Rock Art.

A rock art file that I thought I had lost, have the B&W version here on my blog; also a B&W negative. I knew I had a colour version somewhere and here it is.  🙂  Also its location was not marked on my map, fortunately there was a map reference with the file.

There is a lot going on in this image, at least three different periods, the very early ones being very faint. The disc has been redone twice and as a pair each time, makes me think it could be a tribal sign like Wusum (used by Bedouin for camel identification) and not as thought previously, that it represented the sun.
There are two or even three very faint anthropomorphic images, along with one horse with rider and above it possibly a camel with rider.

Pictographs – Dhofar.

All images have been colour shifted to try & enhance the art for viewing – several being very faint and smudged through weathering & age. As can be seen, these pictographs are a form of rock art that is totally different from that found in northern Oman. It portrays images of the camel interspersed with horses and their rider: there are clusters of dots & lines seen as well; the significance of these is not known, although it has been suggested by some, probably notational.
Domesticated by humans in southern Arabia, the Camel seems to have arrived around 3,000 BCE and following a 2010 discovery of artefacts dated between 6590 and 7250 BCE in south-western Saudi Arabia, which appeared to portray horses, they arrived much earlier.
The age of this art is not really known but probably first or second millennium BCE.
This is only a small representation of the art found in Dhofar: it would need more time than I had available for a comprehensive presentation.

Newly discovered rock art in Wadi Tanuf.

Newly discovered rock art in Wadi Tanuf.

Rock Art TanufThe above image gives some idea of the erosion these images suffer – this has lost a large portion of the rock due to weather damage over many hundreds of years.

The images below have been colour shifted so that the subject is more defined. The first two from a rock about a third of the way in and the last three near where the wadi branches in two directions.

Several other rock faces have images but they were very faint and will need technical image manipulation.

Rock Art Tanuf No1The above triangular clothed Anthromorph is almost a mirror image of one found on a rock in a wadi near Nakhal, about 50km away as the crow flies: I wonder if it was made by the same person?

Rock Art Tanuf No2

Rock Art Tanuf No3

Rock Art Tanuf No4

Rock Art Tanuf No5

A video of Rock Art research in Saudi Arabia.

The YouTube video below is rather long but if anyone has an interest in the subject, it is well worth watching. I have also included a link to the site that is mentioned in the video: for those that maybe missed my last mention of it, please look as it is one of the best and most informative sites I have ever seen.

Another point worth mentioning is: why would I include a topic that refers to Saudi Arabian rock art when I am in Oman?

Because they have come to realise its importance and that it is very much part of the regions cultural heritage.  Not to mention that from an educational point of view, they are willing to spend money promoting the subject and most importantly, make it easily available for anyone to see for free. Oman seems to make it an academic subject and so information is not widely published  outside learned journals – one needs to search for it.



here is the link to the site mentioned:

Deserts in Oman.

One of the reasons I find the deserts here in Oman so fascinating is the amount of archaeological sites that can be found, usually helped by word of mouth from the Bedouin. Standing next to a bed of flint that has been left by its workers a few thousand years ago. Rock art that has only recently come to the attention of those interested in such things. Stone artefacts that defy any description of their purpose.

The Rub al khali (the largest sand desert in the world) along with the Ramlat al-Wahiba are so vast that no one has been able to fully explore even a small area. One of the nice things about Google Maps is the ability to sit in comfort and slowly search for unusual surface indications or as in Saudi Arabia; major stone structures.

Load-up the Landrover, usually find someone as crazy and go look!

So being able to get a copy of this book, has kept me out of mischief for days…………..


From the Back Cover:

The contemporary deserts of Arabia form some of the most dramatic arid landscapes in the world; yet, during many times in the past, the region was well-watered, containing evidence for rivers and lakes. Climatic fluctuations through time must have had a profound effect on human population that lived and passed through the region. In this book, paleoenvironmental specialists, archaeologists and geneticists are brought together to provide a comprehensive account of the evolution of human populations in Arabia. A wide range of topics are explored in this book, including environmental change and its impact on human populations, the movement and dispersal of populations through the region, and the origin and spread of food producing economies. New theories and interpretations are presented which provide new insights into the evolution of human populations in a key region of the world.

Explore the rock art of Saudi Arabia: Web Site.

A Saudi Arabia Rock Art information site that I have just been given:

This is an amazingly detailed and informative web-site for anyone interested in rock art and a must see.

Their introduction page says it all.

This Web site is designed to give scientists and the public an opportunity to explore rock art in the remote landscape of Saudi Arabia. Take a tour and learn about the ancient people who carved the petroglyphs and the animals they hunted and herded. We have chosen some exciting imaging techniques to best depict this dramatic art. Some of our Web pages are interactive, allowing you to zoom in on specific figures or navigate around an image (GigaPans), or change the lighting on an image to see more (PTMs).

If you look then I hope you have an hour or two spare…. 🙂

Early indication of the Arabian Horse in Oman.


Arabian-Horse-Rock-ArtOn the above image: note the horse lower left with the classic characteristic of the tail being held high.

From Wikipedia:

Arabians are one of the oldest human-developed horse breeds in the world. The progenitor stock, the Oriental subtype or “Proto-Arabian” was a horse with oriental characteristics similar to the modern Arabian. Horses with these features appeared in rock paintings and inscriptions in the Arabian Peninsula as far back as 2500 BC. In ancient history throughout the Ancient Near East, horses with refined heads and high-carried tails were depicted in artwork, particularly that of Ancient Egypt in the 16th century BC.

Rock Art.


