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Egyptian influence in Saharan rock art

 
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tadrart


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MessagePosté le: Lun 17 Avr - 17:23 (2017)    Sujet du message: Egyptian influence in Saharan rock art Répondre en citant

Rolling Eyes Hello friends,

A lot has been said and written about the so-called "Egyptian influence" in Saharan rock art. Although I do not deny that some such influence does exist, at least indirectly, in my opinion this assertion is quite exaggerated. Since the day when certain members of Henri Lhote's team painted the stunning but totally counterfeit scene of four ladies of the Nile, in all their Egyptian finery (complete with typical snake-diadems), lay people and even quite a large number of researchers have been obsessed with finding Egyptian artistic, cultural and especially religious influence in Saharan art contemporary with Pharaonic times. Yet it seems to me that the ancient Saharan civilizations, being essentially hermetic and persistently resistent to foreign cultural penetration (as are the desert Berbers even today), were in general only superficially touched by religious cults, political practices and social norms from abroad. Their society, like that of the modern Amazigh, was never totally hostile to imported innovations, yet such borrowings seem to have remained mostly in the sphere of personal adornment and apparel. Certainly the "Cleopatra" hairstyle was quite in vogue among the Saharans of the Pastoral period, both female and male. The ancient Saharan ladies were no less fashion conscious than the contemporary Targuia, who delight in colourful imported fabrics, French perfumes and pretty knick-knacks purchased in bazaars far afield. Desert women have always been enthralled by tales of faraway places, and they are fascinated by the exotic. I have seen a photo of a magnificent prehistoric rock incision from Tadrart Acacus, in which a lovely girl is decked out in very Egyptian-looking jewellry.

But how deep does Egyptian and other foreign influence really go in Saharan rock art? I would welcome readers' comments on this theme.

Best wishes,

Tadrart


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MessagePosté le: Lun 17 Avr - 17:23 (2017)    Sujet du message: Publicité

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andrasz


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MessagePosté le: Dim 7 Mai - 13:34 (2017)    Sujet du message: Egyptian influence in Saharan rock art Répondre en citant

Hello Tadrart,

Indeed much had been written on the topic, but most of that was ill informed or outright wrong. Although there is stll much discussion and debate on the finer details (especially the beginnings), there is a reasonably well established chronology that places practically all of the cited examples to be ssignificantly older than the rise of classic Egyptian civlisation. Thus if there was any influence (and this is also a much debated topic) it necessarily would have been the other way around, with Saharan cultural concepts influencing the emerging Egyptian one.

One thing we do now with certainty is that at the end of the pleistocene the Sahara was an arid desert like today, unfit for any human settlement. Humans began to re-colonise the Sahara in the early-mid holocene, following a shift to a wetter climate. At present (though there are several unverified hypotheses) we have absolutely no idea where these first groups came from, when they started to produce rock art (again, a rather hotly debated subject), and whether the first rock art was the produce of the indigenous inhabitants or of newcomers.
_________________
Happy Travels,
Andras

http://www.fjexpeditions.com


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tadrart


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MessagePosté le: Dim 7 Mai - 18:04 (2017)    Sujet du message: Egyptian influence in Saharan rock art Répondre en citant

Smile Thanks for your reply, Andras. The comments you made on chronology are very interesting indeed. It does seem that civilization, a most unique and dynamic civilization at that, was already in full bloom in Libya and Algeria before the rise of the Pharaohs. Several scholars have asserted that Saharan culture exercised a strong formative influence on Egypt...I personally do not see a really significant connection, except possibly in the Egyptian representation of animal-headed and otherwise theromorphic deities, which as far as we know may ultimately be derived from Saharan religious and artistic concepts. But the essential ancient Egyptian mentality and socio-political-cultural viewpoints remain very different from those of the Saharans. Prehistoric Saharans, like their modern descendants, were apparently staunch lovers of freedom, proud and dignified wanderers who were mostly loath to settle down in towns or cities and unwilling to accept any type of domination other than loose tribal leadership. Egyptians, on the other hand, accepted stern, even oppressive autocratic control as if it were a normal condition of life. Individualism in Pharaonic Egypt was very rare; what creativity and production existed was almost wholly for the benefit of Egypt's rulers. This is diametrically opposed to the love of freedom and art for art's sake which have always been current among the peoples of the Sahara.

Although the prehistoric inhabitants of Tassili, the Hoggar, Tadrart Acacus etc. have sometimes been described as of "Nilotic" origin or physical type, I think that it would be more plausible to claim that some of them may have shared a Hamitic ethnicity with the Egyptians. The term "Nilotic" is too specific. Did the ancient Egyptians habitually, frequently or indeed even occasionally penetrate into the further Saharan regions? If so, was there any intermarriage with the local people? These, too, are controversial questions, which we may never be able to answer to our satisfaction.

