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Ancient shepherds were artists

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« on: October 04, 2007, 12:00:29 am »

Ancient shepherds were artists

"The creators of rock drawings in Dakhla were shepherds. They lived about 8 – 5,000 years ago” – said Prof. Michał Kobusiewicz from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, who is studying the relicts of human presence in Dakhla Oasis in Egypt. The oasis is located in the middle of the Western Desert. It is known among others due to numerous rock engravings – depicting women, giraffes and elephants. Full of life in ancient times, today the dry valleys of the river (“wadi” in Arabic) are a witness of the past, and are the subject of interest to researchers.

What do we know about the authors of these ancient engravings? Archaeologists have located numerous settlements from the Stone Age located in the area of water sources, which were numerous at the time. “These are concentrations of stone and flint articles, fragments of pottery, quern stones used to grind plant food, bones from farm or hunted animals. Sometimes there are also traces of primitive dwellings in the shape of stone circles, which are the basis of huts or tents covered with skins” – the professor explains.

Prof. Kobusiewicz, besides research on the settlements is also taking part in recording the rock art.  One of the wadi, named by archaeologists “Coloured Wadi” is studied by the professor. “The Wadi is over a dozen kilometres long. Rock engravings, largely in groups, though sometimes alone, are located on its sandy slopes. Last season, the picture and photographic documentation was continued and previously found engravings were copied onto foils” – the archaeologist explained.

“Continuing research, new, unknown engraving concentrations were found, including one so-called panel, i.e. a long surface covered in numerous depictions of humans and animals” – he added.

The shepherds in Dakhli created their art in the Stone Age. “Judging by the type of depictions, this art can be dated to the New Stone Age (Neolithic) in the period between 8,000 and 5,000 years ago” – said Prof. Kobusiewicz. As the researcher says “a closer dating of rock art is always extremely difficult. Maybe there will be a breakthrough in the possibilities of dating thanks to a planned collaboration between specialists from one of the Australian universities specialising in this field and applying physics and chemistry research methods”.

Studying rock art in Dakhla Oasis is run thanks to the collaboration of three institutions: the Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at Warsaw University, the Museum of Archaeology in Poznań and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences. In the coming season – winter 2008, registration of the engravings will be continued and searches for further wadi will take place.

PAP - Nauka w Polsce, Adam Lisiecki, tr.ajfb

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