El-Hosh en Qurta: De oudste Egyptische kunst op het spoor
History and Archaeology
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Since 1998, the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels have been conducting rock art research at two different locations in Upper Egypt: el-Hosh and Qurta. The rock art of the former location, besides including a large amount of ‘classical’ Predynastic images (4th millennium BC), is mainly characterized by strange curvilinear designs, which are often associated with other abstract and figurative motifs. Based on ethnographic parallels, little doubt remains that many of these designs represent fishtraps. Aspects of patination and weathering, and the fact that these images are often superimposed by Predynastic rock art, hint at an advanced age. The AMS-dating of organic material trapped in the rock varnish covering the drawings confirms this and yields a minimal date of 5900-5300 BC. The rock art itself may be several millennia older. It was probably done by small groups of hunter-gatherers that dwelled in the Nile Valley and the adjacent deserts. Possibly they congregated at el-Hosh on a seasonal basis, at the time of the inundation, to perform fishing activities, which may have been accompanied by ceremonies and rituals, including the creation of rock art. In 2004, a locality with a completely different type of rock art was found at el-Hosh. This rock art is characterized by images of bovids, executed in a very naturalistic style and closely comparable to European Ice Age art. Similar images had already been discovered in the area in the 1960s by a Canadian archaeological mission. The latter images, however, were never properly studied and published, and remained largely unknown to the scientific community. They were relocated by us in 2005 near the modern village of Qurta. Since then, about 185 individual images have been identified, most of which represent wild animals. Aurochs are predominant, but hippopotami, gazelle, hartebeest, birds and fish are also present. Moreover, there are also several highly stylized human figures with pronounced buttocks. On the basis of the intrinsic characteristics of the rock art (subject matter, technique and style), its patination and degree of weathering, as well as the archaeological and geomorphological context, an attribution to the Late Palaeolithic Period has been proposed. This has been confirmed by the dating of windblown sediments that covered some of the rock art panels. Using Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL), it has been determined that these sediments were deposited about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, thus confirming the Late Palaeolithic age of the rock art. This makes the Qurta petroglyphs the oldest found so far not only in Egypt, but in the whole of North Africa.
CitationHuyge, Dirk; Claes, Wouter (2012). El-Hosh en Qurta: De oudste Egyptische kunst op het spoor. (Bavay, Laurent; Bruwier, Marie-Cécile; Claes, Wouter; De Strooper, Ingrid, Ed.), Ceci n’est pas une pyramide… Een eeuw Belgisch archeologisch onderzoek in Egypte, 32-45, Peeters,