x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Heritage in pictures

From complex symbolism to simple depictions of animals, the country¿s ancient rock art is in danger of being wiped out by the rising number of roadworks and rock-crushing projects.

A likeness of a rider and his mount in Ras al Khaimah is believed to date from the 3rd century BC. Do these pictures depict religious beliefs of an earlier age, as some researches have suggested? Or, maybe, it's just a carving of a camel.

"Experts always try to complicate it," says Mohammed al Shehhi, 72, a member of the Al Shuhouh, a Ras Al Khaimah tribe. "If a camel was drawn on a rock, then most likely the meaning of the drawing was a camel, perhaps a beloved pet."

It's a charming, humble assessment, but saving the UAE's ancient petroglyphs is anything but straightforward. From complex symbolism to simple depictions of animals, the country's ancient rock art is in danger of being wiped out by the rising number of roadworks and rock-crushing projects.

As The National reports today, leading archaeologists are calling for urgent protection of carvings found on the mountains and caves of Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah and Hatta. While developing natural resources is essential, rock quarries may be mining short-term profit at the expense of a vital but often overlooked part of the country's rich heritage.

Archaeologists intend to create a database that will allow them to study and better protect rock art sites. Some of the sites date back to the Iron Age, between 1300 BC to 300 BC. It would be a shame to erase them now.