|IFRAO Report Number 14|
MEMBER'S PROGRESS REPORT
(Rock Art Society of India)
The Rock Art Society of India (RASI) was established in Agra on 24
February 1990. Since then it has played an important role in the
promotion of scientific study, conservation, management and
popularisation of Indian rock art, and in supporting similar endeavours
of the other IFRAO member organisations. One can feel a considerable
change in the attitude of Indian and overseas scholars to the rock art
heritage of India. The Code of Ethics developed by RASI for dealing with
rock art is gradually becoming popular among scholars. Slowly rock art
is becoming a major concern to be taken care of by Indian scholars,
national laboratories and government organisations. International rock
art conferences, such as by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the
Arts in New Delhi (1993) and the symposium `Rock art of Asia and the
Pacific' in the World Archaeological Congress 3 (New Delhi 1994), along
with the exhibition `Rock art of India and the world' by the Indira
Gandhi National Museum of Man and IFRAO may be seen in this perspective.
The decision taken by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
to propose the Bhimbetka complex of rock-shelters for World Heritage
listing to UNESCO through the government of India was a major
development in 1994. Dr R. C. Agrawal and his colleagues of ASI Bhopal
Circle are preparing the proposal. RASI and IFRAO are playing crucial
roles in this regard and are seeking help and support from all possible
parties. Thanks are due to the generous co-operation and support from
all Indian scholars and ASI authorities, especially Prof. B. B. Lal, Dr
M. N. Deshpande, Dr K. V. Soundara Rajan, Prof. V. N. Misra, Dr D. P.
Agrawal, Dr K. K. Chakravarty and others. R. G. Bednarik, Convener of
IFRAO and a close friend of mine, has been an inspiring source
throughout, having helped RASI in many ways besides providing guidance
from time to time.
This change in attitude to the Indian rock art heritage has been
achieved by RASI over the past five years. The publication of Purakala,
the biannual journal of RASI, is its foremost achievement. It was begun
in July 1990, and volume 5(2) is to appear shortly. Volumes 3(1-2),
4(1-2) and 5(1-2) are special issues on the rock art of Chambal valley,
rock art and education (the proceedings of the Cairns 1992 symposium),
and the conservation and manage-ment of Bhimbetka respectively.
Purakala, a member of the family of IFRAO journals, is of the
international standards of that family. It is distributed to scholars in
India and is exchanged with other IFRAO members in academic exchange
programs. Purakala is now well established, and is the only journal of
its kind in Asia. It plays an important role in making Indian and other
scholars aware of the rock art heritage of India, and of the efforts in
its scientific study, conservation, management and popularisation. It
also reflects the gradual clarification of regional characteristics of
Indian rock art. Among the specific activities of RASI during the past
five years, the following may be mentioned:
1. Purakala Samaroh, Agra 1992.
2. Workshop on a system for orientation and training in rock art
for the young, Narsinghgarh 1992.
3. First RASI Congress, Agra 1993.
4. Awareness promotion of rock art among the people and students of
the Bhanpura rock art region, 1992.
5. Dr V. S. Wakankar memorial rock art exhibitions at Laduna
(Madhya Pradesh) 1991, Agra 1992 and 1993, Srisailam 1992.
6. Lectures on rock art delivered at DEI, Agra, Wakankar Shodh
Sansthan Ujjain and Govt. P. G. College, Kotpukali.
7. Six-week lecture and study tour of R. G. Bednarik to most major
rock art sites and archaeological institutions in India in 1990; and Dr
M. J. Morwood's tour to rock art sites of Fatehpur Sikari region, and
DEI Agra in 1993.
8. RASI project `Early art and archaeology of Fatehpur Sikari -
Agra region', and exhibition of 57 exhibits and original antiquities on
the same theme sponsored by Agra University. This was prepared by Dr
Ashvini Kumar Sharma and Satya Narayan Maurya under the direction of the
9. RASI education-cum-excursion tour of 62 trainee teachers of the
Faculty of Education, DEI Agra, to rock art sites at Madanpura and
Rasulpur in the Sikari region, in 1995.
In 1995, a RASI team will conduct analytical studies of rock art of
Chaturbhujnath nala. The Second RASI Congress will be held in Orissa in
Secretary and Editor, RASI
Chambal valley, CBN-B17
All eyes on Italy in 1995
Rock Art Congress NEWS 95
30 August to 8 September 1995
Pinerolo and Turin, Italy
A final announcement with Registration Form and Hotel Reservation Form
is enclosed in this issue of RAR. Your registration for what promises to
be a very major academic event in international rock art studies is
The Congress is organised by the Centro Studi e Museo d'Arte
Preistorica (CeSMAP), Pinerolo, a founding member of IFRAO. The venue
will be the Royal Castle of Valentino (Faculty of Architecture), Turin.
