PRESERVING THE WORLD'S LARGEST ROCK ART PETROGLYPH CARVING IN NIGER

RESULTS OF THE ROCK ART STUDY AT DABOUS

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We recorded in all 828 figures, i.e. nearly as many as what we had done in 1999 (430 in 1999). Out of them, 46 remained unidentified because of their bad preservation. In addition to 17 tiffinars (Tuareg script), we numbered 704 animals and 61 human figures. Not all the animals could be determined as to their species : 159 were just indeterminate animals (we strongly suspect that most of them are bovids).
 
Out of the 545 identified animals, bovids are clearly dominant (253, i.e. 46%). They are followed by a group of three species, each with about the same number of representations : ostriches (88, i.e. 16%), antelopes and gazelles (we have lumped them in one group, because only the length of their horns enables a determination and it is easy to mistake one for the other : 87, i.e. 16%) and giraffes (80, i.e. 16%). However, giraffes are by far the biggest of all the representations, not only those that were moulded but several others in various parts of the site; this means they were given a special importance irrespective of their numbers. Seven other species barely reach 7% all together (12 camels or rather dromedaries, 11 dogs, 6 rhinos, 3 equids (horses or donkeys), 2 monkeys, 2 elephants, 1 lion).
 
The distribution of each species on the map does not reveal obvious concentrations of this or that species on a particular spot nor the avoidance of others. The various animals are fairly evenly distributed all over the site, except perhaps that giraffes are fewer on the north side where there are no camels.
 
However, the maps obviously put into relief something which had struck us when we were there. The south side and the east side are the ones with the most engravings (65% of the total). When a traveller comes from the east it is true that the east side is very impressive as it is the place where the boulders are higher. Coming from the west one would have two options : to follow the river in which case one would follow the north side, or to walk more inland - as we do nowadays - and then one would come to the south side.
 
We have also noticed that a few particular boulders had been chosen again and again. Out of 81 rocks with petroglyphs, 4 of them (5% of the rocks engraved) bear 268 engravings i.e. 38% of the whole. Those four are Big Cow (115), Second Giraffe (59), Big Giraffes (50), Lion (44). All those big rocks are in the south-east corner of the site.
 
Dabous had been studied previously by a French researcher, Christian Dupuy, who published a sketchy map of the site and mentioned 266 engravings. His estimate was that there could be around 300 in all (1988, p.305). It was then extremely interesting to compare his results with ours. Unfortunately, in his articles he did not give the exact number of animals per species. I then got in touch with him and he agreed to send me his unpublished material so that we can make use of it later in our scientific study.
 
However, he did publish a couple of results : - the percentage of humans in relation to animals, which he found to be 11% ; - the percentage of domestic animals (bovids, horses and donkeys, camels, dogs) in relation to all identified animals which was 52%. Our own results, based on quite a bit more than twice the number of engravings, closely parallel his for humans (8%) and are identical for the domestic species (297/545 =51%).
 
As to the percentages of animals per species, Dupuy found 50% of bovids (against our 46%), 14% of giraffes (against our 16%), 10% of ostriches (against our 16%) and 9% of gazelles/antelopes (against our 16%). Other animals barely reach 6% (against our 7%).
 
This means that an in-depth study of the site, such as ours, broadly gives the same results as a more superficial one as far as the relations of humans to animals and of domesticated to wild species are concerned. As to the relations of the various species to one another, significant differences only appear as regards the gazelles/antelopes and the ostriches, more numerous than had been thought as first. However, on the whole, Dupuy's results tally with us. This is of great importance from a methodological point of view (the study of the Air mountains) and also because it reveals a commonality of beliefs and practices during what has been called the Bovidian period/culture, a few thousand years ago.
 
Go to page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |

The Dabous Rock Art Petroglyph
The Origin of the Prehistoric Rock Art Artists
The Giraffe Motif
The Preservation & Protection of the Carving
The Foundry and Returning the Cast to Agadez
World Monuments Watch
Scientific research page | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |
The Africa Rock Art Archive


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