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Rock Art Discoveries in the Gobi Desert
2012 Jan 03

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John Hare, Founder, Wild Camel Protection Foundation.

In April/May 2011, on an expedition in the Taklamakan desert in the Xinjiang Province of China researching the habitat of the critically endangered wild camel, our team found interesting examples of rock art.



The Taklamakan is one of the largest deserts in the world and in addition is a desert harbouring a most formidable range of sand dunes. Yet in this desert there are found the remains of ancient cities which served the Middle Silk Road, some still buried beneath the sands. The key oases towns watered by rainfall from the mountains which ring the southern and eastern sides of the desert are Kashgar, Niya, Ruoquan (Charklich), Yarkand, and Khotan (Hetian). It was near Ruoquan (Charklich) we discovered the rock art.



The archeological treasures found in the Taklamakan's sand-buried ruins point to Tocharian , early Hellenistic, Indian, Tibetan, and Buddhist influences. Its treasures and dangers have been vividly described by explorers and archaeologists such as Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin. Mummies, some 4000 years old, have been found in the region. They show a wide range of peoples who have settled there. In the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese periodically extended their influence to the oases cities of the Taklamakan in order to control the important middle silk road which led from Dun Huang in the east to Kashgar in the west. The present population in these oases towns consist largely of Turkic Uyghur people, so with so many varied influences, the origin and date of this particular discovery of rock art is difficult to pinpoint.



The Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) has helped the Chinese establish a Nature Reserve to the east of the Taklamakan which, at 155,000 square kilometers is one of the largest nature reserves in the world. This reserve protects the critically endangered wild camel which numbers no more that 600 in China.

In Mongolia the WCPF has established the only wild camel breeding centre in the world. There are approximately 450 wild camels in Mongolia but they struggle hard against wolves and in particular miners as illegal mining has rapidly become a national pastime in Mongolia and unfortunately gold deposits have been found in the Mongolian wild camel reserve. While on an expedition in Mongolia in the 1990's we found a further example of rock art depicting a wild camel and a snow leopard. The rock on which they had been carved had fallen down from the side of a large mountain and the images seemed to have been carved at a considerable height.

The WCPF - a charitable foundation registered with the UK Charity Commissioners - is the only organisation in the world solely dedicated to protecting the critically endangered wild camel from extinction. This double-humped camel was recognised in 2008 as a NEW and totally SEPARATE species.

For the Wild Camel Protection Foundation website click here




For John Hare's website click here



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