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Journal Articles Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies Year : 2020

Large-sized camel depictions in western Arabia

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Rock art is undoubtedly one of the most impressive testimonies left by the ancient inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula over the course of several millennia. While the study of this rich heritage is still in its early stages, the present paper would like to draw attention to the existence of a remarkable and almost unknown artistic phenomenon attested in the western part of the Peninsula, which consists of large-sized representations of camels (Camelus dromedarius), arguably the most ‘characteristic’ animal species of Arabia. Life-size, and sometimes larger-than-life, carvings of camels have been reported across a large area that stretches from the Najrān area in southern Saudi Arabia northwards to Petra, in southern Jordan. Although they might share a common cultural substratum, these different figures clearly do not form a homogeneous group. At least six different regional rock art traditions can be identified. The present paper provides a first characterization of their stylistic features, chronological setting, and the technical skills involved, and also considers the epigraphic inscriptions which occasionally accompany large-sized camel engravings. In addition, we explore the cultural and environmental background of the communities and individuals that created them and examine this monumental rock art theme over the longue durée.
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Dates and versions

hal-03116210 , version 1 (20-01-2021)


  • HAL Id : hal-03116210 , version 1


Guillaume Charloux, Maria Guagnin, Jérôme Norris. Large-sized camel depictions in western Arabia: a characterization across time and space. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 2020, 50, pp.85-108. ⟨hal-03116210⟩
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