Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Pachmari Hills (ca. 9000–3000 b.c.)

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In the Satpura Range of Central India, the Pachmari Hills is a region rich with caves, gorges, rock shelters, and lush vegetation. Many of the sandstone rock shelters across this area have been decorated along the ceilings and walls with paintings depicting a wide range of subjects. The tradition of rock painting extends as far back as the Mesolithic (ca. 9000–3000 B.C.) into the early medieval historic period. Images of vegetation and animals indigenous to this region of South Asia are among the most commonly portrayed, indicating the importance of these resources to the earliest hunter-gatherer occupants of the shelters. Game animals such as bulls, bison, elephants, and wild boar are depicted along with images of lizards, fish, scorpions and birds, such as peacocks. Humans are typically represented as hunters using spears, sticks, and bows and arrows. Female human figures are only occasionally shown in the earliest paintings, though they appear more frequently in later images. The pigments used to create the paintings were derived from naturally occurring materials such as hematite, iron oxide, and kaolin. Variations in color were achieved by mixing the darker pigments with white kaolin (ground limestone). While the majority of paintings in the Pachmari Hills are from historic periods, the earliest Mesolithic depictions provide visually rich and compelling images of the natural environment and some aspects of Mesolithic life.


Laura Anne Tedesco
Department of Education, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Pachmari Hills in central India, site of prehistoric rock paintings.