Mount Sinai has been found: 20 years of Biblical Archaeology in the desert of Exodus. The real Mount Sinai has been found by Prof. Emmanuel Anati at Har Karkom.
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The valleys surrounding Har Karkom contain numerous remains of camping sites and hamlets


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Rock Art discovered in Har Karkom survey



A total number of 218 rock art sites with about 1300 rocks engraved by more than 40,000 petroglyphs have been found on the Har Karkom plateau, in the Paran desert and in the surrounding valleys. This is the highest petroglyph concentration in the Negev and Sinai peninsula. It has been produced during 12,000 years from the end of Pleistocene to the Islamic period.

The presence of a Palaeolithic sanctuary, geoglyphs, megaliths, bronze age temples, menhirs, barrows, stone ranges and circles on the Har Karkom plateau and in its surroundings seems to indicate that the area has been a very important worshipping place during very ancient times.

According to the typology, the rock art has been divided in ten different styles [Anati 1979:28, 1993:71, 1996:20]. The presence of engraved images belonging to more than one style was a common finding. A relative chronology among the shades of styles was allowed by examining the stratigraphy (superimposition of figures) and the different patina on the same rock.

Rock Art sites at Har Karkom - comparative table of styles

RA style N of sites Engravings Association and relative chronology
I 5 Animals engraved in fine line (I-A)
or large animal figures
with entirely pecked surface (I-B)
Art of Early Hunters. Parallelism in
Arabia and North Africa before VI millennium BCE
II-A 7 Hunting and domestication
dog and ox
Parallels in Mesopotamia
VI-IV millennium BCE
II-B 4 Geometrical: ladders, rectangles
and circles
Parallels in Araba valley and in Jordany
Neolithic or Early Chalcolithic
III 25 Hunters with skin garments,
bow and arrows, assisted by dogs
Art of the Evolved Hunters
Chalcolithic and Early Bronze age
Ef. Pre and proto-dynastic Egypt
V-III millennium BCE
IV-A 109 Pastoralism, hunting, praying
figures. Last representations of ox.
Metal daggers
Cf. Mesopotamia, Egypt
Early Bronze age
III millennium
IV-B 2 Herding and hunting
Antelopes and goats.
Middle Bronze and Iron age
II-I millennium
IV-C 90 Herding, trading and hunting
First representation of camel
Thamudic, Nabataean inscriptions
"Desert Civilizations"
Thamudic and Nabataeans
400 BCE - 200 CE
V 62 Trade, warfare and herding
Camels and horses
Roman - Byzantine times
70 - 650 CE
VI 135 Herding and trading
Medieval Arabic inscriptions
Early and Medieval Islamic period
650 - 1300 AD
VII 80 Ideograms and wusum Post-medieval Islamic to present

Rock Art style I (RA-I)

The style represents the art of Early Hunters in the Negev and Sinai as well as in Arabia and North Africa, before the VI millennium BCE [Rhotert 1938; Anati 1968, 1972, 1974]. Two different phases may be recognised in Har Karkom, the first (I-A) being characterised by animal figures incised with fine lines and the second (I-B) by large animal figures engraved by surface pecking on the rock surface. The period I-C (thick line phase, known both in Jordan and Central Negev) has not been found so far at Har Karkom.

The engravings of this style have been found in three sites of HK MAP-1, namely the sites HK 36b, HK 79b and HK 370a-b. Furthermore, RA-I style was tentatively recognised in deeply eroded ancient carvings with a vague animal shape of sites HK 29 and HK 228c.

Rock art style I Site Numbers (HK/): 029 036b 079b 228c 370a-b Total N of sites: 5

Rock Art style II-A (RA-IIA)

The engravings of this style belong to a period of hunting and incipient domestication. Isolated groups of both wild and domestic animals are represented, among them oxen and dogs. The style is associated with the Neolithic engravings from Mesopotamia VI to IV millennium BCE. It may show some stylistic similarities with the decoration of pre- and proto-literate pottery [Goff 1963].

The style II-A has been recognised in seven sites of HK MAP-1, five out of them located on the Northern border of Har Karkom plateau, namely the sites HK 3, HK 4a-b, HK 8d, HK 13b-c and HK 113b, while two sites, HK 234 and HK 246e, were located in the Paran desert, Southeast of the mountain.

Rock art style II-A Site Numbers (HK/): 003 004a-b 008d 013b-c 113b 234 246e Total N of sites: 7

Rock Art style II-B (RA-IIB)

The engravings of RA style II-B are characterised by a geometric style with patterns of ladders, rectangles and circles. Similar engravings are known from the Araba valley [Anati 1979:40-41]. It is likely to be roughly contemporary to style II-A.

The style II-B has been recognised in a cluster of three sites, namely the sites HK 233a, HK 233b and HK 233c, and in a fourth site, HK 287h, all of them located in the Paran desert, Southeast of Har Karkom.

