While we tend to look at bones and biological organisms to understand how far the human species dates back, one lesser known clue is in rock carvings.
Otherwise known as petroglyphs, they are images created by engravings or making incisions on rocks that are associated with prehistoric cultures.
Recently, there was great excitement when hundreds of these rock art carvings were discovered in the Ratnagiri and Rajapur area of the state of Maharashtra in western India.
One of the reasons there is such a buzz over these findings is the belief that they were created around 10,000 BC – the very dawn of civilisation.
This means the carvings could hold clues for archaeologists as to what humanity was like tens of thousands of years ago at the end of the last Ice Age.
Hidden beneath layers of soil and mud, the petroglyphs were unearthed to depict a variety of animals, birds, human figures and geometrical designs.
The team over at My India My Glory – a blog who pride themselves on ‘singing everything about India, from the ancient to the current period’ – have delved into the meaning behind some of the images, notably three which are sacred symbols of global importance.
Their first deep dive was into a carving that they believe represents The Winged Scarab – a scarab beetle with two feathered wings of a bird.
This beetle was very symbolic to ancient Egyptians as it represented rebirth and renewal; it was held in such high regard that the symbol even honours the dead on tomb paintings.
If the rock art is indeed the winged scarab, this could pose more questions than answers. In particular, why has a symbol so popular in Egypt been discovered in India?
It could be that the symbol’s origin does actually derive from India or that it reflects a Golden Age civilisation that perished during the Younger Dryas.
The My India My Glory blog explains: “The Younger Dryas comet impact initiated a vicious cold snap, accompanied by fires, floods, and black rain, which brought about the extinction of a large number of North American megafauna [large mammals] and a prehistoric culture.
“In 9703 BCE, the cold snap ended as abruptly as it had started. The sudden transition out of the Ice Age to a warm interglacial climate may have precipitated a global flood of mythic proportions, which is recounted in the flood legends of many ancient cultures.”
A second likeness on one of the petroglyphs discovered, is that of The Master of Animals.
The motif is an ancient art showing a human, thought to represent a hero of great strength, in-between two wild animals and is very widespread in the Near East and ancient Egypt.
Exploring why this image has been discovered on rocks over 3,000 miles away, it is believed its origin may not come from Egypt after all, but instead have emerged from ancient India.
Researcher Bibhu Dev Misra, author of the blog, queries: “How did such complex esoteric concepts and associated symbolic imagery appear at such an early age?
“This, surely, could not have been the work of primitive hunter-gatherers. One wonders who carved these remarkable petroglyphs, and for what purpose.”
In addition to The Winger Scarab and The Master of Animals, one of the carvings seems to show The Pisces Symbol.
Many of us will be familiar with Pisces as a water sign in the zodiac, symbolised by two fish swimming in opposite directions to represent the division between fantasy and reality.
The petroglyph appears to show a pair of fish swimming in opposing directions, connected by a chord to keep them together.
Again, this aligns with Egyptian rather than Indian history, as the earliest representation of the Pisces sign appears on an Egyptian coffin lid from around 2300 BCE.
The blog states: “It is believed that knowledge of the zodiac signs and astrological predictions began sometime during the Bronze Age in Mesopotamia [western Asia].
“However, the discovery of this petroglyph changes all of that.
“It pushes back the date for the origin of astrological symbols to the period around 10,000 BCE or earlier and raises the possibility that our astrological knowledge is a legacy of a lost civilization that flourished during the Ice Age.”
To add further mystery, one of the petroglyphs appears to resemble a kangaroo – an animal widely known to be indigenous to Australia, and nowhere else.
Does this mean that the kangaroo actually originated or existed in India thousands of years ago, or that Indian natives had contact with the Aboriginal people of Australia?
Only time will tell as archaeologists continue to hunt for clues and discover how this ancient art connects civilisations across the globe.
One thing is for sure though, the history books may have to be rewritten as things may not be as we know them.