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Author Topic: AFRICAN ROCK ART  (Read 6290 times)
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« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2009, 12:33:54 pm »


Though McKenna popularised the paintings, what he wrote was largely in line with what Lhote had pondered himself. He was convinced that this art was inspired by magic and that it stemmed from religious beliefs. He also made comparison to the artists who painted inside the French caves, whereby studies published decades after Lhote’s death, such as those by David Lewis-Williams, have highlighted their shamanic context.

Other researchers, notably Wim Zitman, have identified an astronomic connotation to the various figures. He specifically focuses his attention on the so-called “swimmer”, depicted at Ti-n-Tazarift, and argues that this is in fact the depiction of a constellation. He also argues for a connection between the rock paintings of the Tassili and the origin of the Egyptian civilisation, wondering whether the shamans of the Tassili might not have been the “Followers of Horus” that have been the subject of so much speculation in the past decade by the likes of Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock. Rather than from the mythical Atlantis, might they have come from a region southeast of the Atlas mountains, i.e. the Tassili ?

Lhote himself identified an Egyptian dimension, though he was at pains to draw a clear outline how Egypt would slot into the Tassili rock paintings.

He published in his book two paintings which had an unmistakable ancient Egyptian character. Furthermore, they were “out of place art” and did not fit in with the other paintings that he had found. His discovery caused commotion in scholarly circles, as it seemed irrefutable proof of contact between the Tassili and Ancient Egypt. The question was how. Eventually, it emerged that the paintings were done by one member of Lhote’s team, who played a successful prank on Lhote. The pictures were reproduced up to the early 1970s in editions of his book, before being removed from successive reprints. Today, the paintings have been discretely erased from Jabbaren and Aurenghet, and the Touareg guides shake their head if the photos are shown, having never seen them. Of course, some will argue that this is part of an archaeological cover-up, whereby one member of his team was forced to lie, whereby the establishment later removed the paintings from the cliffs to remove this “Egyptian connection”.

“If at one stage Egyptian (and maybe also Mycenaean) influence can be observed, the most archaic of the Tassili pictures belong to a school unknown up to now and one that apparently was of local origin”, Lhote concluded. There were largely two forms of rock paintings, distinguishable by the location in which they were found. Some were found in rock shelters, such as at Aouanrhet. These sites were where the shaman performed his divination, as the face of a rock was often seen as a doorway to another dimension (another parallel with the paintings in the French caves). Though one could interpret their location as the work of a nomadic people, Lhote’s team also found several urban settlements. He found small concentrations of human activity around Tan-Zoumiatak in the Tin Abou Teka massif. It was a little rocky citadel that dominated the gorge below. The citadel was cut through with a number of narrow alleys. Lhote described the art he found here as : “There were life-size figures painted in red ochre, archers with muscular arms and legs, enormous ‘cats’, many scenes with cattle, war-chariots and so forth. Up to this time I had never seen figures of this sort in the Tassili and the mass of paintings that I managed to view that day quite put into the shade all those I had seen up to then.”

It was a highlight so far, but more impressive sites were to follow. At Jabbaren, he found a city with alleys, cross-roads and squares. The walls were covered with hundreds of paintings. Jabbaren is a Tuareg word meaning “giants” and the name refers to the paintings found inside the city, some of which depict human figures that are indeed gigantic in size. One of them measured up to eighteen feet high. Several of these paintings depicted “Martians” and for Lhote, it was the first time he discovered paintings of hundreds of oxen. Jabbaren was soon labelled one of the oldest sites of the Tassili. Ti-n-Tazarift was another city.

Its centre was marked by a huge amphitheatre with a diameter of more than five hundred yards. It had an immense public square with houses grouped around it. Given off from it were avenues, streets, passages and even blind alleys. The city stretched for a mile and a quarter. It were once again the hollows at the base of the rocks that revealed a variety and multitude of paintings, including more paintings of “Martians”, or round-headed people.

The true highlight, however, was Sefar. Little is written about the city. Lhote does not provide many details, except a map, showing its extent, as well as the presence of several streets and avenues, tumuli, tombs and something that he calls the “esplanade of the Great Fishing God”. Lhote named the character as he seemed to be carrying fish. But a closer inspection of the photograph that successive expeditions have taken, suggests what Zitman had always felt could be the truth : rather than a “fishing god”, was this character not depicted in a pose that the ancient Egyptians knew as “smiting the enemy” ? It was a pose that was used by the Pharaohs to display their mastery over the forces of chaos.

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