x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Scientists ask for help to decipher symbols in rock drawings

About 100 of the remnants were found in January in Wadi Sheha, about 800 metres above a recently discovered network of caves

Dr al Ketbi said it was impossible to date the rock carvings, or petroglyphs, in Wadi Sheha, or to determine what the symbols mean.
Dr al Ketbi said it was impossible to date the rock carvings, or petroglyphs, in Wadi Sheha, or to determine what the symbols mean.

ABU DHABI // Scientists who have discovered new rock drawings in Ras al Khaimah called yesterday on the emirate and the federal Government to bring in more archaeologists to help them to understand what the mysterious symbols mean.

About 100 of the remnants were found in January in Wadi Sheha, about 800 metres above a recently discovered network of caves, officials from the Emirates Geographical Society (EGS) and the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities told reporters at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce last night.

A local man brought the scientists from EGS, Slovenia's Karst Institute and UAE University to the site, said Dr Asma al Ketbi, the head of EGS and a geography professor for UAE University.

The ancient rock art has been found in the past, scattered across the mountainous terrain of Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah and Hatta, and across other parts of the Arab world.

Some of the treasures are believed to date back to the Iron Age, between 1300BC and 300BC, with some from the late pre-Islamic period. However, experts say they are disappearing at an alarming rate as more road and rock-crushing projects take over the mountains.

"We are seeing more and more of these and it is time to bring in a team of experts, but we need a budget and we don't have that budget," Dr al Ketbi said. EGS has called on the National Council to set aside a budget for bringing archaeologists from abroad to study the rock art. The group has also met Sheikh Saud bin Saqr, the Ruler of RAK, to make a case for preserving the area as a possible research and tourism centre on caving.

Dr al Ketbi said it was impossible to date the rock carvings, or petroglyphs, in Wadi Sheha, or to determine what the symbols meant. Some appeared to mark gravestones, she said.

Michele Ziolkowski, a local archaeologist and expert on UAE petroglyphs, said she had found 116 pieces at a site in RAK's Wadi Daftah. She is not sure whether the findings are the same as EGS.

There are as many as 70 sites where more than 500 petroglyphs have been recorded in the UAE, she said.

Dr al Ketbi said there were no published records of the petroglyphs found.

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