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Rock art rediscovered in Tanzania
Wednesday 10 March 2021

An article by Nick Westerby on thefirstnews.com - Mysterious rock art depicting ‘alien-like figures’ uncovered by Kraków academic - reports on recently rediscovered cave paintings of various depictions including anthropomorphic figures by a Kraków researcher in Tanzania.

rock art cave paintings anthropomorphic figures Tanzania Swaga Swaga
The rock art was initially rediscovered in 2018, but it is only recently that photos have appeared after Maciej Grzelczyk from Jagiellonian University secured funding to return to the site and document the art. Image: Maciej Grzelczyk.

The rock art was initially rediscovered in caves in the Swaga Swaga Game Reserve in 2018, but it is only recently that photos have appeared after Maciej Grzelczyk from Jagiellonian University secured funding to return to the site called Amak'hee 4 and document the art.

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Grzelczyk, a researcher at the university’s Institute for the Study of Religions, explains that “Most are in good condition, mainly due to a rock overhang that protects them from flowing water and exposure to excessive sunlight. The red paintings are particularly varied: in addition to the images of animals, there are also (what appear to be) meteors or comets. This is rare not only in African archaeology. Perhaps we are dealing with images related to mythology - according to the local beliefs, baobabs played an important role in the creation of mankind."

rock art cave paintings anthropomorphic figures Tanzania Swaga Swaga
The cave paintings (left) are at a site called Amak'hee 4 in the Swaga Swaga Game Reserve in Tanzania. Detail (right) of the paintings. Images: Maciej Grzelczyk.
"Particularly noteworthy among the Amak'hee 4 paintings is a scene that centres around three images. In this trio, the figures seem to feature stylised buffalo heads. These shapes recall the central dip in the profile of the buffalo head from where the two horns rise and then curve outward away from the head, as well as the downturned ears. Even though in the present religion of the Sandawe people — who are descendants of those who created the paintings — we find no elements of anthropomorphisation of buffaloes, nor belief in the possibility of transformation of people into these animals, there are some ritual aspects that offer parallels.”

rock art cave paintings anthropomorphic figures Tanzania Swaga Swaga
A standing figure (left) along side an elephant depiction. Maciej Grzelczyk (right, in the centre) explains: “Perhaps we are dealing with images related to mythology - according to the local beliefs, baobabs played an important role in the creation of mankind.” Images: Maciej Grzelczyk.

About 50 metres from Amak'hee 4 site there is another shelter that has white paintings, known as Amak'hee 3. Grzelczyk found that this functioned as a family residence around 30 to 40 years ago, before the area was made into a game reserve. Along with the white paintings, Amak'hee 3 also contains modern drawings. The researcher will now continue documenting unpublished rock art in the region as, although the sites are known locally, they remain undocumented and unknown to the world at large.

Click here for more on the rock art of Tanzania

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