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

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH OF ROCK ART AT DABOUS

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Dr Jean Clottes
Dr Jean Clottes
Is a world-renown archaeologist and rock art authority, whose research interests include not only matters of archaeological context and dating but also problems of epistemology and meaning
After the moulding of the big giraffes had been successfully carried out in 1999, I suggested that we should complete the recording of the engravings in the Dabous ensemble, because they provided their context. In 1999, I had done the map of the Dabous sandstone outcrop, with the help of my wife Renee. Working in two teams (David Coulson and Alec Campbell on one hand, Renee and myself on the other) we had then also recorded 430 engravings and filled as many descriptive forms. We reckoned - 1999 - that the Dabous could number about 600 petroglyphs in all.
 
The project of finishing the work was accepted (and eventually entirely funded) by the Bradshaw Foundation. As David Coulson and Alec Campbell could not come back and it was out of the question that Renee and I should do the work alone, I asked Yanik Le Guillou and Valerie Feruglio to accompany us to Dabous in January 2000 to complete the recording. Both are seasoned researchers who have long been part of my research team and in particular of the team I am in charge of at Chauvet.
 
To read the results of our research can be read on the following pages.
Jean Clottes
Foix, 14 March 2000
 

THE WORK DONE AT DABOUS ROCK ART SITE

 
Gazelle rock art africa
Gazelle
There had been a big change since the year before, because two guards (Azoum and Kantu) had settled there (Kantu with his wife and two kids) and a well had been dug between Dabous and the road, as had been planned after our 1999 expedition. The well, decided and funded by TARA, attracted Tuaregs from all around with their camels, sheep and goats, and the place was more alive than it had ever been. The routine we fell into was getting up at first daylight (slightly before7) when we were awakened by the bleating of the goats, then having breakfast and setting off for the rocks just after 8. Work until 12. Lunch and rest until 3.30. Work again at Dabous until night (6.30). Dinner around 7.30. Then, we all congregated around the fire with the Tuaregs, under the stars, and chatted, listened to Ibrahim playing his home-made pipe, or played sand games. Valerie also started to teach our cook, Adam, how to read and write.
 
During our stay, we took the opportunity to visit and photograph a few rock art sites: Kori Elailei that we had very briefly seen in 1999 and which we saw this year in detail , and two new sites very close to Dabous that the Tuaregs had found. Ekarkaoui of Dabous (about 1 mile to the east), Tasamakat in the Kori Agatra (about 10 miles to the south east). In both, we saw big giraffes and the same type of engravings as at Dabous. During the last week, Damon and Sandra de Laszlo joined us and we went to the Tenere. On the way, we saw two more rock art sites (Kori Tedek and Tizirzeit).
 
Our first task was to check our descriptive forms with the map. We had brought several xeroxes of our topography at various scales. This checking was done by Yanik and it enabled us fairly quickly to know exactly which part of the site had been recorded and what remained to do. In so doing many faint petroglyphs which had escaped us last year were noticed and pinpointed, so that the number to be recorded soon proved to be substantially higher than we had surmised.
 
Then, we systematically worked on one rock after the other until all the visible petroglyphs had been recorded. The rocks were all given more or less fancy names (it is easier to remember where « Rider » or « 2nd Giraffes » are than B14 or some such number!). We also artificially divided the site into five parts (north, south, east, west, center or top). In order to avoid mistakes, we sketched the subject recorded in it on each descriptive form. We were careful to devote one form to each individual drawing.
 
After a panel or a rock face had thus been recorded we would sketch the whole panel itself in order to put all the animals or humans in relation to one another. During the last week, Valerie checked those sketches to make it easier for her to redraw them properly later in Paris. With her I also rechecked the map of the site and she systematically added shading to give relief to the rocks.
 
In addition, she traced a number of petroglyphs with the help of various people including some of our Tuareg friends whom she started teaching how to do a tracing. All this was completed by a photographic coverage of all the rocks that could be photographed.
 
Back home, Valerie worked on redrawing the map and the sketches (sometimes with the help of the slides taken), while Yanik put all the collected information into a database and worked out the first results and their graphic transcription.
 
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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