New discoveries of the prehistoric rock art in northeastern Africa

Michał Kobusiewicz

Abstract


Studies of prehistoric rock art of Africa began at the early stage of the XX century. The Polish scientists joined this branch of research from 1981, first in Algeria, than in Egypt and in Sudan. In this paper two important centers of rock art investigated by Polish archaeologists are described. The first one lies in Dachla Oasis situated in the middle of the Western Desert of Egypt. Here the people of the so called Beshendi Culture of the Late Stone Age (ca 6000-3500 BC) left numerous petro glyphs representing human figures, giraffes, cattle and some wild fauna as well as the mysterious symbols. The second wave of rock art developed here during the V and VI dynasties of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt (2500-2170 BC). The second very rich concentration of rock art was lately discovered by Bir Nurayet in the Red Sea Mountains of the northeastern Sudan. Here, around the high, steep, lonely mountain called Gebel Magaardi thousands of petro glyphs were found and studied. They represent mainly cattle, men hunting with bows and dogs, women milking cows, camels, and number of African species of fauna like elephants, ostriches, gazelles and lions. Here also a deposit of small terracotta figurines of phallic shapes was discovered, dated by radiocarbon analysis to the V century A.D. The representations of the phallic Gebel Magaardi are incised on rocks always in some distance of panels with petro glyphs. All that indicates that here we have to do with an important center of fertility cult active many centuries, starting from at least 1500 years BC till the VIII century AD.

Keywords


prehistory; northeastern Africa; rock art; Egypt; Sudan; fertility cult

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