The above image shows what is almost certainly a Wusum found at a number of rock art sites and camping places: it gave the tribe a method of transmitting information about land and animal ownership.

The other interesting feature about the above depiction is the very obvious sign of someone’s attempt at adding their bit to an early image. (In many it is not so obvious and therein shows some of the difficulties ageing this art)


Another difficulty with these images is age, they can be very faint and so extreme side lighting is often required – for that read a ‘early start in the morning’ one thing I am not  good at……..!

Todays Walk.

Today has seen a wind blowing in from the desert with temperatures reaching 360c that’s a change of 16 degrees in a week!

A good walk though; because the gorge I was in gets quite narrow in places,  the sun does not reach right in until around midday so keeping the heat lower.

Lots of rock art and pottery shards, eventually reaching the abandoned habitation that I was heading for.

This looks like herding cattle?

Looks like ‘antlers’? So I do not have a clue!

I think these are symbols for the sun not ‘Wusum’ or tribal markings.

This one is well endowed!……

The broken cowrie shell – used in some cultures as currency, but in this case was probably a decorative item. Still, quite unusual so far from the sea. All found at the abandoned site in the next two images.

Rock Art at As Suwayh.

Update to the above:

I have been doing a little research on the inscription and with the help of Omani friends and colleagues; we have a fair translation. Please correct me if I have got the translation totally wrong (I don’t think I have but who knows) 3rd of Dhu AlHijjah 1237 H is 23/08/1822 G.

 “On Thursday the 3rd of Dhu AlHijjah 1237 Hijri the scholar father of Nabhan. Jaiid bin Khamis bin Mohammed bin (?) bin Zaid bin Mansour Al Kharoosi Al Abadhi Al Omani has died. Written by his son Khamis”

 But why it was inscribed high up on a rock in the dark entrance to a narrow wadi, we are not sure, it could be that this is where he died….?

 He was a very famous Omani scholar of the Ibadi religion.

Rock Art near Qabil Al BuSaid.


This site should come under  the Ministry of Heritage and Cultures  protection, but probably like the one at Hasat Bani Salt; a fence will be put up and the site promptly forgotten!


The following series of images are from a rock art site quite close to Qabil Al BuSaid in the Ash Sharqiyah Region.

A friend who lives in Al Mudaybi gave me directions to the area (also thanks to Google Earth which I used to pin-point probable rock outcrops) he said that there is some rock art that I might be interested in: how right he was….

This is the first site where I have seen ‘Finger Painted’ art outside the Salalah area.

I will have to do some more research, because so far I have not come across any reference in the literature that I have, which refers to finger painting, other than in Salalah.

Note the Red Ochre coloured finger painting; some of the images have become very faint with age.

The above image shows a number of ‘Wusum’ or tribal markings: Dr Majeed Khan, a leading authority on Arabian rock art, has produced a book on the subject that is available for download from these two links Wusum-The-Tribal-Symbols-of-Saudi-Arabia-Part-1 and Wusum-The-Tribal-Symbols-of-Saudi-Arabia-Part-2 a very interesting read.

This looks like a 1600’s Galleon, but why would someone peck it out on a rock so far inland?

I need to go back! I did not get the focus quite right on this one…… That will teach me; when working in B&W I always take at least 3 just in case I mess up. Trying to conserve materials is never a good idea.

Rock Art near Al Hamra.

I am not sure what is being depicted here: a table, box or enclosure?

I could spend  hours (I have) searching the rocks in the Al Hamra area, there is so much rock art: some of it very faded. A pity because it just will not photograph and I am reluctant to use chalk, which has been used on some that I have found.

I will just keep trying different methods to bring out the detail; all part of the fun…..

Camel riding & Rock Art.

Two things I find interesting about this image:

There is older art behind the legs of the Camel.

Several instances that I have seen depict the rider ‘standing’ on the camel’s back when riding. Not being familiar with the finer art of camel riding (I only got on one for the first time a few months back – they are not my favourite animal. Especially as one stole newly purchased fruit from my Landrover at Masirah; anyway Horses are far more comfortable to ride) A good excuse to educate myself on the development of camel riding.

Rock art research.

The Origin & Evolution of Ancient Arabian Scripts  – by Dr Majeed Khan.

This is a link to another ‘downloadable book’ on the subject of rock art research: this time with emphasis on Proto – Arabic script.

He puts forward the idea that rock art was a precursor of Arabic script, considered a somewhat polemic conclusion by some: but if the Arab Bedouin used rock art as an eventual form of communication, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that it could develop into a proto – Arabic script.

If you do not have a Facebook account (I certainly don’t – Life style!) it can still be read on line.

Books on Rock Art in Oman.

Two new books I am reading at the moment – both on Rock Art.

The Rock Art of Arabia Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, the Emirates and Yemen

By Muhammed Abdul Nayeem.

This one came from India at R2000.00 (Good price thanks Page, he got a friend to bring it back for me)

Introduction to Rock Art Research, Second Edition.

By David S. Whitley. – thank you for the link Freyja.

I knew that if I kept looking,  eventually I would find some.

Rock Art site near Al Wishal & llya.

The weather is not going to beat me! So an early morning start tomorrow in search of a possible Rock Art site. I mean early 0430 start.

A good friend has given me this location so with luck and some judgement (GPS & map) I should find it.

The site is near Al Wishal & llya.


3 1/2 Klicks  from the site and the road/track was blocked with no way round – very frustrating, but some times this  happens when looking for a new place. So another visit and boots on the ground this time if necessary.

If these sites were easy then everyone would know about them and where would the fun be then…….