Bhimbetka, located in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, is famous for the Bhimbetka rock shelters, which are recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, as are the Ajanta caves in Aurangabad. These Bhimbetka caves have wall paintings that are used by historians to testify to human presence in India as far back as the Paleolithic Age. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Bhimbetka rock shelters had been inhabited by humans for more than 100,000 years, while some of the magnificent Bhimbetka paintings that line their walls date back more than 9,000 years. While Bhimbetka is thus one of the oldest surviving monuments to early human endeavor, Bhimbetka was only properly discovered after India's independence in 1957.

As with the murals at the Sun Temple and the complex of monuments at Khajuraho, the paintings in the Bhimbetka rock shelters are an important document that detail early human life. Scenes found in the Bhimbetka caves include hunting, childbirth, and communal dances. There's also a long list of tableaus that represent the animal kingdom of the time, with dogs, elephants, bison, deer, crocodiles, and tigers all present in one form or another. Inevitably, there's also a strong religious presence in the Bhimbetka paintings, and theological historians point to them as evidence of early rituals and rites. All of these paintings form a complex palimpsest, meaning paintings have been drawn over other paintings as generations have passed, providing archeologists and historians with even more material to assess the changing times.

Just as there are very old paintings dating back 9,000 years, so too are there comparatively recent paintings, which date from the Middle Ages. There are seven distinct time periods under which the paintings can be classified. The earliest works are those dating back to the Paleolithic age, which are mostly large drawings of animals such as bison and rhinoceroses. This is followed by the depiction of human figures and communal activities in the paintings from the Mesolithic age. The paintings from the Chacolithic age, meanwhile, show that these communities were in touch with nearby agricultural communities and were possibly engaged in a bartering system.

As ever with ancient artwork, the manufacturing process behind the colors that can be seen in the paintings is of great fascination to visitors and historians alike. The colors were probably made by grinding colored stones such as hematite (iron ore, which is red in color) and wood charcoal. Animal fat or green vegetable matter could also have been combined with other items to create the striking, albeit slightly faded, colors that we can now see on the temple walls. That the paintings have endured over the millennia is partly due to the nature of the rock which they use as their canvas. Oxygen in the rock is believed to have reacted with the paint to form a preserving compound; it has also helped that the Bhimbetka caves are, by nature, extremely shaded from the elements, and therefore the paintings have rarely been exposed to erosion.

For the incoming visitor, Bhimbetka is connected to both Delhi and Mumbai to the city of Bhopal through railways and roads. The site of Bhimbetka lies about 30 miles south of Bhopal, which also features an airport that has connections to India's major cities.

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