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VARANASI : The study of rock art started in India long back soon after its discovery in 1867. However, it is limited to only discovery, preliminary documentation (without the application of scientific tools) and publications. This is probably one of the reasons why the two important issues in the study of rock art heritage have not been addressed so far. Firstly, the activities behind the making of pigment such as nature of colours used, their chemical composition and structure, by their mediums (Organic and Non-organic), characterization techniques used and natural and artificial binding mediums used in making those colors remain unexplored; and Secondly, to know the dating of these executions, which has so far been possible only through relative dating method, to be accomplished through absolute dating methods like AMS, Uranium Series etc. On the use of haematite in the rock art not much scientific attempts have been made so far and reason for the continuous usage of haematite among the tribes and other local inhabitants of the Kaimur range is not clear.

Banaras Hindu University is all set to take a lead in this direction with two scientists of the varsity getting a project to take the interdisciplinary study forward. Prof. N. V. Chalapathi Rao, Department of Geology, Institute of Science, and Dr. Sachin Kumar Tiwary, Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Faculty of Arts, have been sanctioned a project to conduct the study over the course of two years under the Indian Knowledge System initiative by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. They will be involving extensive use of EPMA/SEM on archaeological material and in joint interpretation. The study will be carried out in the Kaimur range of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Indians were pioneers in the rock art material sciences. Many of these traditional technologies are on the verge of being lost. Prof. Rao and Dr. Tiwary said that through this project they will be able to show the researchers and students the knowledge of India in “Rock Art Materials Processing of Haematite” and showcase the ‘Indian way’ to the world. Hematite continues to be one of the most important pigment minerals. The name hematite is from the Greek word “haimatitis” which means “blood-red.” That name stems from the color of hematite when it has been crushed or rubbed to a fine powder. Primitive people discovered that hematite could be crushed and rubbed and mixed with a liquid for use as paint. Hematite was one of the major sources of ancient painting which is still continuing in the remote region of India.

This project will be an important step, in order to know and understand the purposes, techniques in terms of expression of rock art in its early stage of development. The project will also make people, museums, organizations and institutions aware of this Indian Knowledge System and the heritage value attached to it.

The project will study the pigments for their chemical compositions and structure, mediums (Organic and Non-organic) and type of binders (natural and artificial) used in Indian rock art painting especially in relation to the use of haematite material. The researchers will be searching and tracking the source of the pigment in the ecological region. They will attempt to understand the technology of manufacturing of vanishing colours in the tribal society of the Vindhyan region. Besides, they will be trying to understand the reason, technology and science behind the colour formation in modern tribal groups and the protection techniques used in ancient times for paintings and to mimic the same to replicate such art in present days.