Rock art style II-B Site Numbers (HK/): 233 233b 233c 287h Total N of sites: 4

Rock Art style III (RA-III)

The style represents the art of the Evolved Hunters. The engravings are attributed to the Chalcolithic period. They include hunting scenes, with skilled hunters wearing skin garments, using bow and arrow, and assisted by dogs. Prey is the ibex or wild goat. The style is associated with pre- and proto-dynastic Egypt, V, IV and III millennium BCE [Winkler 1938, 1939].

The style III has been recognised in a total of 25 sites, 17 of them located on the top of Har Karkom, while seven sites were located in the Paran desert, Southeast of the mountain, along the sacred trails.

Rock art style III Site Numbers (HK/): 002a-b 003 003c 013b-c 026 031 032 033 036 038 056e 062c 110 111 112 115 130 138 139b 233b 234c 234e 262d 287c 287e Total N of sites: 25

Rock Art style IV-A (RA-IVA)

The style represents pastoralism as the main economic activity while hunting is still well represented. It is the last period in which oxen are depicted. Metal daggers with a triangular blade and lunate pommel are often represented. This two particulars contribute to date the style to the III millennium BCE, thanks also to the Mesopotamian and Egyptian parallels [Anati 1979:49-57]. The style is also associated with datable figures of the III millennium from Jericho, Arad, Uvda Valley and from Tululat Ghassul [Cameron 1995:119]. It corresponds to the archaeological findings belonging to the period described as BAC. The engravings represent also religious ceremonies, praying figures and mythological evocations.

A concentration of 72 RA-IVA sites was found on the top of the mountain, 37 more sites with RA-IVA style have been found in the surrounding valleys, and in thew Paran desert, mainly along sacred trails. In several cases menhirs or standing stones are found in the same sites.

Rock art style IV-A Site Numbers (HK/): 002a-b 003 003b 004a-b 005a-b 006 013 013b-c 014 024a-b 024c 025 026 027 029 029b 031 031b 032 032b 033 034 035 036 036b 037 038 045a-g 046 047 048 048b 050b 055 056a 056b 056c 056d 056e 056f 057 058 058b 062c 078 086b 090 094 095 096 097 098 099 100 101a-b 102 106c 106d 109 110 111 112 113 113b 114 115 119 122b 126 126b 129 130 131 132 138 138c 139b 170 220b 220c 232 234 234b 234e 246a-b 246f 249b 269d 287c 287d 287e 287g 287h 310c 334b 334c 334e 335 335b 337d 339 346b 351c 355b 355c 365b 376 388c 391 Total N of sites: 109

Rock Art style IV-B (RA-IVB)

The engravings of the style IV-B are characterised by herding and hunting. Musical instruments and war chariots are also represented [Rothenberg 1972:122; Anati. 1972:49]. They belong to a period between the Middle Bronze and the Iron age, II-I millennium BCE, when the climate was very dry and the desert area was uninhabited.

The style IV-B is poorly present in HK MAP-1: it has been recognised in two sites on the top of Har Karkom plateau, namely the site HK 31, where a cluster of sixteen engraved rocks were found in proximity of some heaps of stones, which could not be dated. Engraved images belonging to RA III, IVA, IVC and VI styles have also been found. The other site was HK 339, where ideograms were engraved on one rock. RA-IVA was also present.

Rock art style IV-B Site Numbers (HK/): 031 339 Total N of sites: 2

Rock Art style IV-C (RA-IVC)

The style IV-C represents the activities of herding, trading and hunting and is usually connected with Thamudic and Nabataean inscriptions. The camel is represented for the first time. Chronology: 400 BCE - 200 AD.

Rock engravings of RA-IVC style were present in 90 sites of HK MAP-1, 53 out of them on the top of Har Karkom and 37 in the surrounding valleys and in the Paran desert.

Rock art style IV-C Site Numbers (HK/): 002a-b 003 003c 004a-b 005a-b 012 013 013b-c 026 027 028 029 031 033 034 035 036 038 039 045a-g 048 048b 056e 060 061 062a 062c 076b 078 079 079b 079c 086b 098 099 100 101a-b 102b 111 112 113 114 115 119 126b 130 132 136 137 138 138d 139b 140 155 180 195 220c 232 234 234b 234e 234f 246a-b 249b 258c 262b 262c 268 269c 269d 287h 316 326 334c 334d 334e 337b 340 355c 355d 363 365 365b 368 369a 369b 370a-b 376 388c 390 Total N of sites: 90

Rock Art style V (RA-V)

The style V is characterised by the activities of trade, warfare and herding and is belonging to the Roman-Byzantine times, 70-650 AD.

Engravings of this style were recognised in 62 sites of the HK MAP-1, 34 out of them on the top of Har Karkom and 28 in the area Southeast of the mountain, along the ancient route coming from the Paran desert.

