Very unusual rock art discovered in Egypt
Archaeologists have discovered a rock panel in the Kharga Oasis about 175 kilometres west of Luxor in Egypt, which is believed to contain the only known example of ‘spider’ rock art in Egypt and, it appears, the entire Old World.
While the date of the panel is still uncertain, it is thought to go back to prehistoric times, at least 4,000 BC or even earlier. The main panel shows what appear to be a few spiders, with a "star" that may depict a web, although that is open to interpretation. There are also comb-like drawings that Egyptologist Salima Ikram said could be insects being trapped by the spiders, plants or even silken tubes spun by the spiders. Whatever they are, Ikram has said the panel is “very unusual”.
Ikram has conducted research in order to determine why the people who once lived in the Kharga Oasis would have created rock art depicting spiders. She consulted with Hisham El-Hennawy, an arachnologist who mentioned spiders called Argiope lobata livie in the western desert, where the rock panel was found, and may have attracted the interest of ancient people. These spiders can be found "shaded and surviving, in the middle of their orb web under the burning sun at Noon," Ikram writes.
According to Ikram, the idea of spiders bathing in the sun may have held religious significance to ancient people in the area. Alternatively, the spiders may have been more prevalent in the oasis in the past and were therefore featured in the rock art, much like the way in which other indigenous cultures have depicted animals that are common to their region.
Of course, it cannot be ruled out that the spiders were drawn with “no special reason in mind”, or, that they are not spiders at all. Nevertheless, the unusual panel presents a mystery for Egyptologists to try to unravel and decode.