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Archaeologists have found 3,500-year-old rock art depicting bulls, donkeys and sheep in the Eastern Desert.

New Site is Found in an “Archaeological Oasis” of the Egyptian Eastern Desert

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered 3,500 year old rock art demonstrating the interaction of Eastern Desert and Nile Valley artistic styles. They believe that this and other finds at the site will provide some more insight on the pre-hieroglyphic period.

The Ministry of Antiquities described the site and discoveries on their Facebook page. They write that the Egyptian-American team found large flint working areas from different epochs, as well as three concentrations of rock art, burial tumuli, and Roman era ruins in the Bir Umm Tineidba area within the Elkab Desert. 

The rock art has been dated to the Predynastic and Protodynastic periods and the most fascinating of the finds comes from approximately 3300 BC. The images in that tableaux include a bull, a giraffe, an addax, a barbary sheep, and donkeys.

The Ministry of Antiquities statement describes the value of that find:

“At a time immediately before the invention of the hieroglyphic script, rock art such as this provides important clues to the religion and symbolic communication of Predynastic Egyptians. The large addax in particular deserves to be added to the artistic achievements of early Egypt.”

A large male addax. (Haytem93/CC BY SA 4.0)

A large male addax. (Haytem93/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

According to mission chief John Coleman Darnielen, the rock art also gives researchers more insight into the blending of artistic styles from the Eastern Desert and Nile Valley.

Moving on from the rock art, the burial tumuli found at the site have been dated to the Protodynastic Period, to the time of Dynasty 0. So far, the team has put forward the idea that the graves “appear to belong to desert dwellers with physical ties to both the Nile Valley and the Red Sea.”

Upon excavating one of the burials they found the remains of a woman who died when she was about 25-35 years old. They believe that the woman was likely a member of the elite class due to the grave goods included in her burial, such as a vessel, Red Sea shells, and carnelian beads. There are hopes that the excavations of other tumuli will help shed more light on the people who were buried at the desert site.

An example of a carnelian necklace with earrings from Dynasty 18-19, Egypt. (Mary Harrsch/CC BY NC SA 2.0)

An example of a carnelian necklace with earrings from Dynasty 18-19, Egypt. (Mary Harrsch/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 )

By combining the data from the burials with the information gleaned from the rock art, the Ministry of Antiquities believes there will be a significant increase in “understanding the integration of “marginal” groups into the early pharaonic culture and state.”

Finally, the Roman ruins have been called an “enigmatic” settlement. Initial analysis of ceramics found there suggest that the ruins come from a period between 400 and 600 AD. Dozens of Late Roman stone structures have been unearthed south of the previously mentioned rock art and burials.

The newly discovered archaeological site was found in what experts previously believed was an “archaeological oasis”. (Ministry of Antiquities)

The newly discovered archaeological site was found in what experts previously believed was an “archaeological oasis”. ( Ministry of Antiquities )

Overall, Dr. Ayman Ashmawy, Head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, explains that a “wealth of archaeological and epigraphic material” has been found at the site.

CTV News reports that Egyptian officials hope that archaeological discoveries such as the recently found rock art, burials, and flint working areas, will provide a boost to tourism after years of economic issues.

Top Image: Archaeologists have found 3,500-year-old rock art depicting bulls, donkeys and sheep in the Eastern Desert. Source: Ministry of Antiquities

By Alicia McDermott

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