Sahara cave may hold clues to dawn of Egypt

Mon May 24, 2010 9:35am GMT
 

By Patrick Werr

CAIRO (Reuters) - Archaeologists are studying prehistoric rock drawings discovered in a remote cave in 2002, including dancing figures and strange headless beasts, as they seek new clues about the rise of Egyptian civilisation.

Amateur explorers stumbled across the cave, which includes 5,000 images painted or engraved into stone, in the vast, empty desert near Egypt's southwest border with Libya and Sudan.

Rudolph Kuper, a German archaeologist, said the detail depicted in the "Cave of the Beasts" indicate the site is at least 8,000 years old, likely the work of hunter-gatherers whose descendants may have been among the early settlers of the then-swampy and inhospitable Nile Valley.

The cave is 10 km (6 miles) from the "Cave of the Swimmers" romanticised in the film the "English Patient", but with far more, and better preserved, images.

By studying the sandstone cave and other nearby sites, the archaeologists are trying to build a timeline to compare the culture and technologies of the peoples who inhabited the area.

"It is the most amazing cave ... in North Africa and Egypt," said Karin Kindermann, member of a German-led team that recently made a trip to the site 900 km (560 miles) southwest of Cairo.

"You take a piece of the puzzle and see where it could fit. This is an important piece," she said.

The Eastern Sahara, a region the size of Western Europe that extends from Egypt into Libya, Sudan and Chad, is the world's largest warm, dry desert. Rainfall in the desert's centre averages less than 2 millimetres a year.   Continued...

<p>View of a wall at the "Cave of the Beasts" is seen in Gilf al-Kebir some 550 miles (900 km) southwest of Cairo, near Egypt's south-west border with Libya and Sudan in this undated photograph. Archaeologists are studying prehistoric rock drawings discovered in a remote cave in 2002, including dancing figures and strange headless beasts, as they seek new clues about the rise of Egyptian civilisation. Rudolph Kuper, a German archaeologist, said the detail depicted in the "Cave of the Beasts" indicate the site is at least 8,000 years old, likely the work of hunter-gatherers whose descendants may have been among the early settlers of the then-swampy and inhospitable Nile Valley. REUTERS/Stringer</p>
 
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