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Rock art is a term used to denote artistic expressions on rock media such as bare surface of caves, rock shelters and boulders. They appear in several forms such as painting, etching, engraving, bruising etc. The early cave man was a nomadic hunter-gatherer, whose life was inextricably linked to his physical and natural environment. What he saw he reduced to painting in the caverns inhabited by him.

Rock art is a vital piece of evidence linking man with his creations left behind for posterity. Its study throws enormous light – as any archaeological excavation would – on the lifestyle of early man.

Tamil Nadu has a rich heritage and chequered history. Its ancestry dates back to the Paleolithic age. Archaeologically, it is one of the most interesting sites, considering the antiquity of monuments, richness of artifacts and the variety of its museums. In epigraphy, the state can proudly boast of having the largest number of inscriptions in the country. Its temple architecture, sculptures and bronzes are world-renowned. However, it was widely believed that the state had no rock art of any significance. But, this was till a few decades ago. In the late seventies, Prof. K.V. Raman chanced upon rock engravings in Mallapadi in Dharmapuri District, thereby flagging off the race for identifying new sites; and the effort has not been in vain. Till date, more than thirty sites along the Western and Eastern Ghats have been identified, many of them by officers of the State Department of Archaeology. This has conclusively proven the existence of cavemen who inhabited the rocky shelters of Tamil Nadu in megalithic period (Iron age). It has also established the State’s claim to be considered as one of the important regions for studying and interpreting rock art.

The rock art of TN displays great virtues of balance, appropriate use of colour, love of nature, and a keen understanding of the life and times of the inhabitants. Scenes of battlefield, travel, hunting, festivities and food habits are depicted with realism and sensitivity. All the images etched on rock surfaces clearly demonstrate their urge to express themselves in forms that are intelligible. They are the first - hesitant, but clear- attempts by early man to communicate in writing with members of his tribe as well as with neighbours. A study of the paintings throws enormous light on their thinking process, their every day concerns and their fight for survival in a difficult era. It also displays the artistic talent inborn in early man. Their study is at once fascinating and illuminating.