For tourists, historians and anthropologists Edakkal caves, situated in Ambukuttimala in Wayanad district, have been an endless source of excitement.
The republication of an article on Edakkal caves written by F. Fred Fawcett, a former Superintendent of Police who served British government in Kozhikode, comes as a welcome addition to the small body of literature on what is considered by scholars to be a glorious tribute to the greatness of human civilisation.
Fawcett's article has been republished by Shreyas, a non-governmental organisation in Wayanad, with an illuminating introduction by K.K.N. Kurup, historian and a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calicut.
Authentic information about the cave, which continues to attract tourists and academics even from distant places, is difficult to access. What the local guide can give you is only a sketchy knowledge about its history and importance.
It was Fred Fawcett who first discovered its anthropological and historical importance. Fawcett, like many other officers of the British government posted in India, had a keen interest in places and structures that had strong links with the culture and history of indigenous people and took time of his official duties to write about them.
The rock engravings in Edakkal were noticed by scholars only after Fawcett wrote about them and these were published in the journal `Indian Antiquary,' which dealt with research-oriented articles.
Fawcett came across Edakkal cave by accident. He had gone to Wayanad on an invitation from Colin MacKinzie, a planter who wanted him to join him on a hunting expedition
The planter showed him rock engraving in a cave and some very old implements which were found in his estate in 1890.
Fawcett, it seemed, was quick to understand these were "pre-historic". On his next visit to the cave in 1894 and in 1895 he was able to throw more light on the importance of the cave and the drawings found there.
His article, written in collaboration with R.C. Temple, Colin MacKinzie, Hultzsch and Bruce Foote was first published in `Indian Antiquary' in October 1901. This has been republished by Shreyas, in a slick compact volume with photographs that enhances its appeal to readers. `The rock carvings in Edakkal cave' represents an earnest effort to disseminate authentic information about the pre-historic rock shelter in Wayanad, Dr Kurup rightly points out in his introduction.