Dakhleh Oasis

Dakhleh Oasis

Dakhla Oasis

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

Directors:

Lech Krzyżaniak (1985–2004)
Michał Kobusiewicz (2004–2016)
Paweł Polkowski (2016– )

Co-operating institutions:

– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Archaeological Museum in Poznań

Additional information:

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 /Figs 13, 14, 15/.

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.

Other resources about the mission:
Research results:

Season by season“PCMA Newsletter”:

Associated events:

Permanent exhibition in the Archaeological Museum in Poznań “Rock art of North Africa”

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