Depictions of the Slaughter Scene on the Rock Paintings of Maser, Madhya Pradesh

Rock Paintings of Maser

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While hunting scenes are well attested in Indian rock art, only two depictions of butchering are known from sites in India and are very rare globally. A rare depiction of deer butchering was uncovered at Maser in the Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh, India. Cave art found in central India so far dates from about 30,000 years ago all the way to the medieval period, 1,500 C.E.

Now archaeologists report on the discovery of a grisly image in central India, depicting the disemboweling of a deer near the source of the Betwa River. The extraordinary image of the deer and its innards apparently dates to about 30,000 years ago, according to reports.

These reports state that experts from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali, visited one of these isolated hills in the Betwa source region and discovered a group of 11 new rock art sites located approximately six kilometres south of Raisen during the 2017-18 fieldwork season. The sites are located on the western side of an isolated hill and surrounded by dry deciduous forest. Very few depictions of post-hunt processing are known from elsewhere either. In prehistoric times, people were proud to boast of their hunting prowess but may not have associated manly courage to hacking up and roasting the corpse. It?s the only butchery scene out of the 297 paintings found in nine newly discovered rock shelters in central India dating from prehistory to 600 C.E.

A total of 297 painted images are distributed between nine rock shelters. Dating from prehistory to the historic periods is the rock art found at Maser was painted in green, red and white and the images appear to belong to different phases. These images include 80 animals, 67 people, one bird, one flower, one bow, two arrows, one spear and one unidentified design. Of the images, 152 are well preserved, and 145 are faded.

The rock shelter has two storeys and is around eight metres long and two metres in depth. It is located above a shallow cave. The images in this shelter comprise 19 animals, 24 people, one unidentified design, one flower, one bow, one spear, two arrows, one bird and 27 other images that are too faded to identify, but they use the colors green, white and red. Of the 19 animals featured, 11 are deer, of various species.

There is one rhinoceros, one wild boar and one gaur or Indian bison. These animal figures are drawn in naturalistic style and some geometric patterns are depicted on some bodies. Five of the images appear to be animals, but are too faded to identify a species. At rock shelter 6, all but one of the images appears in panels not superimposed by any other figures. The one exception is a deer drawn as an outline in naturalistic style this was sketched over a faded red image.

The deer with legs akimbo and stylized innards was painted together with one human figure bearing a bow and arrows walking toward it, and a second one, with an arrow in his left hand, squatting by the deer. A bow and spear lies by them on the ground. The human seems to be working on removing that arrow from the animal, Barasingha swamp deer. The whole region was crowded with this deer but now only clings on in parts of India and Nepal. Moreover, another human figure painted above these figures on the panel seems to be watching them. He and the postulated butcher are wearing feathered headdresses. If their interpretation of the ancient faded drawings is accurate then the feather is used in this painting.

As said, in contrast to scenes of actual gory butchery, hunting scenes in cave art aren?t rare. Rock shelter No. 6 also has one. In it, eight stick figures armed with bows and arrows are chasing a deer. In fact, the earliest hunting scene found to date, a whole panel of paintings discovered in a cave in Indonesia and dating to around 44,000 years ago, seems to show bizarre hybrid human-animals. They were also known as ?therianthropes?, apparently aiming spears or ropes at pigs and bison.

That scene of butchery is even more gruesome than the newly discovered one in India. Painted in red, the deer is lying dead and seven humans are depicted of which two are working in the large deer?s body cavity while others holding its legs apart and one holding its tail.

That Guadalupe rock shelter also has a picture of humans hunting rabbits, further demonstrating that prehistoric peoples did not eat only mega-fauna but anything they could catch. Early humans and Neanderthals and that sort hadn?t been expected to eat small mammals because catching them is a huge pain for very little meat though it turns out they did. Also in New Mexico, one of many rock paintings found at White Oaks Spring may show a panel featuring deer hunting and butchering.

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