The most amazing supportive links to emerge from predynastic Egypt come from findings made in 2004 by Dirk Huyge. In El Hosh in Egypt Huyge found rock art showing bovines executed in a `Franco-Cantabrian, Lascaux-like style' and dated them by the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry C-14 method to between 10,000 and 8,000 BC! Here we are looking at evidence of the continuity of the bovine cult from Lascaux in Egypt during the Mesolithic, where Huyge found representations of bulls in the Lascaux style in Egyptian rock art dated to the late Palaeolithic/early Mesolithic! An article "Lascaux on the Nile" published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM and including some good images of the bovines, in fact short-horned aurochs, can be seen at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/849/he1.htm. It reads:
BEGIN QUOTE Egypt: There is "little doubt" the engravings are 15,000-years-old, Huyge said. They depict a now extinct species of wild cow whose horns have been recovered from Paleolithic settlements nearby.
The drawings would be examined for lichens and organic grime called "varnish rind" that could be carbon dated or subjected to another process known as uranium series dating, Huyge added. Because the rocks are inorganic, they cannot be dated directly using these methods.
In the meantime, the finding has raised a big question: How were people in Western Europe and southern Egypt producing almost identical artwork at the same time? (Note by Ian Onvlee: the author has the now outdated dating model of Lascaux in mind, which gives the impression that the painters at Lascaux were active at the same time. Huyge had no knowledge of the more recent dating, in which Lascaux turns out to have already been abandonded by the early artists by this time, as they apparently had moved south to greener areas).
While the caves at Lascaux are best known for their painted images of bulls and cows, that artwork is actually outnumbered by stone engravings. And the Lascaux engravings are virtually identical to those in Qurta, Huyge pointed out.
"I'm not suggesting that the art in the caves of Lascaux was made by Egyptians or that [European] people were in Egypt," he said. "The art is so similar that it reflects a similar mentality, a similar stage of development," he added. "When people are confronted with similar conditions, this will automatically lead to a similar kind of thinking, a similar creativity." (Note Ian Onvlee: This explanation is apologetic. It has no historical value. The obvious conclusion must be, of course, that we do have here the same religious school/tribe of artists who had abandoned Lascaux and moved South into the Atlas and from there into Egypt).
Now the archaeologists are on the hunt for additional—and potentially older—artwork. "The rock art must be part of an evolution," Huyge said. "There must be older art in Egypt, if we can find it. I think open-air sites like Qurta will be found all over North Africa."
None of the animals represented shows any evidence for domestication. There is little doubt that the bovids represented (Figures 3-6) should be identified as Bos primigenius or aurochs (wild cattle). In general, they seem to be rather short-horned, but there is archaeozoological evidence available (moreover from Late Pleistocene faunal materials collected in the Kom Ombo Plain) that the Egyptian race of Bos primigenius bore relatively smaller horns than the European but was otherwise of about the same size (see Churcher 1972).
Age of the Qurta rock art: The Qurta rock art is quite unlike any rock art known elsewhere in Egypt. It is substantially different from the ubiquitous `classical' Predynastic rock art of the fourth millennium BC, known from hundreds of sites throughout the Nile Valley and the adjacent Eastern and Western deserts. The only true parallel thus far known is the rock art previously discovered (in 2004) at Abu Tanqura Bahari (ATB11) at el-Hosh, about 10km more to the north and on the opposite bank of the river.
In 1962-1963, the above-mentioned Canadian Prehistoric Expedition working in the area (the purpose of which was to salvage as much as possible of the prehistoric archaeological remains in the areas around Kom Ombo which were being prepared at that time for cultivation for the Nubians displaced as a result of the construction of the High Dam at Aswan) discovered and excavated several Late Palaeolithic settlements in the vicinity of the rock art sites. The most important of these is GS-III, situated at a distance of only 150 to 200m from the Qurta I rock art site. At this Palaeolithic site fragments of sandstone were found on which linear grooves had been incised; in one case they formed several deep parallel grooves (Smith 1985). This at least proves that the Late Palaeolithic inhabitants of the Kom Ombo Plain practised the technique of incising sandstone. The GS-III site and similar sites found by the Canadian Prehistoric Expedition and other missions in the Kom Ombo Plain in the early 1960s are currently attributed to the Ballanan-Silsilian culture (see Vermeersch 1992). Other occurrences of this culture are known from Wadi Halfa in Sudanese Nubia and from the vicinity of Esna (E71-K20) and Nag Hammadi (Arab el-Sahaba). The Ballanan-Silsilian culture is dated to about 16 000 to 15 000 years ago (BP). Climatologically this corresponds to the end of an hyper-arid period, preceding a return of the rains and the `Wild Nile' stage of about 14 000-13 000 BP.
