Where sources of fresh water for people and animals no longer exist, it is solely the rock art that remains. Processes of desertification from the mid-Holocene altered the local environmental context and patterns of human settlement in Saudi Arabia.
The ancestors of today’s Arab populations have left traces of their passages in numerous petroglyphs and inscriptions on the rock face, which depict numerous representations of human and animal figures covering some 10,000 years of history.
Generally, the rock art that can be attributed to the Neolithic period, between about 10,000 and 7,500 BP, features human figures which are closely associated with animals. This association may reflect domestication, for example with cattle and dogs. The scenes therefore depict the social and cultural activities of the early tribes. Carvings of hunting scenes may reflect magical practices that encouraged a bountiful hunt. There are also representations of footprints and handprints.
The rock art also conveyed religious and ritual beliefs and events; from groups of people dancing, to 'masked' mythological beings with a human body and an animal head. Moreover, depictions of 'goddesses' were carved, such as those found in the Najran area, with wide hips, hands raised and palms open. The carvings of goddesses reveals that the artists worked within strict guidelines, following the same theme, motif and style. Almost identical representations of the goddess 'Alia' have been found at nearly all the sites.
Some petroglyphs are accompanied by inscriptions. The inhabitants of Arabia continued to create rock art after the invention of writing. The Bedouin writing itself, also known as 'Thamudic' script, was rudimentary and referred to names of persons or tribes.
The beginning of the domestication of the camel went hand-in-hand with the sedentarization of communities and the development of tribes and clans. The rock art began to depict brands - locally called wusum - and each tribe used a specific mark to define its territories.
→ Middle East Rock Art Archive
→ Middle East Rock Art Introduction
→ Camel Site in Saudi Arabia
→ Rock Art of Saudi Arabia
→ Saudi Arabia Rock Art Gallery
→ Rock Art of Iran
→ Negev Rock Art
→ Ancient Geometry: Writing Systems, Art, Mathematics
→ Rock Art of Hajar Mountains - United Arab Emirates
→ Bradshaw Foundation
→ Rock Art Network