- Museum number
Digital photograph (colour); view of painted rock art on a rock face taken with a fisheye lens and showing at least fourteen cows, four human figures and three unidentified quadrupeds distributed throughout the roof of the shelter. The cows cover the roof of the shelter and are depicted in every position (upright facing right or left, turned to the side or turned upside down) and infilled in different colours (red, orange, white) usually combined. Cows are represented humpless, with curved or lyre-like white horns (sometimes with reddish tips) and prominent udders. Necks are depicted rectangular, abnormally wide and either blank or infilled with red and white stripes, either straight or wavy. To the left of the panel, three infilled (white and red) human figures upright facing front, arms outstretched, wearing shirts? located under the legs or near the cows. To the left of the tableau: three infilled (red) unidentified quadrupeds upright facing right or turned to the side facing down with its back to the right. Right: wire fence closing the shelter. Laas Geel, Somaliland.
- Production date
- 28 February 2010
File size: 57.40 megabytes
Resolution: 300 dots per inch
- Curator's comments
See 2013,2034.15765 to 2013,2034.15820 for different details of the rock shelter. The relief and the complexity of the panel make difficult the identification of all its images.
The photograph was taken in Laas Geel, one of the most important rock art sites in Somaliland. The site was discovered in 2002 and consists in 20 rock shelters distributed around an outcrop placed at the confluence of two wadis (seasonal rivers). Most of the paintings correspond to humpless cows with curved or lyre-like white horns and prominent udders. Paintings are enormously colourful, with cows’ necks depicted abnormally wide and decorated with red and white stripes. These strange necks have been explained as mats hanging from the actual neck, in what could be interpreted as ceremonial ornament. Along cows, human figures, dogs and to a lesser extent antelopes, monkeys and giraffes appear represented throughout the different shelters.
Somaliland geography is characterized by a thin semi-desert plain following parallel to the coast until the Gulf of Aden, which gives way to a hilly landscape and mountainous ranges which run east-west and constitute a relevant part of the country. To the south, in the central region, the geography is characterized by a series of plateaus and watercourses known generically as the Ogo. Most of the known rock art sites in Somaliland are located in the region between Hargeisa and Berbera and in the Cal Madow mountain range, to the north-east of the territory. However, this distribution probably corresponds to the irregular history of rock art research in Somaliland, with the first studies of rock art carried on by Miles Burkitt and P.E. Glover only in the forties and the first general overview published only in 1954 by J.D. Clark, as a part of a regional synthesis of the Horn of Africa prehistory,. Since then, research has been limited until the discovering in the early 2000’s of Laas Geel site which led to a renewed interest in rock art in Somaliland, which has allowed a more systematic study of these archaeological sites. Nowadays, about 70 of these sites have been located only in this area, showing the potential of rock art studies in Somaliland and the Horn of Africa.
Somaliland rock art has been traditionally related to the styles found in Arabian Peninsula. Cattle depictions seem to have been the main theme, often associated to human figures in what seems to be reverential or ritual scenes. Other domestic animals are also common, unlike wild animals which are very rare. Human figures appear distributed in rows or isolated, sometimes holding weapons. Geometric symbols are recurrent, sometimes interpreted as tribal or clan marks. With respect to techniques, both engraving and painting are common although paintings seem to be predominant. Regarding their chronology, the oldest depictions could be dated to between the mid-3rd and the 2rd millennium BC and characterized by humpless cows, sheep and goats as well as wild animals. From there, the relative antiquity of the depictions would be marked by a tendency to schematism, visible in the rock art superimpositions. The introduction of camels would mark a late 1st millennium BC chronology while the appearance of zebus (humped cows) should be placed by the change of era. Since the 1st millennium BC human figures armed with lances, bows and shields start to appear along the cattle, in some cases depicting fighting scenes against other warriors or lions. The moment when this last period of rock art ended is unknown, but in some cases they could have reached a relatively modern date, as sometimes firearms are depicted in the rock art sites.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: SOMLAG0010001 (TARA number)