Rock art style V Site Numbers (HK/): 003c 004a-b 007 007d 008 008b 008d 013 014 027 029 033 056b 056c 058 079 091a-b 093c 098 100 101a-b 102b 103 107 109 112 114 117 118 119 124 127 130 131 132 137 138 138c 139b 140 158 233c 234 234f 246f 246g 258c 268 301f 301g 324 325 334c 337c 337g 346b 351b 355b 363 365 375 388c Total N of sites: 62

Rock Art style VI (RA-VI)

The style VI reflects engravings from early and medieval Islamic period, 650-1300 AD. They include medieval Arabic inscriptions. Altogether, 135 RA-VI style sites are spread in the whole area.

Rock art style VI Site Numbers (HK/): 002a-b 003 003c 005a-b 007b 008b 008d 012 013 013b-c 013d 024a-b 024c 029 030 031 031b 032 032b 033 034 035 036b 037 038 045a-g 050b 055 056a 056b 056c 056d 056e 056f 058 062a 062c 078 079 079b 079c 086b 091a-b 092 093c 095 096 097 098 100 101a-b 102 103 104b 106c 107 108 109 111 112 113 113b 114 117 118 126 126b 127 129 130 131 132 136 137 138 138d 139 139b 140 141 143 153 155 158 164 180 195 220b 220c 220d 228c 232 233 233c 233d 234 234b 234d 243a-c 246f 246g 248b 258c 258d 262b 268 269b 287e 287h 310c 324 325 325b 326 334d 334e 335b 337d 337e 337f 337g 337i 351b 351d 355c 355d 363 365 365b 370a-b 376 388b 388c 389 390 Total N of sites: 135

Rock Art style VI-VII (RA-VI-VII))

The engravings of the last styles belong to the medieval and post-medieval Islamic period, and include ideograms and wusum from modern Bedouins. The rock art of periods VI and VII is widely diffused in Central Negeb, in Araba Valley, as well as in Sinai peninsula. It is present also in Saudi Arabia [Slattery 1995:120-123].

The style VII has been reported in 80 sites spread in the whole area of Har Karkom.

Rock art style VII Site Numbers (HK/): 002a-b 003b 003c 008b 008d 011c 013d 014 025 026 029 030 033 048b 056a 062a 062c 064c 079c 092 095 099 103 104b 106d 109 113 113b 114 136 138 138c 141 166 195 220b 220c 220d 232 233 233b 233c 233d 234 234b 234c 234d 234e 234f 243a-c 258c 262c 262d 268 269c 269d 287c 287d 287f 287h 301d 301e 310c 324 325 325b 326 334d 334e 337e 337f 337g 345 346c 347 365b 372 388c 390 392 393 Total N of sites: 80

Inscriptions

Inscriptions are seldom associated to rock art or isolated on the top of the mountain or along the ancient trails in Paran desert. Mostly Thamudic, Nabatean, Greek or early Arabic inscriptions have been found in 27 sites assembled about 100 inscriptions.

Inscriptions Site Numbers (HK/): 003c 006 007b 008b 011c 013d 026 030 032 034 035 038 045a-g 056e 115 130 220c 232 234f 287e 316 334c 334d 334e 335c 337c 345 Total N of sites: 27

Image of ibex in the context of worship places

The analysis of the petroglyphs puts in evidence the absolute numerical prominence of the image of the ibex since the Neolithic period to the entire Bronze Age. In some sites the images of the ibex are more than 60% of all the animal images belonging to the two above periods. The images of the ibex are characterised by conspicuous horns which, because their resemblance with the crescent, are one of the attributes of the multinamed lunar divinity worshipped in many areas of Mesopotamia and Arabia. Several scenes illustrate ibex worship exemplified by human beings with upraised arms, in the traditional posture of worshipping, in front of the ibex.

Thus, considering the ancient religious traditions of the neighbouring regions, it has been hypothesised [Bastoni 1998:25-28] that the ibex images are related to the God Sin of the Mesopotamic pantheon, a lunar God considered as a kind of universal God having a prominent position in respect of the other local divinities.

According to the distribution of rock art, the particular character of worshipping place of Har Karkom seems to have been maintained until the Roman-Byzantine era, while the lack of a particular distribution of rock art sites in spite of a large number of engravings spread in the whole area during the early and recent Islamic period confirms that the Arabs lost the significance of worship that characterised the mountain during the previous millennia.



Fig. 158a/b. Rock engraving called 'the eye that watches from the rock.' A large eye has seven lines arrayed from the bottom and seven from the top. (Site HK 36b; photo EA98: LVIII-5; drawing: HK Archive; WARA W06016, W06017).


Cover | Mount Sinai | Sanctuaries | Hypothesis | Exegesis | Testimony | Landscape | Discoveries | Rock Art | History | Conclusions | HK Survey | HK Periods | HK Rock Art | HK Corpus 1-99 | 100-199 | 200-299 | 300-399 | BK Corpus 100-399 | 400-499 | 500-599 | 600-699 | 700-799 | 800-899 | Glossary | Acknowledgements | Emmanuel Anati | Bibliography | Edizioni | CCSP | Images | Links


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