Goa has been an inhabited area from time immemorial. The latest discovery to support this was made as recently as 1993 when the locals together with a team of archaeologists uncovered ancient rock carvings, which have been dated back to the Mesolithic period (about 10,000 years ago!)
These rock carvings are open to the public although they are submerged during the monsoon season, and casts of them have been placed in the Goa museum.
Although there are no specific timings to view these rock carvings it is of course advisable to visit in strong daylight so as to be able to fully appreciate their skill and beauty. It is also best not to visit during the rains, at which time these carvings are often submerged.
These carvings are located at Usgalimal village on the banks of the Kushavati river, in the Sanguem Taluka of South Goa.
They were discovered in 1993 by the villagers when they removed the silt on the banks of the Kushavati River, and have since been extensively studied and analysed by archaeologists. They are believed to have been created by people of the ’Kush’ tribe who once made their home in Goa. These carving have been dated back to around 8000 BC and are believed to have belonged to the upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic period, perhaps more commonly thought of as “the Stone Age”.
The carvings, unlike their counterparts in other areas of the world, have not been carved into softer rock formations, but rather into the hard and unyielding surface of the laterite rock, so common all over Goa. This makes them unique amongst the similar discoveries the world over.
The carvings are known as ‘Petroglyphs’, because they were created by chipping away the outer surface of the rock using a tool of some sort. They pre-date the rock paintings that have been previously discovered in other parts of India are very different from them.
The carvings were done on the stone ‘floor’ on the riverbanks. There are more than 100 carvings present in this 5000 sq. m. site and they depict various symbols and artwork. You will see animals, birds, dancing girls, mother, child, their footprints, peacocks, etc
Among the most speculated is the Triskelion which is a series of concentric circles often found and commonly associated with the Celtic peoples of Europe and the British Isles. However, the Indian version is centred around symbolically rendered cobra heads.
The scenes in the carvings depict various aspects of life in those times. There are wounded animals which are being hunted, notably the bison. There is a depiction of the peacock very cleverly rendered so as to make the most of the uneven surface of the rock. The dancing women and new born babies are suggestive of fertility rituals and a certain amount of religious cosmology.
There are also large hoof prints and human foot prints that have been carved into the rock.
There is a need for greater care to be taken of this unique and beautiful site. The carvings are a silent testimony to man’s ever-evolving consciousness and skill as well as imagination. Their exposure to the elements should not result in them disappearing altogether. Care must also be taken when viewing the carvings not to step on them and thus erase a part of history.
If you are in Goa during the monsoon, but still would like to view these finds, there is a life sized representation of the site in the museum in Panaji.