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Prehistoric inscriptions discovered in Bihar caves - Telegraph

PTI & UNI ()
23 November 1996

Title :Prehistoric inscriptions discovered in Bihar caves
Author : PTI & UNI
Publication : Telegraph
Date : November 23, 1996

An Army officer has discovered rock shelters and caves
housing pre-historic tools, artefacts, engravings and
paintings dating back from B.C. 1,60,000 to B.C. 4,500 in
remote areas of central Bihar.

Col. A.K. Prasad, a scholar of ancient history, who made
the discovery in June-August this year, said here today
that he has also discovered a cave with engravings id
"kharoshti" script - for the first time in Bihar. This
is of great academic value as till now, the script, a
derivative of the Aramaic script used in Persia, was
found in north-western India, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal.
Bihar was the missing link which has now been bridged.

Col. Prasad has also discovered prehistoric paintings on
the cave walls for the first time in the eastern region.
"These finds have the potential to shake up the histor-
ians," he said. Col. Prasad claimed the findings have
been authenticated by archaeologists and anthropologists.

Holding aloft a clay tablet of Lord Buddha, Col. Prasad
of the Army Education Corps, now posted at Calcutta,
said, "Imagine, for the first time since 11th century AD,
a person has set foot in those caves."

Altogether 42 rock shelters and caves, spread over an
area of 60 sq km, were discovered. Almost all types of
tools belonging to the palaeolithic (old stone age) and
mesolithic (middle stone age) have been found here. Some,
belonging to the neolithic (new stone age) period have
also been traced.

Some of the tools had been crafted with such care that
"it can still cut your fingers" exclaimed Col. Prasad.
The findings are expected to lead to the discovery of
further prehistoric settlements prior to the Indus Valley
Civilisation. Chhotanagpur has yielded several palaeo-
lithic, mesolithic and neolithic sites, according to
Basudev Narayan's book Prehistoric archeology of Bihar,
1996.

But paintings belonging to any of these periods are yet
to be recorded by scientists working in this field, Col.
Prasad said.

The cluster of sites unearthed will help to trace the
lifestyle and activities of tribal settlers such as
Paisra (Munger), Taradih (Bodh Gaya) and Chirand-Senuar
(Saran). The 30 different groups of surviving tribes
living in the forested expanse of Chhotanagpur may in all
probability be the descendants of these human being, Col.
Prasad said.

The primitive paintings portray only animals, reptiles
and symbols. Subsequently, human activities such as
hunting, gathering and dancing have been included. "These
finds have the potential to shake up the historians," he
said.

The rock paintings are one of the three major pre-histor-
ic sites in the country depicting such figures. The other

two are in Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh) and Bhimbetka. The
primitive paintings feature animals, reptiles and sym-
bols. Human beings have not been depicted. The paintings
are on the higher reaches of the cave walls. Human
activities such as hunting gathering and dancing have
been found in paintings of a later period.

The rock paintings are found in red and ochre colours of
different shades. A few in black and white colours have
also been noticed.

Col. Prasad said among the most interesting findings are
the extremely rare Buddhist day tablets in the one of the
caves, showing Buddha in various poses." In some, below
the main figure, there are engravings in "brahmi" script,
the earliest known Indian script, he said.

Col. Prasad and his Army team accompanied by tribal
guides, scanned the forests infested with bears, tigers,
reptiles in Nawadah, Giridih, Kodarma and Jamani dis-
tricts of Bihar.

Col. Prasad said the caves are "facing a threat from the
depredations of man and nature." Tree roots have bored
into some of the cave walls and created crevices serving
as routes for water, the solvent responsible for decay
and degradation. "Unless steps to preserve these caves
are taken soon, they are likely to be lost for ever," he
said.

The expedition led by him has endeavoured to classify and
number the caves to make it easier for subsequent expedi-
tions. Besides taking photographs, the team has made
several hundred tracings on cellophenes.

Col. Prasad, quoting Delhi University's Anthropology
expert, Mr D.K. Bhattacharya, said, "This discovery has
the potential to bridge history with pre-history and
throw hot on many of the living tribal symbols and ritu-
als."

The Army amateur archaeologist with rich research experi-
ence of over 30 years, embarked upon the expedition in
June. He was encouraged by his earlier discoveries of 14
painted rock shelters in the caves of Nawadah and Giridih
from December 1993 to January 1995.



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