The congress is supported by the Italian Central Office, by regional
government agencies, by the EEC, the European Authority, and the
International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO).
Program: the Congress consists of sixteen academic symposia, as well as
debates, films and displays, field trips to rock art sites, exhibitions
(e.g. `Rock art in the Alps', `Rock art in Europe', `Rock art in the
Sahara', etc.), and several special events, including the 1995 IFRAO
Meeting, opening plenary session, cocktail party and concert, farewell
Contributions: prospective participants are encouraged to submit
abstracts (in English) for any of the following symposia.
Thematic areas and symposia
Thematic area A: Rock art studies
1A - New approaches
2A - Semiotics, signs and symbols
3A - Rock art and music-archaeology
Thematic area B: Rock art and presentation
4B - Mass media
5B - Museology and museography
6B - Management
Thematic area C: Rock art and conservation
7C - Ethics
8C - Preservation and restoration
9C - Rock art and archaeological excavation
10C - Dating, recording and computer science
Thematic area D: Rock art in the world
11D - Rock art of the circum-polar countries
12D - Rock art and Mediterranean Sea
13D - Rock art of the Sahara
14D - News of the world
15D - Christian manifestations in rock art
16D - Rock art and ethnography
Field trips: numerous field trips will be conducted, both during and
after the academic program: to post-Palaeolithic rock art sites in the
Alps, Mount Bego, the Rock Cavour Park, western Alps, Savoy, Val d'Aosta
stelae, Val Camonica, Carchenna etc. Tours will be conducted on the
subjects of prehistory, ethnography and history in Italy, to Turin,
Milan, Venice, Florence, Naples, Rome.
Pre-registrations and enquiries to: CeSMAP, Viale Giolitti 1, 10064
Pinerolo (TO), Italy
Telephone 121-794382, Fax 121-76550
Professor Dario Seglie (Director, CeSMAP)
Dr Piero Ricchiardi (President, CeSMAP)
Call for papers
Abstracts of papers for the following symposia should be
submitted to the chairpersons listed below:
1A - Rock art studies: new approaches. Abstracts of 100-150 words
from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Austra-lia to Robert G. Bednarik,
AURA, P.O. Box 216, Caulfield South, Vic. 3162, Australia; from Europe,
inclu-ding Russia, to Francesco d'Errico, Department of Archaeology,
Downing Street, CB2 3DZ Cambridge, United Kingdom.
7C - Rock art and conservation: ethics. Abstracts to Francois X.
Soleilhavoup, Groupe d'Etude et de Recherche sur les Milieux Extremes
(GERME), B.P. 132, F-93805 Epinay-sur-Seine-Cedex, France
10C - Dating, recording and computer science. Abstracts can be sent
to either B. K. Swartz, Jr, Department of Anthropology, Ball State
University, Muncie, IN 47306-0435, U.S.A. - Tel. (317) 285-1577, Fax
(317) 285-2163, E-Mail 01BKSWARTZ@LEO. BSUVC.BSU.EDU.; or to Mila Simoes
de Abreu, Av. D. Jos I, n. 53, 2780 Oeiras, Portugal - Tel and Fax
351-(0)1-4421374 or 4101359.
14C - Rock art: news of the world 1995. Papers and abstracts can be
submitted to either Paul G. Bahn, 428 Anlaby Road, Hull HU3 6QP, England
- Tel./Fax 44-482-52172; or Angelo Fossati, Cooperativa Archeologica `Le
Orme dell'Uomo', Piazzale Donatori di Sangue 1, 25040 Cerveno (Bs),
Italy - Tel. 39-364-433983, Fax 39-364-434351.
16D - Rock art and ethnography. Papers from Africa, the Americas,
Asia and Australia can be submitted to Alicia A. Fernandez Distel,
Centro Argentino de Etnologia Americana, Av. de Mayo 1437 1ø "A", 1085
Buenos Aires, Argentina. Papers from Europe, including Russia, can be
submitted to Alberto Guaraldo, Instituto di Antropologia Culturale,
Dipartimento Scienze Antropologiche, Archeologiche e Storica
Territoriali dell'Universita, Via Giolitti 21/E, 10123 Torino, Italy.
For full details concerning the above symposia, please consult AURA
Newsletter 11/2 (September 1994).
8C - Preservation and restoration. Papers to Alan Watchman,
Data-Roche Watchman, Inc., 1631 rue Eden, Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec,
Canada G2E 2N2.
