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27 March 2001
The oldest Rock Art in the Nile Valley

An international team led by the Belgian Royal Museums of Art and History has been studying the petroglyphs of El-Hosh area of Upper Egypt since 1998. The rock art has been firmly dated - using the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry C-14 method - to at least 8,000 years old, making it the oldest artwork ever recorded in the Nile Valley.
      The petroglyphs in the vicinity of the village of El-Hosh, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Thebes, were 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 occasionally 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 expedition collected several dozen samples of the dark, patinated deposits from within petroglyphs and on the surrounding rock. Minute amounts of organic matter (namely, plant fiber) appeared to have been trapped within the surface patina. One of the samples gave a radiocarbon date of about 5,900 to 5,300 BCE This date 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 graphic activity known in the Nile Valley.

Source: Egypt Revealed ((2 March 2001)

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