Life-Sized Neolithic Reliefs of Camels and Equids. The Camel Ste Archaeological Project. - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
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Life-Sized Neolithic Reliefs of Camels and Equids. The Camel Ste Archaeological Project.

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The Camel Site, near Sakaka, is a monumental and enigmatic rock art site in northern Arabia with 20 life-sized reliefs of camels and equids. The carvings are unparalleled in the region, making an assessment of their age difficult. Moreover, erosion is advanced, and many reliefs have lost their entire surface, preserving only the three-dimensional shape of the body of the animals. Where surface areas remain, naturalistic details such as nostrils, eyes, muscles and tendons provide some insight into the skill and craftsmanship that went into their production. All reliefs were exclusively carved with stone tools and radiocarbon dates obtained during archaeological excavations suggest that site was in use in the Neolithic period. This age assessment has also been confirmed by portable Xray fluorescence spectrometry of the rock varnish. Luminescence dating suggests that the first panels began to fall by 1000 BCE. The camel carvings reference the mating season and it is possible that the site served as a seasonal meeting place. The reliefs at the Camel Site can be linked to a wider tradition of life-sized naturalistic engravings of Camels that has recently been documented across northern Saudi Arabia. Although two dimensional, these depictions share the symbolism, naturalism and detail visible at the Camel Site, and give important insight into the context of the site. Remarkably, the documentation of near-identical panels, produced and re-worked in a near-identical pattern but located hundreds of kilometres apart also provides the first direct evidence that individual engravers repeatedly crossed the Nafud desert to create these monumental representations. The presence of a small number of equid reliefs may also be linked to a (Pre-?) Neolithic tradition of depicting wild equids in the rock art. Evidence for possible on-site processing and cooking of equids suggest that the symbology of equids, and perhaps camels, likely extended beyond their depiction in the reliefs. The advanced state of erosion at the Camel Site now requires further investigations into the weathering and erosion processes that affect the site to identify strategies for their conservation.
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hal-03926099 , version 1 (06-01-2023)


  • HAL Id : hal-03926099 , version 1


Guillaume Charloux, Maria Guagnin, Abdullah M Alsharekh. Life-Sized Neolithic Reliefs of Camels and Equids. The Camel Ste Archaeological Project.: Introductory lecture. Camel Carving Site and Its Cultural Significance from a World Perspective, Heritage Commission of the Saudi Ministry of Culture, Sep 2022, Sakaka, Jouf, Saudi Arabia. ⟨hal-03926099⟩
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