13D - Rock art of the Sahara. Abstracts to A. Muzzolini, 7 rue J. de
Resseguier, 31000 Toulouse, France; or J. L. Le Quellec, Brenessard,
85540 St-Benoist-sur-Mer, France.
15D - Christian manifestations in rock art. Abstracts to Roy
Querejazu Lewis, Casilla 4243, Cochabamba, Bolivia
Rock Art Research -
Moving into the Twenty-first Century
International conference by SARARA,
with the participation of EARARA, in 1996
This international conference will be held by the Southern African Rock
Art Research Association (SARARA) in Swakopmund, Namibia, from 11 to 18
August 1996, with the participation of the Eastern African Rock Art
Research Association (EARARA). The member organisations of IFRAO have
voted in favour of adopting this conference as the official IFRAO
Meeting for 1996.
The objectives of the southern African rock art confer-ence will
be to focus on new and innovative approaches to rock art studies and to
assess the latest technologies that will carry our discipline decisively
into the twenty-first century. The preliminary program is as follows:
1. Recording methods: new and safer copying methods, advances in
photographic techniques, digital recording.
2. Dating: latest methods, accuracy.
3. Meaning and motivation.
4. Environmental issues and site management: conservation and
preservation, protection of rock art, visitor control, the role of
government in protection programs.
6. Aesthetic considerations.
Papers are now invited, maximum presentation time 20 minutes, to be
followed by 10 minutes of question and discussion time. SARARA will have
first publication rights on papers unless special arrangements are made.
The conference will feature displays of posters, photographs,
rock art recordings, plans and models of conservation programs, and
publications. A number of pre- and post-conference tours lasting from
five to ten days will be available, to major rock painting and
petroglyph areas in Namibia and South Africa. EARARA plans to organise a
tour to rock art sites in Tanzania.
For details and registration forms, please contact SARARA, P.O.
Box 81292, Parkhurst 2120, South Africa.
The Hell's Canyon saga continues
ROBERT G. BEDNARIK
The archaeological controversy concerning the petroglyphs at Canada do
Inferno (Hell's Canyon) in the Coa valley of northern Portugal (Bahn
1995; Bednarik 1994, 1995a; Clottes 1995; Simoes de Abreu 1995)
continues to widen. It has become a major political, economic, cultural
and scientific issue.
Our call for official expressions of condemnation from IFRAO
member organisations has resulted in swift respon-ses from most member
associations, among them letters of censure from Professor Dario Seglie
(Chairman, IFRAO), Dr Paul G. Bahn (Vice-President, Australian Rock Art
Research Association), Angelo Fossati (President, Societa Cooperativa
Archeologica `Le Orme dell'Uomo'), Dr Michel Lorblanchet (Chair, Groupe
de reflexion sur le methodes d'etude de l'art parietal paleolithique),
Professor Ben Swartz (President, American Committee to Advance the Study
of Petroglyphs and Pictographs), William Hyder (President, American Rock
Art Research Association), Dr Giriraj Kumar (Secretary, Rock Art Society
of India), Roy Querejazu Lewis (President, Sociedad de Investigaci¢n del
Arte Rupestre de Bolivia), Dr Fidelis Masao (Chairman, Eastern African
Rock Art Research Association), Shirley-Ann Pager (President, Southern
African Rock Art Research Association), Professor Lawrence Loendorf
(Chairperson, ARARA Conservation Committee), Professor Jack Steinbring
(Chairman, Rock Art Association of Manitoba), Alfred Muzzolini
(President, Association des amis l'art rupestre saharien) and Robert G.
Bednarik (Convener, IFRAO). In addition to these official reactions,
many protest letters from individual members of IFRAO organisations have
been received in Portugal. There have also been admirable individual
actions of international support, such as Angelo Fossati's collection in
Italy of tens of thousands of signatures for a petition. The affair has
been reported in many of the world's leading newspapers and
masscirculation magazines (e.g. Time, New Scientist), in some cases in a
commendably sustained fashion. The Times, in particular, has been
foremost in its critique of the Portuguese government. Its editorial of
11 March 1995, entitled `Dam folly: the Portuguese Government must end
its cultural vandalism', elicited an angry response from that
government. The Sunday Times has featured at least three articles on the
issue, and the New York Times had a major story on it. Across Europe,
numerous papers reported the Portuguese vandalism in Coa valley, among
them Le Monde, El Pais, Dal Giornale, de Volkskrant and many others.
