The petroglyph rock art at Daraki-Chattan (hillock) near Bhanpura in the Mandsaur district, Madhya Pradesh, is the "world's oldest rock art" and is almost 2 to 5 lakh years' old, according to experts.
The successful expedition from November 2 to 23 this year for securing scientific dates for the world's earliest rock art was led by Rock Art Society of India Secretary General Professor Giriraj Kumar along with Australian scientist Robert G Bednarik.
Bednarik is the topmost rock art scientist in the world and convener of International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO), according to Kumar.
"As per our findings, this rock art at Daraki-Chattan in Bhanpur area of Mandsaur district is the world's oldest so far and is about 2-5 lakh years old," claimed Kumar, who is also Professor in Rock Art Science at Faculty of Arts in Dayalbagh Educational Institute, Agra.
"Some of the over 530 cupules on a wall in Daraki- Chattan cave were found during research in the area which began as early as 2002," he said.
"Besides we have also found hammer stones which were nearly 5 lakh years old during our research in the area," Kumar claimed.
Giving details about the project, he said, "The field work for the project has just been completed in Mandsaur region of Madhya Pradesh. Its purpose was to secure samples and data to establish the age of the petroglyph rock art at Daraki-Chattan, one of the two Indian sites that feature the oldest rock art known in the world."
"To succeed in this complex task, the project involves the participation of several researchers from India, Australia and Europe. It has been known for some years that this rock art, consisting of petroglyphs in a quartzite cave, is among the oldest ever found in the world, but so far the full age of this find has remained elusive to the scientists," he said.
Stressing the need to protect this ancient art form which is yet to be fully protected, Kumar has held discussions about the future of the region, that is very rich in early archaeological evidence, with Mandsaur Collector Swatantra Kumar Singh and MLA Chander Singh Sisodia.
A tourist centre is being established at Gandhisagar on river Chambal near the small town of Bhanpura.
Professor Kumar and Bednarik suggested that to attract international visitors, the tourist centre must have something that is unique to India, if not in the world.
The Bhanpura region is rich in rock art heritage and has palaeochannel of its own kind and the Daraki-Chattan, hence establishing a stone age museum at this location will become the centrepiece of the development.
"This museum, certainly unique in India, and in its proposed form unique in the world, would attract considerable international tourists to the region. The museum's key exhibit would be a precise replica of the cave with the ancient rock art, while the cave itself will never become accessible to the public. This is to protect this irreplaceable cultural heritage for all future," the two scientists suggested.
The project was supported by Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) and the Australia India Council, Canberra.