Documentation of South Sinai Cave Paintings and Inscriptions Completed

Documentation of South Sinai Cave Paintings and Inscriptions Completed

Within the framework of the South Sinai Rock Inscriptions Documentation Project, the Archeological mission of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has completed the documentation of inscriptions and wall paintings found in an ancient cave located approximately 60 km southeast of Serabit al‑Khadim, and 30 km north of the city of Saint Catherine.

The sandstone cave is located in an area of difficult terrain called Zaranigh. It is 3 m deep, 2.5 m high, and 22 m wide. This cave—the first of its kind to be detected in South Sinai—was found by accident, when a hiker noticed it.

The discovered cave contains many inscriptions and wall paintings, some carved on its ceiling, and others on the stone blocks that had fallen on the floor of the cave. They date back to various time periods and depict many different scenes, and were divided into three groups on this basis. The first, which consists of the oldest wall paintings, which were painted on the oldest layer of the cave ceiling, have been preliminarily dated to 5,500 to 10,000 BC. They are painted a dark red color and depict animals such as mules or donkeys and, in contrast with the other paintings, are characterized by realistic anatomical proportions. Depictions of five different animals can be discerned on the ceiling near the entrance into the cave. The ceiling is otherwise covered with painted handprints, as well is a rock in the middle of the cave.

The second group of inscriptions and wall paintings likely dates back to the Copper Age/Chalcolithic Period. These consist of depictions of women and animals. The third and last group may date back to the Common Era, since it consists of depictions of people in howdahs positioned on the backs of camels.

The mission also discovered a lot of animal fecal remains inside the cave, which indicates its use as a shelter for nomads and cattle to protect against rain, storms, and hail in later times.