The Portuguese go-vernment is under still considerably greater
pressure at home, all of which is in some way attributable to IFRAO
Representatives Dr Mila Simoes de Abreu and Ludwig Jaffe. What may have
been the world's first public demonstration in support of rock art
conserva-tion was held in Vila Nova de Foz Coa, the town nearest to the
site (P. G. Bahn, pers. comm.), with the slogan `The engravings don't
know how to swim'. Students at the local high school of that town have
collec-ted almost a million signatures for a petition to save the rock
art. A civic action group, the Movimento para a salva-guarda de Arte
Rupestre do Vale do Coa, has been established in Portugal to prevent the
construction of the dam. Recently, Simoes de Abreu and Jaffe, as general
co-ordinators of the campaign to save the rock art, led a protest fast
outside a historical building in Lisbon, and police trying to break it
up by force faced massive public opposition. While the rock art remains
the main issue, other environmental and economic concerns have been
voiced, including the destruction of the valley's natural ecosystem and
substantial archaeological heritage, the diversion of water resources,
the damage to the region's important port wine industry (the dam will
flood up to 1600 hectares of first-class vine-growing land), as well as
the loss of habitat of an endangered species of eagle. The former
Secretary of State for Energy, Nuno Ribeiro da Silva, who rejected the
project repeatedly while he was in office, argues that the dam is not
needed for projected electricity requirements. Now a report by Unesco
has recommended to the Portuguese government that construction of the
dam be deferred, and there is great domestic as well as international
political pressure on the government to comply.
The issue has become an important test case in more than one
sense. For instance, it concerns the question of the independence of
technical consultants and government agencies that ostensibly represent
scholarly interests. It also concerns scientific aspects themselves: if
the Coa petroglyphs were not Palaeolithic (Bednarik 1994), how would
this affect other undated rock arts claimed to be Palaeolithic? (This
could render it doubly important to preserve the rock art for future
study.) Then there is the issue of who should exercise administrative
control over archaeological properties of global significance in
countries whose state-run archaeological agencies are antiquated,
incompetent or academically corrupt? The credibility of archaeology as a
discipline is at stake in this very public controversy, and scholars of
integrity have no choice but to demand the most rigorous remedial
Portugal's eighteen university professors of prehistory have
petitioned the Attorney General to deploy legal means of stopping the
dam. The intensive media attention has had some welcome if unexpected
effects. For instance, the Portuguese may be said to have become the
most rock-art conscious nation on earth during the past few months. In
this sense alone, the campaign has been an outstanding success. The
Portuguese Archaeological Association, which had been practically
dormant over recent years, has acquired a new lease of life through this
issue, strongly supporting IFRAO in the confrontation, as do other
organisations. To save the reputation of the discipline it is essential
that scholarly societies campaign against an inept technocratic
administration. Since the scandal was first announced in November 1994,
there has been no bloodletting in the culprit organisation, the
Instituto Portugues do Patrimonio Arquitectonico e Arqueologico (IPPAR),
which seems more concerned about closing ranks than with its public
Meanwhile, construction of the dam is continuing. IPPAR, an
organisation that lacks any understanding or knowledge of rock art and
the modern methods of its study, is recording the rock art in Hell's
Canyon, still excluding outside researchers from this work in the same
clandestine fashion that has characterised its work for years. There are
unconfirmed reports of latex moulds being taken by a French firm, there
has been talk of using physical enhancement (organic white paint and
soot!), and a Swedish firm has undertaken trials of sawing the
petroglyph-bearing rock type. An inspection by Alan Watchman to check
the prospects of finding datable material in accretionary deposits has
not resulted in the detection of any such residues, nor would the
results derived from them be particularly helpful in direct dating
(Bednarik 1995b). No other measures have been taken to attempt dating of
the Coa rock art, or of any other of the open air sites attributed to
the Upper Palaeolithic.
I have examined samples of the rock in question, and it is
obvious that its structure renders the plan of sawing off panels of
petroglyphs technically impracticable. The freshly broken schist is of a
dark-grey colour (Munsell 7.5R 5/0 to 7.5R 6/0). Its distinctive
lamination is locally characterised by a variety of crystalline minerals
including quartz and staurolite, which should render microerosion dating
possible. The rock's pronounced cleavage tendency has resulted in the
development of innumerable parallel weathering fissures which are
perpendicular to the rock faces and contain alteration products, notably
iron salts. If a petroglyph on a Coa schist panel were sawn off it would
inevitably disintegrate into a large number of lamellar fragments of
roughly the thickness of a finger. To prevent this, the rock structure
would first have to be stabilised, presumably by vacuum-assisted
injection of synthetic material. Not only is this unlikely to be
successful in such a dense, metamorphosed rock, some of the great
variety of minerals present in the fissures are likely to reject the
consolidation agent, at least in the long term. The logistics of
conducting the envisaged salvage operation in this inaccessible site
seem incredibly difficult. Before attempting such an operation, its
feasibility must be satisfactorily demon-strated to independent
specialist observers. On the basis of the limited information available
it would seem that the two options currently entertained by IPPAR,
sawing off or inundation, seem about equally certain to result in the
total loss of the rock art. While sawing off would bring about fairly
instant destruction, inundation involves the prospects of water damage,
chemical and kinetic erosion, followed by the ultimate burial under many
tens of metres of river sediment.
