Dating Egypt's Oldest `Art': AMS [sup.14]C Age Determinations of Rock Varnishes Covering Petroglyphs at El-Hosh (Upper Egypt)

By Huyge, D.; Watchman, A. et al. | Antiquity, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Dating Egypt's Oldest `Art': AMS [sup.14]C Age Determinations of Rock Varnishes Covering Petroglyphs at El-Hosh (Upper Egypt)


Huyge, D., Watchman, A., De Dapper, M., Marchi, E., Antiquity


The occurrence of rock art in the vicinity of the village of El-Hosh, situated on the west bank of the Nile, about 30 km south of Edfu (FIGURE 1), had been known for over a century (Chester 1892), but until our 1998 mission the petroglyphs had not been properly documented. The rock art at El-Hosh includes a substantial number of archaic-looking, curvilinear designs, capped with mushroom-shaped protuberances, and associated in a number of cases with a wide range of abstract motifs, anthropomorphic figures and zoomorphs. Our aim was to establish the chronological and cultural-historical framework for these petroglyphs by sampling carbon-bearing substances in patina and rock varnish formed within them. That carbon could then be applied for direct dating using the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) [sup.14]C method (Tuniz & Watchman 1994; Watchman 2000). We describe here the main results of this procedure indicating that part of the rock art at El-Hosh pre-dates the early 7th millennium BP (mid 6th millennium cal BC). It is therefore well beyond the age of any other graphic activity recorded in the Nile Valley.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Curvilinear `fish trap' designs

The 1998 rock-art survey was conducted in a 6x2-km stretch along the Nile between the village of El-Hosh in the north and the mouth of the Wadi el-Shatt el-Rigal in the south. A multitude of rock-art sites was located containing several thousands of petroglyphs. Some of these had already been briefly explored in 1926 and 1937 by the VIII. Deutsche Inner-Afrikanische Forschungsexpedition (Cervicek 1974:37-9) and the Sir Robert Mond Desert Expedition respectively (Winkler 1938: 9; 1939: 5).

On the basis of its principal subject matter (boats, anthropomorphic figures and various species of animals), the bulk of the rock art at El-Hosh belongs to the late prehistoric (Predynastic) and early dynastic periods (~4000-2650 BC). Many of the themes represented can closely be related to the iconographical repertoire of the early Nilotic pastoral-agricultural civilizations. There are, however, a substantial number of intensively patinated, curvilinear designs, capped with mushroom-shaped or cordiform protuberances, that appear to date from another epoch. Three different sites with such archaic-looking designs were identified: Gebelet Jussef, Abu Tanqurah Bahari and Abu Tanqurah Kebli. These sites, large rocky exposures (isolated hills) of Early Cretaceous Nubian sandstone, are further subdivided in petroglyph localities and rock-art panels, often containing many engravings (FIGURE 2). Frequently appearing in small clusters, and on occasion as isolated figures (FIGURE 3), in a considerable number of cases these curvilinear designs are seemingly associated with a wide range of abstract and figurative motifs, including circles, ladder-shaped drawings, human figures, footprints and crocodiles.

[Figures 2-3 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The El-Hosh curvilinear designs may be representations of fish traps (Huyge 1998a; 1998b), as their outlines bear remarkable similarities to the ground plan of a universally known fish-trapping device, namely the labyrinth fish fence (Von Brandt 1984: 163-5). The general purpose of such a trap is to channel and barricade fish into a confined space (a catching chamber) where they can easily be speared, netted or simply collected by hand. Textual and iconographical evidence (from both classical authors and modern ethnographers) attests to the use of this kind of fishing gear in the Nile Valley and the Delta (Brewer & Friedman 1989: 31-2; Boulanger 1907: xlii-iii). Importantly, the remains of possible early examples of such traps, built of piled-up stone blocks, have been recovered in Lower Nubia (Myers 1958).

Remarkably, the El-Hosh rock art contains several examples of superimposition in which these `fish trap' designs are superimposed by `stylized', bushy-tailed giraffe drawings. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dating Egypt's Oldest `Art': AMS [sup.14]C Age Determinations of Rock Varnishes Covering Petroglyphs at El-Hosh (Upper Egypt)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.