Iranian rock art may be 40000 years old

Iranian archaeologists discovered numerous ancient rock art sites across the country. Among the art are depictions of ancient hunters, tribal dances, cup marks, possible deities and beasts. But their date of creation is uncertain.

Multiple figures of humans and animals in ancient rock art (by Atta Kenare via Times of Israel)

Mohammed Naserifard discovered ancient engravings in the hills outside the town of Khomein in central Iran. He estimates that since the initial discovery in 2002 he travelled more than 700000 kilometres across two dozen Iranian provinces, unearthing some 50000 ancient paintings and engravings. In Iran rock art has never been a priority as pre-Islamic history can be a controversial subject.

Ancient rock art engraving of an ibex(by Atta Kenare via Times of Israel)

The discoveries have been catalogued by the Bradshaw Foundation, a Swiss NGO specialising in rock art, bringing them international attention. Pictures of the ibex deer account for more than 90 percent of the ancient engravings catalogued. Dutch enthusiasts who visited the area with Naserifard in 2008 dated the cup marks to more than 40,000 years ago, putting them among the oldest rock art on the planet. But getting definitive data has been all but impossible for Iranian archaeologists due to lack of needed technology in the country. New methods such as uranium dating are now needed in Iran, along with broader archaeological work and access to the big labs to put the findings in context.

Rock engravings (by Atta Kenare via The Times of Israel)

The Khomein hills are typical of rock art locations around the world — a once-fertile riverside spot that supported sizeable settlements. The place is a very strategic location as humans migrated through there heading both east and west. These discoveries may provide evidence evidence that humans may have started to develop a common art tradition before leaving Africa, which might explain why the same themes and shapes have turned up in sites spread by great distances all over the world.

(after Times of Israel and Atta Kenare)

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