The cynicism of `the authorities' in all of this is
breathtaking. One version circulated to the media is that the
petroglyphs will be better off under water, at least there would be no
vandalism possible then, and there is always a chance that they might
survive prolonged inundation reasonably well. Even if they would, who is
going to pay for excavating them late next century? The sedimentation
rate of the Coa is estimated to be 1.5 metres per year, which means that
the dam will be abandoned in seventy years or so, having become silted
up by then. The cost of excavating the rock art would be much greater
than the cost of the dam itself (US$300 million), it would involve the
excavation of thirteen kilometres of valley to a depth of 100 metres or
so (a task I estimate would involve the remo-val of over 300 million
tons of silt and gravel). Is the construction authority suggesting that
it undertakes to meet the eventual cost of reclaiming the site? If not,
then the argument of the art being `recoverable' is an exercise in
blatant cynicism, and based on the belief that archaeologists and the
public are too ignorant to think that far. We should regard it as a
foregone conclusion that nobody will ever see the petroglyphs again if
they are allowed to be submerged, because their recovery, even if they
did survive inundation and sedimentation, is simply not a realistic
The Hell's Canyon scandal can be resolved satisfactorily by
adequate international pressure. This discipline owes its Portuguese
representatives, Simoes de Abreu and Jaffe, its unqualified support in
their selfless, utterly dedicated struggle to save this site. The issue
of the Coa petroglyphs has already galvanised the discipline into taking
decisive action. There are precedents for this kind of confrontation
between powerful electricity utilities and conservationists in various
other countries, and we know that even the most powerful vested
interests can be defeated in a democracy. In 1983, a federal government
of Australia lost office over a similar issue, the Franklin dam in
Tasmania, when that three-billion dollar project (which also threatened
archaeological sites) was soundly rejected by the public of Australia.
The Coa valley issue is similarly winnable: it involves an indecisive
government, a conspiracy of power-hungry technocrats, a mostly
supportive public, and a highly motivated and dedicated campaign
leadership. What is required from the international discipline,
represented by the twenty-four members of IFRAO, is systematic lobbying:
protest letters need to be received by the Portuguese government, and
perhaps we should petition the Portuguese embassies in our various
countries where such embassies exist. It seems also advisable to write
to Swedish embassies, protesting about the proposed involvement of a
Swedish company in cultural vandalism in Portugal, pointing out perhaps
the less than encouraging examples of other sites where the sawing-off
of rock art was attempted in the past. In Portugal, letters can be
addressed to The President of the Republic of Portugal, Dr Mario Soares,
or alternatively The Prime Minister of the Republic of Portugal, Mr
Anibal Cavaco Silva, and should be sent via:
The IFRAO Representative of Portugal
Dr Mila Simoes de Abreu
Av. D. Jos 1, n. 53
IFRAO members will be aware that this issue does not concern only the
rock art in one remote valley in Portugal: it affects all rock art in
the world. A defeat of the Portu-uese rock art vandals will have
profound effects elsewhere, and governments and technocrats in the
democratic countries of the world would take note of such an outcome.
Hence we will all benefit from a favourable outcome in Portugal, and we
have a moral obligation to stand up and be counted.
BAHN, P. G. 1995. Paleolithic engravings endangered in Coa valley,
Portugal. La Pintura 21(3): 1-3.
BEDNARIK, R. G. 1994. The Hell's Canyon petroglyphs in Portugal. Rock
Art Research 11: 151-2.
BEDNARIK, R. G. 1995a. More news from Hell's Canyon, Portugal. AURA
Newsletter 12(1): 7-8.
BEDNARIK, R. G. 1995b. Only time will tell: a review of the methodology
of direct rock art dating. Archaeometry (in press).
CLOTTES, J. 1995. Paleolithic petroglyphs at Foz Coa, Portugal.
Inter-national Newsletter on Rock Art 10: 2.
SIMOES DE ABREU, M. 1995. Cronologia de um crime. Arte Rupestre March
1995, 3, 9.
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