Decorated boulders and other neglected features of the Central Saharan rock art

Jitka Soukopova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Although the Central Saharan rock art has been studied for more than five decades, attention has been given almost exclusively to figurative paintings and engravings. Images were divided into stylistic groups, which functioned as a sequence of relative chronology. Non-figurative engravings, such as grooves, ovals, kettles and cupules, have been considered only marginally or were completely ignored. Next to the impressive images of animals and human beings, these small engravings were not even considered a true form of rock art and were never included into the stylistic rock art table. Even more surprising is the exclusion of Kel Essuf. These particular anthropomorphic petroglyphs were already known in the 1960s, however, because of their marked stylistic and thematic difference from other engravings, they were treated as anomalous and, like the non-figurative art, they were not included among the official styles. This paper focuses on previously neglected or unpublished rock art, and suggests that the simplest engravings are signs bearing their own meaning. When studied as a whole instead of being treated as isolated units without any relation to other forms of rock art, it emerges that grooves, ovals, cupules and Kel Essuf engravings were probably created following the same pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-105
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Early online date30 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Cupules
  • Engravings
  • Grooves
  • Kel essuf
  • Kettles
  • Ovals

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