Northern Gilf Kebir rock art sites

In contrast to the prolific number of painted shelters around Wadi Sora, the rest of the northern Gilf Kebir has only a few scattered sites. This is particularly surprising in the case of the three large wadis with vegetation, where one would expect the same prehistoric environment as at Karkur Talh. The lack of sites and stone tools led Almásy to speculate that at that time the Gilf wadis were still raging mountain streams, with no living area along their banks. While Almásy was clearly mistaken, the relative lack of rock art in the Gilf wadis is still puzzling. Aside the single painting noted by Bagnold & Peel in Wadi Abd el Melik, all other sites are fairly crude engravings, apparently from a period preceding the paintings of Karkur Talh and Wadi Sora. As the lithic artifacts in the major wadis are generally similar to those around Wadi Sora and at Karkur Talh, there seems to be no ready explanation.

North-east Gilf Kebir

Only one site is known from the North-east edge of the Gilf. Inside a small wadi about 40 kilometres to the north of the mouth of Wadi Hamra, Giancarlo Negro & party discovered a small cave with engravings in 1991. (Published in Sahara 7 (1995))

Wadi Hamra

Three groups of sites are known in Wadi Hamra. All are engravings, in a fairly crude style, depicting wild fauna. Based on the style and state of weathering they seem to belong to the earliest phase of rock art in the region.

The sites first reported by Rhotert lie near the head of the valley. We have searched for them on a number of occasions, without any luck.

The second group, also difficult to find, lie on a low rock face on the east side of the valley in the middle section. They show engravings of wild fauna (many unidentifiable), including three figures that are almost certainly rhinoceros. This is unique in the eastern sahara, and also points towards a very early age for these engravings. They were discovered by Giancarlo Negro & party in 1991 (Sahara 7 (1995)).

The third group is at the end of a small side wadi not far from the previous group. They show engravings of wild fauna, mainly giraffes. They were discovered by Friedrich Berger & party in 1998 (Almogaren XXX (1999)).

Wadi Abd el Melik

All the known rock art sites lie in the middle section of the main eastern branch of the wadi. Despite a number of thorough surveys in the past couple of years, no sites were found in the lower course and the western branch.

A small cave with a number of faint painted cattle (in the Uweinat style) was discovered by Bagnold & Peel in 1938. The site is in the middle section of the east branch, on the eastern side. In 1999, not far, on the opposite bank, some crude engravings were discovered by Tarek el Mahdy and party.

In 2002 we failed to locate Peel's painted cave, but we found a new site farther north, along the east side, in a small shelter near a dry waterfall. The site contains engravings of giraffes, cattle and other unrecognisable animals, in a style very similar to that found by Giancarlo Negro along the eastern side of the Gilf.

North-west Gilf Kebir

Two sites with engravings were discovered by Aldo & Donatella Bocazzi near "Mushroom Rock" in 1986. (Published in Sahara 1 (1988))