The fauna of these Ballanan-Silsilian and other Late Palaeolithic sites in the Kom Ombo Plain (Churcher 1972) suggests a culture of hunters and fishermen with a mixed subsistence economy oriented to both stream and desert for food resources. It is essentially characterised by the following elements: aurochs (Bos primigenius), hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), some species of gazelle (especially Gazella dorcas), hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), wading and diving birds (including numerous goose and duck species) and some fish species (especially Clarias or catfish). With the exception of hartebeest, this faunal inventory perfectly matches the animal repertory of the Qurta rock art sites. Both in the Late Palaeolithic faunal assemblages and in the rock art large `Ethiopian' faunal elements, such as elephant, giraffe, and rhinoceros, are conspicuously absent.
Although the Canadian Prehistoric Expedition initially hinted on several occasions at the high antiquity of the rock art at Qurta (see Smith 1964; 1965), it has, in our opinion, ultimately failed to assess the true importance of its finds. In an article in Scientific American, P.E.L. Smith (1976) stated: 'Interesting scenes of wild animals, including cattle and hippopotamus, are engraved on the cliffs near our Gebel Silsila sites, but no one can prove they were the work of a late Palaeolithic group.' And still later, in 1985, he assumed: '… that the Gebel Silsila art […] is of Holocene age like most or all of the art known to date in northern Africa' (Smith 1985). In our opinion, because of the various particularities outlined above, the rock art of Qurta reflects a true Palaeolithic mentality, quite closely comparable to what governs European Palaeolithic art. We accordingly propose an attribution of this Qurta rock art to the Late Pleistocene Ballanan-Silsilian culture or a Late Palaeolithic culture of similar nature and age. In this respect, it can hardly be coincidental that the comparable site of Abu Tanqura Bahari 11 at el-Hosh is also situated at close distance (only at about 500m) from a Late Palaeolithic site that, mainly on the basis of its stratigraphical position immediately below the `Wild Nile' silts, must be of roughly similar age as the Ballanan-Silsilian industry of the Kom Ombo Plain. There remains, in our opinion, therefore little doubt that the rock art of Qurta must be about 15000 years old. Direct ages for this rock art are not yet available, but analyses are under way to explore its potential for AMS 14C dating of organics in the varnish rind and/or U-series dating.
References: CHURCHER, C.S. 1972. Late Pleistocene Vertebrates from Archaeological Sites in the Plain of Kom Ombo, Upper Egypt. (Life Sciences Contribution 82). Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum. HUYGE, D., A. WATCHMAN, M. DE DAPPER & E. MARCHI. 2001. Dating Egypt's oldest `art': AMS 14C age determinations of rock varnishes covering petroglyphs at El-Hosh (Upper Egypt). Antiquity 75: 68-72. HUYGE, D. 2005. The fish hunters of El-Hosh: rock art research and archaeological investigations in Upper Egypt (1998-2004). Bulletin des Séances de l'Academie Royale des Sciences d'Outre-Mer 51: 231-49. SMITH, P.E.L. 1964. Expedition to Kom Ombo. Archaeology 17: 209-10. - 1965. The Aswan Dam, salvage archaeology and Canada. Canadian Geographical Journal 70: 88-97. - 1976. Stone age man on the Nile. Scientific American 235: 30-38. - 1985. An enigmatic frieze from Upper Egypt: a problem in Nilotic rock art, in M. Liverani, A. Palmieri & R. Peroni (ed.) Studi di paletnologia in onore di Salvatore M. Puglisi: 359-68. Roma: Università di Roma 'La Sapienza'. VERMEERSCH, P.M. 1992. The Upper and Late Palaeolithic of Northern and Eastern Africa, in F. Klees & R. Kuper (ed.) New Light on the Northeast African Past. Current Prehistoric Research. (Africa Praehistorica 5): 99-153. Köln: Heinrich-Barth-Institut. Authors Dirk Huyge (corresponding author), Wouter Claes, Anne Lebrun-Nélis, Isabelle Therasse Royal Museums of Art and History, Jubelpark 10, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium (Email: email@example.com) Maxime Aubert Geochemistry, Geochronology and Archaeology, Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia Hans Barnard Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, c/o PO Box 951510, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA John Coleman Darnell Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University, PO Box 208236, New Haven, CT 06520-8236, USA Morgan De Dapper Department of Geography, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S8), B-9000 Ghent, Belgium Elyssa Figari Marin Museum of the American Indian, 2200 Novato Boulevard/PO Box 864, Novato, CA 94948, USA Salima Ikram The American University in Cairo, Department of Egyptology, 113 Sharia Qasr el-Aini/POBox 2511, Cairo 11511, Egypt
Figure (). Some of the rock art aurochs from "Lascaux on the Nile". END QUOTE
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