Some shoot out of the soft rock like reptiles bathing in the sun. Others are mysterious depressions resembling an ancient board game played all over the world. And a few are straight-up puzzling.
On a desolate and windswept corner of Qatar’s northeastern coast, among the sand dunes of the barren desert, lies Al Jassasiya, the Gulf country’s largest and most important rock art site.
Here, people centuries ago used a series of low-lying limestone outcrops as a canvas on which they carved symbols, motifs and objects that they observed in their environment.
Overall, archaeologists have found a total of some 900 rock carvings, or “petroglyphs,” at Al Jassasiya. They are mostly enigmatic cup marks arranged in various patterns, including rows and rosettes, but also eye-catching representations of sailing ships, usually seen from above but also depicted in linear profile, among other symbols and signs.
“Although rock art is common in the Arabian Peninsula, some of the carvings in Al Jassasiya are unique and cannot be found anywhere else,” Ferhan Sakal, head of excavation and site management at Qatar Museums, told CNN, referring to the petroglyphs of ships seen from a bird’s-eye view.
“These carvings represent a high degree of creativity and observation skills [on the part of] the artists who made them,” he said.
A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as “carving”, “engraving”, or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images. Petroglyphs are found worldwide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples. The word comes from the Greek prefix petro-, from πέτρα petra meaning “stone”, and γλύφω glýphō meaning “carve”, and was originally coined in French as pétroglyphe.
Another form of petroglyph, normally found in literate cultures, a rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture carved on “living rock” such as a cliff, rather than a detached piece of stone. While these relief carvings are a category of rock art, sometimes found in conjunction with rock-cut architecture, they tend to be omitted in most works on rock art, which concentrate on engravings and paintings by prehistoric or nonliterate cultures. Some of these reliefs exploit the rock’s natural properties to define an image. Rock reliefs have been made in many cultures, especially in the ancient Near East. Rock reliefs are generally fairly large, as they need to be to make an impact in the open air. Most have figures that are larger than life-size. /WIKIPEDIA/