Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rock Art in Sudan and Somalia

Alice C. Linsley

Rock art is found in many parts of Africa. In Somalia there are magnificent painting in the Lass Geel Complex. The Laas Geel region once was a watering ground for herds and caravans. The complex is located near a confluence of two dry rivers, which explains why this place is called Laas Geel, meaning "water source for camels."  There are spectacular paintings scattered among ten rock alcoves that have been dated between 3500 and 2500 BC.  

Ancient rock art of Somalia

Somalia is at the extreme southern end of what was once a well-watered area that included the Nile Valley. It may have been part of ancient Nubia. Between 5000 and 10,000 years ago Somalia and Sudan were much wetter and there were sedentary populations that relied on water systems for their grazing cattle and for fishing.

The oldest known cemetery in the Sahara (about 7500 B.C.) reveals "The burial density, tool kit, ceramics, and midden fauna suggest a largely sedentary population with a subsistence economy based on fishing and on hunting of a range of savanna vertebrates." The discovery was made by National Geographic photographer Mike Hettwer in 2000.

Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger had rivers and lakes that connected to major water systems that are identifiable today, such as the Nile, the Niger, the Benue and Lake Chad.  The 8000 year old Dufuna boat, a fishing dugout, was found buried in the Sahara. This is the region in which Noah lived and experienced catastrophic flooding.

Fish was consumed in the Middle Paleolithic period. The Khormusan sites of ancient Nubia date to between 65,000 and 55,000 and "contain an abundance of fish remains as well as numerous bones of wild cattle, gazelle and hartebeest." The Khormusan industires have affinities with the Sangoan-Lupemban of central and west Africa. This entire region was biblical Kush.

Notice the discrepancy between what has already been established about fishing in this part of Africa and Karberg's theory. Here is part of a report from Live Science on the 3000 B.C. rock art, carved about 900 years before Abraham.

Another, even more mysterious, set of rock art appears to be at least 5,000 years old and shows a mix of geometric designs.

The "oldest rock art we found are the spiral motifs," said Karberg, which, as their name suggests, twist up in a way that is hard to interpret. Similar drawings have been found in the Sahara Desert.

They were created at a time when Africa was a wetter place, with grasslands and savannah dominating Sudan; people were moving to a lifestyle based on animal husbandry and, in some instances, farming.

Understanding what these drawings mean is difficult. Some researchers connect the "spiral motifs to some astronomical or astrological forms," Karberg said, but he thinks it might have more to do with math. "The regularity of the spiral might be one of the earliest mathematical ideas the people developed."

A second set of geometric drawings, probably a bit younger than the spirals, is "hard to describe," Karberg said. They consist of "amorphous patterns which are not circular. ... It looks like an irregular-shaped net," Karberg said.

There is no evidence that people were fishing in this area 5,000 years ago, ruling out fishing nets. One possibility is that these irregular "nets" may actually be animal hides. Similar drawings found in Uganda were identified as showing the hide of a crocodile or some other animal, Karberg said.

I wonder if the geometric patterns are similar to those found on these 60,000 year ostrich eggshells? Here is a sample of 270 engraved eggshells that were mostly excavated at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa.

Related reading:  Noah's HomelandAfrica in the Days of Noah; 70,000 Year Old Settlement Found in Sudan; El Castillo Rock Art in Perspective; Sudan is Archaeologically Rich

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