Tamil Nadu

Foote and the ‘Madras Stone Axe Factory’

The documentary on Robert Bruce Foote involved detailed research by the film-maker  

British geologist and archaeologist Robert Bruce Foote (1834-1912), who discovered the Palaeolithic hand-axes from Pallavaram here in May 1863, actually went around the Indian Peninsula with his colleague William King only to discover similar chipped stones in various places. “And they fondly referred to the collection as ‘Madras Stone Axe Factory’,” says film maker Ramesh Yanthra.

A documentary on the life and contributions of the ‘Father of Indian Prehistory’ made by Mr. Yanthra, released on Tuesday, retraces the footsteps of Foote in various parts of the State and in Andhra Pradesh.

“Foote has recorded his findings not only in the Geological Survey of India Memoirs but also in the Madras Journal for Literature and Science. When they spotted several stone axes in and around the then Madras area, Foote referred to them as Madras Stone Axe Factory,” says Mr. Yanthra.

The 25-long minute documentary ‘Robert Bruce Foote – The Father of Indian Prehistory’ has taken utmost effort with detailed research and extensive travel over three years to trace his travels with help from several well-wishers and friends.

“Facebook too helped me! It was through Facebook, I was able to find what happened to Foote’s Ivy Cottage,” says the full-time film maker.

Stayed at Ivy Cottage

Known as Ivy Cottage in 1870, where Foote resided in Yercaud was eventually called ‘Waterfalls’ in 1950 and the structure is now Mornese Retreat, says Mr. Yanthra. He also got a small video clipping from Foote’s great grandson Jonathan Foote from United Kingdom.

Setting foot in India as a field worker with the Geological Survey of India at the age of 24 years, Foote served the GSI for 33 years. A few years after his arrival in India amidst fears of ‘jungle fever’ which dreaded many and forced them to shy away from being a geologist, Foote discovered the Palaeolithic hand-axes at Pallavaram on May 30, 1863.

Along with his colleague William King, Foote travelled about 53,000 sq.km. in search of items from the past millenniums.

Belum Caves – one of the longest underground caves in the Indian subcontinent and noted Gudiyam Caves of Tiruvallur district were among the caves discovered by Foote.

A total of 452 sites and 4,135 prehistoric antiquities were discovered by him, according to the documentary.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 7:55:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/foote-and-the-madras-stone-axe-factory/article19404854.ece

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