Rock-shelter paintings of Bhimbetka world-heritage site near Bhopal, India have been investigated using a portable Raman spectrometer. These paintings in the rock shelters belong to periods starting from pre-historic to the 19th century AD (Gond period). In addition, tiny fragments of pigments (100–200 µm in size) extracted from some of the artworks were also studied in laboratory using a micro-Raman spectrometer and analyzed using energy-dispersive X-ray analysis for elemental composition. Based on the Raman spectra and the elemental analysis mineral-based pigments such as calcite, gypsum, hematite, whewellite, and goethite could be identified. A comparison of the spectra recorded on-site using a light-weight portable spectrometer with those using laboratory equipment is also made and discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.