Stone Age Rock Shelters: Gudiyam Caves documentary film in Cannes
Rocks on a roll -gudiyam caves
CHENNAI:Ramesh Yanthra and V. Vasantha Kumar’s documentary Gudiyam Caves: Stone Age Rock Shelters of South India takes you on a fascinating journey into the prehistoric rock shelters
Paleolithic caves hidden away in the hills 70km from Chennai? Well, who would have known? A handful of archaeologists, geologists, and forest officials apparently. And a former student of Government of Fine Arts College, who was so fascinated by the caves he stumbled across on a trekking holiday that he decided to make a 33-minute documentary about them. It was screened at the Cannes Festival this May.(GUDIYAM DOCUMENTARY FILM – ROCKS ON A ROLL)
“The caves are in the Gudiyam village, in the Thiruvallur district near Poondi reservoir, and I came across them three years ago,” says Ramesh Yanthra and vasanth, who filmed the self-funded documentary last year. (DOCUMENTARY MAKES IT TO CANNES)“I saw a signboard in the village which said that this was a site of Paleolithic people and I was so intrigued that I visited the caves,” adds Yanthra, who showed the documentary to a select audience on Saturday at the Tagore Film Centre (NFDC preview theatre).
Geologists in the city say the Gudiyam caves were originally discovered in 1863 by British geologist Robert Bruce Foote, who documented the existence of this prehistoric habitat in the Geological Survey of India (GSI). Subsequent digs by Archaeological Survey of India experts a century later uncovered tools made of stones used in the Paleolithic Era, more than two million years ago.
Recent research by archaeology professor Shanthi Pappu in Attirambakkam, a village near this site, has revealed that the tools collected here are nearly 15 lakh years old, and suggests that Attirambakkam may be the oldest prehistoric habitat found in India.
According to Kumaraguru Parthasarathy, former director of GSI who was also part of a team that studied the site, the rock implements found there were proven to be from the pre-historic era. “We can tell by the amount of quartzite at the site that the area was used by pre-historic man as a workshop to build his tools,” he says.
He adds that the site now belongs to the forest department and unfortunately no one has understood the tourist potential of such a site. “The area needs to be declared a national monument or heritage site. Imagine, it is the site of pre-historic man, one of the few such sites in India. And we are letting people from the nearby areas ruin it,” he says. Kumaraguru adds that, according to Foote’s data, there are 15 more caves like this in the area but since the geologist never recorded the geographical coordinates, they still have not been found. Instead, the caves that have been discovered are now being concretised, and strewn with garbage.
“We have such a beautiful historical site in India but it has literally been taken over by the villagers. You will now find the area polluted because the villagers conduct sacrifices and poojas here. The last time I visited the site I even saw that a big temple was being built there,” says Ramesh Yanthra and vasanth.
For details about the documentary, visit www.gudiyamcaves.in