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He leaves his foote-prints on south stone age 

Express News Service

BALLARI: British Civil Engineer William Fraser, who was on an assignment in 1870 on the outskirts of Ballari, near Kapgal, came across some strange rock drawings on a hillock. He informed his colleague, a geologist Robert Bruce Foote. Foote did not take much time to realize that it was a prehistoric site — a site which could rewrite the history of Ballari. That site was Sanganakallu, a Neolithic site, which throws light on the evidence of early man in Ballari — a major tourist attraction today. This was just the beginning of a Stone Age study not just in Karnataka, but in the entire Madras Presidency.

Regarded as the Father of India’s Pre-history, Foote was in India to make a geological study of Ballari. Foote surveyed Sangankallu hilltop and the surrounding area that had evidence of stone art and heaps of stone-age implements. He discovered scattered waste products of stone-axe-making activity, surface of spread of stone beads and three ash mounds at the base of the large hill (Hiregudda).

He was convinced that this was a large axe-making site. Later on, he also came across Daroji neolithic site and the Kudatini and Toranagallu ash mound, which is now under the protection of KPCL (considering its archeological value), on Ballari-Hospet highway near Kudatini.

“He discovered more than 450 archaeological sites across south India, including northern Karnataka, the whole of Madras Presidency. Of these, 42 were Palaeolithic sites, 252 neolithic and the rest Iron Age sites,” informs Professor Ravi Korisettar, a senior archaeologist and former Professor, Karnataka University, Dharwad.

As part of his findings, Foote collected thousands of stone implements and other rare specimens from the sites across  South India. “The major part of his collection is housed in the Madras Government Museum. The two volumes, published by the Government of Madras, contain Foote’s understanding of India’s prehistory. Foote published 21 comprehensive geological reports of several parts of the erstwhile Madras Presidency which are referred to as ‘Memoirs of the Geological Survey’,” says Prof Korisettar.

Foote lived in Ballari in 1870 for some time, but he left the town after his daughter– his fourth child, Violet Anne was born. His wife Elizabeth Ann Percival died on June 30, 1870 in Madras. Foote returned  to Ballari after 1880 to continue his geological studies. Though there were several theories regarding the places he lived when he was in Ballari, the house he lived in was traced recently by Prof Korisettar.

“Initially, I had thought the name Brucepet in Ballari was named after him, but it was named after a judge. After checking a few British bungalows in Mincheri on the outskirts of Ballari, I tried to find out from his Will in London during my visit in 1996 but in vain,” he says.

But Prof Korisettar’s  colleague  Shanthi Pappu managed to help him. “She was able to trace the house through Foote’s descendents adjacent to Daroji lake near Old Daroji village between Kudatini and Kamalapur,” he says.As a tribute to Foote, the pre-historic museum in Ballari is named after him. This museum not only throws light on the discoveries made by Foote, but also the later findings inspired by him. It also aims at educating young minds about human evolution.

HOUSE TOURISM
The house of Robert Bruce Foote, discovered by the archaeologists, will now be developed into a tourist place. It adjoins a 150-year-old lake which has never dried up so far. It might be a cluster  comprising the Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Hampi and Sanganakkal.  The house will be developed as a museum and the lake itself will be a weekend getaway for people of Ballari.

FOOTE’s MANY FIRSTS

Discovered a Palaeolith of Pallavaram on May 30, 1863

Was the first to tie up ash mounds with the Neolithic culture and assert that these were heaps of burned cow dung

First to recognize the archaeological potential of  Teris (coastal red sand dunes) in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu

First to excavate Pillasurgam limestone cave in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh 
and document Pleistocene animal fauna

First to map the gold bearing rocks of South India

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