The Petroglyph Unit of the Dakhleh Oasis Project
THE PETROGLYPH UNIT. Rock art research in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt
THE PETROGLYPH UNIT – rock art research in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt
Type of site:
Open site – hills with rock art
– Prehistoric period (ca. 7000–2500 BC)
– Dynastic period (ca. 2500–332 BC)
– Greco-Roman period (332 BC–AD 395)
– Byzantine period (395–641)
– Islamic period and modern times (641+)
Most interesting finds:
– several hundred sites with petroglyphs discovered in the eastern and central parts of the Dakhleh Oasis
– rediscovery of the so-called Winkler sites (first recorded in the 1930s), the location of which was forgotten after World War II
– Neolithic anthropomorphic depictions, very attractive from the scientific and aesthetic point of view (on the “Altar” and “Gallery” sites, among others)
– petroglyphs from nearly all periods of the oasis’s history, including unique depictions of god Seth, giraffes led on a rope, one of two Neolithic depictions of an elephant known from Dakhleh, numerous petroglyphs and inscriptions dated to the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, images of boats and many others
History of research:
Dates of PCMA mission’s work:
1985–2017 (with intervals)
Type of research:
Archaeological reconnaissance, rock art documentation
Lech Krzyżaniak (1985–2004)
Michał Kobusiewicz (2004–2016)
Paweł Polkowski (2016– )
– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Archaeological Museum in Poznań
The following grants were awarded for the research in Dakhleh:
2017–2020: Project “Rocks in motion. Research on the Dakhleh Oasis petroglyphs in the context of paths, roads and mobility”, funded by the National Science Centre, no. 2016/23/D/HS3/00805.
2013–2015: Project “Rock art as an element of cultural landscape of the Dakhleh Oasis”, funded by the National Science Centre, no. 2013/08/T/HS3/00355 (ETIUDA 1).
2012–2016: Project “In the palimpsest. Rock art in the archaeological landscapes of the Dakhleh Oasis”, funded by the National Science Centre, no. DEC-2011/01/N/HS3/05994.
Description of the site and research:
The “Petroglyph Unit” was created in 1985 by Lech Krzyżaniak, then director of the Archaeological Museum in Poznań, as a specialized unit dedicated to the study of rock art. It was an answer to the invitation issued by Anthony Mills from the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada, who in 1977 initiated a large multidisciplinary research program called the Dakhleh Oasis Project.
The aims of the project included, as they do today, archaeological, ethnographic, linguistic, and nature studies concerning all periods of the oasis’s history. Already the first few seasons of the reconnaissance, begun in 1978, showed that especially one kind of monuments would require detailed and probably long-term research – rock art.
The study of petroglyphs of Dakhleh has lasted more than 30 years, although the fieldwork was not conducted annually. Until 2003, almost all research activities concentrated on the eastern border of the oasis. It is an area where pioneers of archaeology in Dakhleh, such as Herbert Winlock and Hans Alexander Winkler, discovered petroglyphs already before World War II. Krzyżaniak not only found most of the sites which had been discovered 50 years before and the location of which had been forgotten but also made new, equally important discoveries. His research was much more systematic, and the high quality of documentation is still impressive after 30 years. Using aerial photography, Krzyżaniak was able to conduct fieldwork with more precision than his predecessors. As a prehistorian, he focused predominantly on the oldest petroglyphs in the oasis, mainly zoomorphic depictions and the famous “pregnant women”.
In 2003, Krzyżaniak carried out a short reconnaissance in the central part of Dakhleh and made many important discoveries. Unfortunately, he died the next year, and Michał Kobusiewicz from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences became the new head of the “Petroglyph Unit”. Kobusiewicz decided to continue working in the Central Oasis since it seemed a very promising area in light of Krzyżaniak’s reconnaissance. He was not disappointed. The next decade of research resulted in the recording of approximately 270 new sites with petroglyphs. Work concentrated mainly in a very interesting 10-km-long valley called the “Painted Wadi”. Thanks to Paweł Polkowski from the Archaeological Museum in Poznań (current expedition director), who joined the team in 2011, and two research grants funded by the National Science Centre, it was possible to significantly extend the prospection area and create a very detailed map showing the distribution of panels with rock art, the number of which had risen to more than 1,300.
Among the magnitude of documented rock art, there are depictions dating to almost all periods of the last 9,000 years (if not more!). They include depictions of animals, mostly giraffes and oryx antelopes; the already-mentioned “pregnant women” with protruding bellies; dynastic carvings, such as hieroglyphs, feet and sandals, pubic triangles, and boats; Greco-Roman motifs, e.g., human depictions; finally, Beduin markings and other Arabic depictions, such as camels or fighting figures. In 2016, the first monograph devoted to the petroglyphs of Dakhleh was published, entitled “Landscape and Rock Art. In the Palimpsest of the Dakhleh Oasis”. After a few years of forced hiatus, fieldwork is scheduled to recommence in 2018.
Season by season – “PCMA Newsletter”:
- 2015 season
- 2014 season
- 2013 season
- 2012 season
- 2011 season
- 2009 season
- 2008 season
- 2007 season
- 2006 season
2021-10 PCMA Seminar: Dakhleh Oasis – the last 10 years of rock art research
2021-10 National Science Centre 2021 award for Dr. Paweł Polkowski
Permanent exhibition in the Archaeological Museum in Poznań “Rock art of North Africa”
Polkowski, P. L. (w druku). A tale of giraffe. On enigmatic composition from site 04/08 in the central Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. In J. Kabaciński, M. Chłodnicki & M. Kobusiewicz (Eds.) African Studies. Poznań: Poznań Archaeological Museum.
