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Mysterious and bizarre: Scientists discovered ancient rock art with humanoid figures

Polish archeologists estimate that the rock paintings belong to an ancient indigenous group from Southeast Africa that has existed for at least 87,000 years

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Ancient rock art with humanoid figures, strange creatures, buffalo heads and other animals have been discovered in Eastern Africa, which researchers estimate belongs to an indigenous group that has existed for nearly 90,000 years. 

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A team of Polish archeologists from Jagiellonian University spotted the Amak’hee 4 rock shelter site in Swaga Swaga Game Reserve located in central Tanzania, Dodoma area. Their discovery took place in June 2018.

The site contains rock art with unusual paintings that the scientists claim belong to an ancient Sandawe indigenous group, which has been around for at least 87,000 years. This group still lives in Southeast Africa to this day. 

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Researchers also claim that Sandawe possesses the oldest DNA lineage, the Daily Mail reported. 

Most of the paintings were made with a reddish dye and are in good conditions because of a rock overhang that protected them from“flowing water” and “excessive sunlight,” the research paper states. 

The arts portray bizarre shapes and figures, domesticated cattle, buffalo heads and giraffe’s head and neck.

Scientist draw a digital sketch of Amakha painting 4 discovered in the rock shelter in Tanzania
Scientist draw a digital sketch of Amakha painting 4 discovered in the rock shelter in Tanzania Photo by Maciej Grzelczyk

According to the study, it seems that the painters “intentionally respected” an existing drawing as they did not overlay the new image on it. Alternatively, they included the existing image in “the new scene.”

“The same technique can be seen in the buffalo painting, where the tail of the buffalo was interrupted in such a way that it would not superimpose on the leg of figure,” reads the paper. 

Scientists say that one of the paintings that particularly stands out is a scene concentrated around three images that “seem to feature stylized buffalo heads.”

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Researchers also wrote that these shapes resemble the “central dip” in the figure of the buffalo head, from where the two horns erect and then “curve outward away from the head, as well as the downturned ears.”

Scientists compared the stone figures, African buffalo and a close-up of the digitally advanced photograph to show finer characteristics of the rock painting.
Scientists compared the stone figures, African buffalo and a close-up of the digitally advanced photograph to show finer characteristics of the rock painting. Photo by Maciej Grzelczyk

Scientists suggest that these paintings arise from a ritual of the Sandawe people, although their present religion does not involve elements of anthropomorphization of buffaloes.

“Even though in the present religion of the Sandawe people—who are descendants of those who created the paintings—we find no elements of anthropomorphization of buffaloes, nor belief in the possibility of transformation of people into these animals, there are some ritual aspects that offer parallels,” the research paper states. 

Most of the paintings were made with a reddish dye and are in good condition. However, due to the degradation of the dye, scientists cannot determine the approximate age of art.
Most of the paintings were made with a reddish dye and are in good condition. However, due to the degradation of the dye, scientists cannot determine the approximate age of art. Photo by Maciej Grzelczyk

“The Sandawe still practice the simbó ritual, the main element of which is entering trance states.”

According to the research paper, archeologists cannot determine the approximate age of the Amak’hee 4 paintings due to the degradation of the dye. They also cannot explain the motifs for portraying domesticated cattle. However, they concluded that the rock art comes from the hunter-gatherer period, which dates back to several hundred years ago.

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