ROCK ART PETROGLYPHS IN CAMEROON, AFRICA
The Rock Engravings of Bidzar
Photos Text by Richard Oslisly
DISCOVERY & SITUATION
The rock engravings of Bidzar were discovered by the french researcher Buisson in 1933. Other researchers were Jauze (1944), J.P. Nicholas (1951), E. Mveng (1965). In 1970 A. Marliac rediscovered the site and carried out some further studies, A. Marliac (1982). Bidzar is a small village near Guidar, situated on the Maroua-Garoua road in the north of Cameroon. The field of marble extends in the west of the road for about 2.5km long and 1km wide. The total length of these engravings have long been considered by some researchers as natural. A great quantity of marble was destroyed because of the industrial exploitation.
The material on which the engravings were carved is the calcareous marble (cipolin) from which the presence of schist (rock), rich in chlorites, modified its whitish colour producing hues of green, yellow, blue or pink. This marble seems to have been chosen voluntarily because its resistance to engraving is very low, whereas the neighbouring rocks such as granite are too hard and the micaschist too soft. The engravings could only have been done with iron tools; the first layer of the marble is easily removed giving way to the whitish and most resistant part of the rock.
Marble block with cupules
TECHNIQUES OF THE ENGRAVING
The engravers knew the usable material beside the neighbouring and less favourable rocks. In most of the cases, the engravers of Bidzar used a direct thrown percussion i.e. The hammering of a hammer placed on the engraved surface. The mark by staking is observable on the engravings; the engravers seem to have chosen the surfaces having no cracks or holes.
The disposition of the engravings on the paving stones seems to be linked either to the spread of the available surfaces (at times the surfaces are empty, at times full) or to the choice of the engraver. The engraver probably began the design at the greatest circular part, especially in the case of complicated figures. Then later added the internal figures and the external parts. It also worth noting the presence of huge figures occupying the whole paving stone, although nothing appears in these figures, the possibility of internal designs remained.
engravings could only have been done with iron tools; the first layer of the marble is easily removed giving way to the whitish and most resistant part of the rock.
Concentric circles and cupules
Cupules and circular marks
Representation in form of petals
Association of circular marks
DEGRADATION AND DESTRUCTION OF ENGRAVINGS
Two types of degradations can lead to the wearing away of the engravings: Natural destruction caused by erosion (water flow) and the degradation of the marble (cracks) by climatic agents. Human degradation, The field of marble at Bidzar has been long visited by men and animals, which has led to an increase in the deterioration of the marble. One can also note the piling up of stones and freshly made holes during cultivation periods.
To resolve these problems an enclosure was constructed around the most important fields of marble. The policy of preservation needed to be put in place, as the paints and coatings that may have been used on the engraving were being erased over time due to climate and erosion.
DATING OF BIDZAR ROCK ENGRAVINGS
It is difficult to give an exact date to these engravings, but studies have shown that they could not go beyond the early Iron Age (2500-1500 BP).
INTERPRETATION OF THE ENGRAVINGS
The Bidzar engravings clearly have a meaning, but their interpretation is subjective. Moreover the local population have no concept of their meaning.
→ Africa Rock Art Archive
→ Bradshaw Foundation
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