Polkowski, P. L. (w druku). World of images or imaginary world. Rock art, landscape and agency at the Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt. In Proceedings of the conference Rock Art and (Non Textual) Graffiti in Context in Cairo 11–12.12.2016.
Polkowski, P. L. (w druku). Feet, sandals and the animate landscapes. Some considerations on the rock art of the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. In Proceedings of the conference What Ever Happened to the People? Humans and Anthropomorphs in the Rock Art of Northern Africa. Brussels 17–19.09.2015. Brussels: The Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences and the Royal Museums of Art and History.
Polkowski, P. L. (2016). Krajobraz i sztuka naskalna. W palimpseście egipskiej Oazy Dachla. Poznań: Muzeum Archeologiczne w Poznaniu
Polkowski P. L. (2015). Meanders of interpretation: Interpreting the meandering lines. In J. Kabaciński, M. Chłodnicki & M. Kobusiewicz (Eds.) Hunters-Gatherers and Early Food Producing Societies in Northeastern Africa (pp. 297–334). Poznań: Poznań Archaeological Museum.
Polkowski, P. L. (2015). The Life of Petroglyphs: A Biographical Approach to Rock Art in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. American Indian Rock Art, 41, 43–55.
Kobusiewicz, M. & Kuciewicz, E. (2015). Last Research of Petroglyph Unit in Dakhleh Oasis. Western Desert of Egypt. In J. Kabaciński, M. Chłodnicki & M. Kobusiewicz (Eds.) Hunters-Gatherers and Early Food Producing Societies in Northeastern Africa (pp. 287–296). Poznań: Poznań Archaeological Museum.
Kuciewicz, E., Polkowski, P. L. & Kobusiewicz, M. (2014). Dakhleh Oasis Project, Petroglyph Unit: rock art research 2011. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 23(1), 229–244.
Polkowski P. L., Kuciewicz, E., Jaroni, E. & Kobusiewicz, M. (2013). Rock art research in the Dakhleh Oasis, Western Desert (Egypt). Petroglyph Unit. Dakhleh Oasis Project. Sahara, 24, 101–118.
Kobusiewicz, M. (2012). Nowe odkrycia prahistorycznej sztuki naskalnej w północno-wschodniej Afryce. Nauka, 3/2012, 155–166.
Kuciewicz, E. & Kobusiewicz, M. (2012). Dakhleh Oasis Project, Petroglyph Unit. Rock art research, 2009. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 21, 279–287.
Kuciewicz, E. & Kobusiewicz, M. (2011). Dakhleh Oasis Project, Petroglyph Unit. Rock art research, 2008. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 20, 237–244.
Kuciewicz, E., Jaroni, E. & Kobusiewicz, M. (2010). Dakhleh Oasis, Petroglyph Unit. Rock art research, 2007. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 19, 305–310.
Kuciewicz, E., Jaroni, E. & Kobusiewicz, M. (2008). Dakhleh Oasis, Petroglyph Unit. Rock art research, 2006. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 18, 317–322.
Kuciewicz, E., Jaroni, E. & Kobusiewicz, M. (2007). Dakhleh Oasis, Petroglyph Unit. New rock art sites, season 2005. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 17, 279–284.
Kuciewicz, E., Jaroni, E. & Kobusiewicz, M. (2007). The Petroglyphs’ Code. Academia, 1(13), 4–8.
Krzyżaniak, L. (2004). Dakhleh Oasis. Research on petroglyphs 2003. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 15, 181–189.
Krzyżaniak, L. (2001). Dakhleh Oasis. Research on petroglyphs 2000. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 12, 249–257.
Krzyżaniak, L. (1999). Dakhleh Oasis. Research on petroglyphs 1998. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 10, 131–134.
Krzyżaniak, L. (1994). Oaza Dachla: badania sztuki naskalnej w 1993 roku. Raporty Wykopaliskowe, 5, 82–86.
Krzyżaniak, L. (1993). Dakhleh Oasis: research on the rock art, 1992. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 4, 80–82.
Krzyżaniak, L. (1991). Dakhleh Oasis Project: research on the petroglyphs, 1990. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 2, 60–64.
Krzyżaniak, L. & Kroeper, K. (1991). A face-mask in the Prehistoric Rock Art of the Dakhleh Oasis? Archéo-Nil, 1, 59–61.
Krzyżaniak, L. (1990). Petroglyphs and the research on the development of the cultural attitude towards animals in the Dakhleh Oasis (Egypt). Sahara, 3, 95–97.
Krzyżaniak, L. & Kroeper, K. (1990). The Dakhleh Oasis Project: interim report on the second (1990) and third (1992) seasons of the recording of petroglyphs. Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, 20, 77–88.
Krzyżaniak, L. (1987). Dakhleh Oasis Project: interim report on the first season of the recording of petroglyphs, January/February 1988. Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, 17(4), 182–191.
Krzyżaniak, L. & Kroeper, K. (1985). Dakhleh Oasis Project: Report on the reconnaissance season of the recording of petroglyphs, December 1985. Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, 15(4), 138–139.