002. Reports will be presented by late 2002 and in 2003. Over the next few years, this is considered to be one of the most important projects in the world in this field of scientific endeavour.

This Commission operates under the auspices of IFRAO (the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations) and will be directed by Robert G. Bednarik (AURA) and Dr Giriraj Kumar (RASI).

Participating organisations will include:
The Australia-India Council
Rock Art Society of India (RASI)
Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA)
Indira Gandhi National Museum of Man
Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts
Archaeological Survey of India
Physical Research Laboratory, Ahemedabad
Indian Archaeological Society, New Delhi
Dayalbagh Educational Institute, Agra
State Archaeology Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh
State Archaeology Department, Rajasthan
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Sydney

The Australian members of the EIP Commission are:
Robert G. Bednarik (AURA, Co-Director of project)
Dr Alan Watchman (James Cook University, Department of Anthropology, Archaeology and Sociology)
Dr Ewan M. Lawson (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)
Dr R. G. (Bert) Roberts (University of Melbourne, School of Earth Sciences)
They thank the Australia-India Council for underwriting their travel costs.

Robert G. Bednarik, President and Convener of IFRAO


BEDNARIK, R. G. 1994. The Pleistocene art of Asia. Journal of World Prehistory 8: 351-75.
KUMAR, G. 1996. Daraki-Chattan: a Palaeolithic cupule site in India. Rock Art Research 13: 38-46.