Edakkal Caves are two natural caves at a remote location at Edakkal, 25 km from Kalpetta in the Wayanad district of Kerala in India’s Western Ghats. They lie 1,200 meters above sea level on Ambukutty Mala, beside an ancient trade route connecting the high mountains of Mysore to the ports of the Malabar coast. Inside the caves are pictorial writings believed to date to at least 6,000 BCE, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilisation or settlement in this region. The Stone Age carvings of Edakkal are rare and are the only known examples from south India.
These are not technically caves, but rather a cleft or rift approximately 96 feet (29 m) by 22 feet (6.7 m), a 30-foot-deep (9.1 m) fissure caused by a piece of rock splitting away from the main body. On one side of the cleft is a rock weighing several tonnes that cover the cleft to form the ‘roof’ of the cave. The carvings are of human and animal figures, tools used by humans and of symbols yet to be deciphered, suggesting the presence of a prehistoric settlement.
The petroglyphs inside the cave are at least three types. The oldest may date back to over 8,000 years. Evidence suggest that the Edakkal caves were inhabited several times at different points in history.
The caves were discovered by Fred Fawcett, a police official of the erstwhile Malabar state in 1890 who immediately recognised their anthropological and historical importance. He wrote an article about them, attracting the attention of scholars.