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Rock art of Karnataka, India

David W. Robinson, with Ravi Korisettar (Karnatak University) and Jinu Koshy (Karnatak University)

At Hiregudda (Karnataka, Bellary District, South-Central India) rock-art spans a Mesolithic/Neolithic/Megalithic (and beyond) temporal frame (i.e. 10,000 years until the present): the study of this art not only addresses the local history of a world class archaeological landscape, but can contribute to wider understandings of the process of “neolithicisation” central to archaeological discourse in Europe and Asia. Research that I have already performed on the Bellary District Archaeological Project directed by Dr. Nicole Boivin and Dr. Ravi Koresittar (Karnatak University) resulted in the digital documentation of 200 rock-art panels with an estimated 1000 individual elements. I have undertaken a preliminary examination of a selection of panels, with articles currently in preparation. The archaeology of Hiregudda evidences a dramatic adoption of a Neolithic, agricultural way of life in a landscape that had been utilized by hunter/gatherers for thousands of years. Research questions focus upon the reasons for the adoption of the “Neolithic package” and the resultant change in the ideological landscape.

Through the recording process so far undertaken, it became evident that earlier wild animal imagery was replaced by bull imagery: this rock-art clearly indicates that entirely new ways of conceptualising animals was in operation, with the veneration of the bull implying an ideological change far more important than mere subsistence.


Robinson, DW., R. Korisettar, and J. Koshey. In Press. Metanarratives and the (re)invention of the Neolithic: A case study in rock-art from Birappa and Hiregudda Hill, South-Central India. Journal of Social Archaeology.

Robinson, DW. In Press. A Historiography of the Neolithic Rock-Art of Karnataka: legacies, understandings, and new directions. In Ravi Korisettar, Iranna, K. Pattar, Ashok, V. Shettar, Varija, R. Bolar, Siladhar, Y. Mugali (editors), Historiography of Karnataka: archaeology and history. The Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Suvarna Karnataka and the Department of History and Archaeology.