Excavation in the Rock-Shelters at Jhiri
The IGNCA had undertaken an integrated project in collaboration with the CNRS, Paris, under the programme Adi Drsya. This project was intended to conduct authentic documentation of the rock-paintings at Jhiri by means of latest techniques and supported by trial excavation of the rock-shelters to link the rock paintings with the archaeological context and probable chronology.
Trial excavations were conducted at Jhiri, District Raisen (M.P.) from 9th December 1993 to 19th January 1994. Habitational deposits in four out of twenty two rock-shelters were revealed. The basal deposit consisted of abundance of microlithic tools, charred bones and tiny granules of pigments. Mesolithic levels was followed by the chalcolithic deposit consisting of red slipped thick ware, a copper object, hopscotches and tiny fragments of animal bones. Microlithics continued to occur in this period also but their number was limited. In one of the rock-shelters a rectangular structure made out of dressed stones was exposed. In two of the shelters fireplaces belonging to Mesolithic levels were surrounded with flattened stone slabs, probably used by the Mesolithic folks for sitting and roasting the hunted animals and collecting tubers.
From the top, ist level two uninscribed cast-chopper coins datable to 3rd-4th century B.C. were recovered. From this level also few pieces of microliths were recovered.
From none of the shelters that were subjected to digging, early or middle stone-age tools were recovered. In one of the shelters a grinding stone with deep depression and marks of red ochre was noticed lying just over the bedrock.
The sequence obtained at Jhiri indicates that the shelters were occupied right from the mesolithic to historical period an din some cases even up to recent times. The most interesting point was that the rock-shelter facing south was used as a factory site for preparing microlithic tools. In the shelter the deposit right from the top yielded scores of finished and unfinished tools along with the nodules of raw material and waste flakes. The tool assemblage mostly comprised of points, blades, awls, borers, triangles, trapeze, lunates, etc. with points and blades predominating. The raw material used consisted of fine grained quartizitic nodules are available in and around the shelters in the form of intrusions in the sand-stone formations.
The evidence indicates that during mesolithic age and even later there was plenty of water and game in the area which attracted early man to settle in these shelters. Even to-day one of the shelters at Jhiri is considered to be sacred and on auspicious occasions people from the nearby areas visit the shelter and make offerings. They believe that in the remote past these shelters provided shelter to their forefathers. Traditions die hard! This could also be noticed in the paintings on the walls and roofs of the shelters Jhiri and nearby tribal wattle and daub houses.
A. K. Sharma