Nubian Rock Art Virtual Archive

Nubian Rock Art Virtual Archive

Robert Casties, Cornelia Kleinitz, Dirk Wintergrün

Cooperation Partners: 

Department of Northeast African Archaeology and Cultural Studies, Humboldt University Berlin, The British Museum, The Sudan Archaeological Research Society, Institute of Archaeology, University College London, Hungarian Academy of Sciences


Rock art in Sudan

This online research archive is dedicated to the rock art of the Nile valley. Initially, it presents high resolution digital photographs, as well as video files, drawings and written information on the petroglyphs of the Fourth Nile Cataract region in northern Sudan. This riverine landscape will be lost in the waters of the Merowe Dam reservoir after the planned completion of the dam in 2008. Numerous national and international teams are currently working on rescue projects concerned with the archaeology and ethnography of this area.

Rock art sites, hitherto exclusively petroglpyhs, are among the most common finds in the Fourth Cataract region. Hundreds of petroglyph localities have been identified and recorded. Zoomporphs are the frequent types of motifs, in particular cattle and camel images, but also giraffes, birds, elephants and others. Anthropomorphs, boats, and geometric motifs occur, as well as Medieval Christian and Arab inscriptions.

The rock art of the Fourth Nile Cataract also contains a strong acoustic component. Numerous so-called ‘rock gongs’ were identified at rock art sites, resonant boulders that emnate sound when struck with a hard implement. The Fourth Nile Cataract region thus offers a rare opportunity to study the interplay between visual and non-visual aspects rock art landscapes, contrasting the impermanence of sound production with the relative permanence of the rock art images. Together with the thousands of petroglyphs, these percussion instruments give important information about the symbolic use of this Upper Nubian landscape over time.

Funding Institutions

The Sudan Archaeological Research Society
"Department of Northeast African Archaeology and Cultural Studies, Humboldt University Berlin"
"Institute of Archaeology, University College London"