|Publication Date||December 31, 2010|
Rock art in the vicinity of the village of El-Hosh, about 100 kilometer south of Thebes, was discovered more than a century ago. German explorer and ethnographer Hans Winkler surveyed the area in the 1930s and published a number of the drawings. These include bizarre-looking curvilinear designs, capped with mushroom-shaped protuberances. Frequently appearing in clusters, and on occasion as isolated figures, these curvilinear designs are often associated with abstract and figurative motifs, including circles, ladder-shaped drawings, human figures, footprints and crocodiles. The El-Hosh curvilinear designs may be representations of fish traps, as their outlines are similar to a ground plan for a fish-trapping device called a labyrinth fish fence. The first goal of the expedition in November 1998, with participants from Belgium, Australia, Egypt and Italy, was to properly record the rock art in drawings and photographs. In addition attempts have been made to obtain direct dates for the rock drawings. For that purpose several dozen of samples of the dark, patinated deposits from within petroglyphs and on the surrounding rock were collected. Minute amounts of organic matter (plant fibre fragments) appeared to have been trapped within the developing varnish. One of the samples, taken from a typical 'fish trap' design, gave an Accelerator Mass Spectrometry C-14 date of about 5,900 to 5,300 BC. This date, the first of its kind for African rock art, provides a minimum-age estimate for the petroglyphs. It is estimated that the curvilinear designs are between 13,000 and 8,000 years old, well beyond the age of any other artwork ever recorded in the Nile Valley. The rock art of El-Hosh testifies to a hitherto unknown cultural-artistic phase in the history of Egypt, evidently characterised by a rich and elaborate body of thought.