Camelids are definitely in the spotlight! After the discovery of the oldest representation of Bactrian camel painted 8000 years ago on the walls of a cave in Central Asia, it is the figure of the largest camel – sometimes called camel of Arabia (Camelus dromedarius) – found in Saudi Arabia among a group of camelids and horses cut into the rock. This is the only representation of this kind according to the team of French and Saudi archaeologists from the Saudi National Heritage Commission at the origin of this work, as reported in an article in the journal Antiquity *.
The discovery took place in northwestern Arabia in Jawf Province, already known for its petroglyph concentrations. Long remained inaccessible to scientists, it reveals little by little its unsuspected treasures as a few months ago, these mysterious ground structures spotted by aerial overflights. This time it took good eyes to experts to discern the dozen works carved in bas-reliefs, tone on tone, in three pink sandstone spurs of the famous desert of Arabia. The site has also been named „Camel Site“ (the site of the Camel).
„The relative rarity of these ancient rocky reliefs has been a major obstacle to understanding the development, function and socio-cultural context of such rock art,“ explains Guillaume Charloux, Sciences et Avenir, from the Laboratoire Orient-Méditérannée (CNRS). , responsible for these new investigations. The analysis and the stylistic comparison of these works suggest a distinct Arab tradition, which may have its origin in Nabataean and Parthian influences „. Either those of the ancient civilization of merchants and caravaneers from neighboring Jordan (IVth BC – 1st AD), founders of the famous city of Petra (Jordan) or the site of Madâin Sâlih (Arabia), or the imposing Persian power (4th century BC – 4th century AD), whose extension reached the shores of the Arabian peninsula.
This isolated and seemingly uninhabitable site would have attracted sculptors around the Christian era, the first centuries before and after J.C. For what reasons? What could these testimonies have served? „Maybe it was geographical markers or places of veneration,“ say the researchers. A new field of investigation opens for the study of rock art in the Arabian Peninsula.