Best wishes,

Tadrart
  


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andrasz


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MessagePosté le: Dim 7 Mai - 19:18 (2017)    Sujet du message: Egyptian influence in Saharan rock art Répondre en citant

Whoa, hold the horses ! You are making some very strong statements using modern concepts and terminology which the people you refer to would probably never comprehend.

The prehisoric inhabitants of the sahara never formed a civilisation - they were small groups, probably extended families, currently we have no evidence for any social stratification except perhaps for the some later stages of the cattle pastoralists. We know nothing about their beliefs (I would refrain from calling it religion, again that would require a degree of social complexity for which currently we have no evidence) except for a few glimpses through rock art, but any interpretation is very speculative, the most honest answer is we simply have no clue. Knowing their lifestyle and environment, I'm reasonably confident that their main concern was about surviving till next friday and not about their individual and collective freedoms.

Ancient Egypt on the other hand was a true civilisation with all the required attributes, with a very complex social structure. Nevertheless there was also a very strong self-consciousness on the individual level, we can probably name more individuals from Ancient Egypt prior to 500 BC than all other known individuals from the rest of the world combined.
_________________
Happy Travels,
Andras

http://www.fjexpeditions.com


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AlessandroMN


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MessagePosté le: Lun 8 Mai - 09:11 (2017)    Sujet du message: Egyptian influence in Saharan rock art Répondre en citant

On a different plane: in 1934 László Ede de Almásy lead  an expedition to the Western Desert sponsored by the Royal Automobile Club d'Egypte and the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram. The expedition was accounted for by Almasy and Hansjoachim Von der Esch as a tour organized for the Cairo “socialites” but it had an official scientific scope. The scope of the expedition was clearly stated and published only in the Arabic account by Hassan Sobhi, a journalist with a solid preparation in Egyptology and a background in the milieu of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The scope of the Expedition was to find the origin of the Egyptian civilization in the Sahara. After visiting the few painted rock art sites known at the time in the Uweinat and Gilf Kebir, Hassan was fully convinced about a relation between the rock art of the Libyan Desert and the Old Egyptian art. Thus, the idea of a Saharan origin of the Old Egyptian art is older than the first Lothe's expedition to the Tassili (1935); it was popular in Egypt among the learned people and popularized well before the recent wave arisen by the discovery of the Cave of the Beast. 
I made the very well written expedition report by Sobhi translated (actually a very good piece of travel literature) from the Arabic and published in Italian; if you read Italian you could enjoy how certain ideas were cyclically conceived and forgotten.


All the Best

Alessandro
https://independent.academia.edu/AlessandroMenardiNoguera


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tadrart


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MessagePosté le: Lun 8 Mai - 16:52 (2017)    Sujet du message: modernity and universality Répondre en citant

Confused Hello Andras,

Sorry, but I really cannot agree with you on your concept of "modern" attitudes.

Ever since the first Cro Magnon appeared on this Earth, man has been "modern" insofar as his intellect and creative ability significantly surpass that of his hominid and primitive Homo predecessors.The cerebral capacity of the early Homo Sapiens Sapiens is no different from that of 21st century people. What is more, I firmly believe that the essential characteristics of many ethnic groups have been transmitted over the centuries: certain attitudes which are so ingrained in their plurimillenial cultures that no degree of "modernization" can erase them.The peoples of the North African desert are especially renowned for their conservatism. Their mythology and legends contain some amazingly ancient memories; what little we know of their socio-political structure in prehistoric times would indicate that they were as individualist and independent-spirited in the remote past as they are today. We have no evidence for monarchy or despotically ruled societies in the ancient Sahara. It would seem that each tribe had a chief, or perhaps an assembly of elders; but there is no proven evidence of that, either. For all we know, the prehistoric Saharans may have been anarchists. At any rate, they were not devoid of sociological or religious beliefs. Man may be descended from the apes, but he is not an ape himself. Even the most "savage" populations on this globe have ideas and opinions about social organization, about the creation of the universe, about their own role within. It is precisely this cognitive and imaginative power which distinguishes Sapiens from every living terrestrial creature which existed before. To claim that "primitive" man reasoned in a drastically different way than space-age man is to overlook the universality of the human intellect, which may conceive reality diversely in diverse eras, yet retains all of its special, unique, unaltering traits. "There is nothing new under the sun..." There are only new interpretations.

Saying that the ancient Saharans never had a civilization is denying them the magnificent, inspiring patrimony which we can behold and admire even today: a refined, wondrously expressive culture which, although it did manifest itself in local variants, is still homogeneous enough to reveal a high degree of universality. Saharan rock art is unique in many ways, as was the splendid CIVILIZATION which produced it.

Please, Andras, let us not excessively "modernize" or "psychoanalyze": in the case of the prehistoric Saharans, this would result in reducing these sensitive creators to mere survivalists, grubbing around in the sand in order to "survive until next Friday". Yes, survival was important to them, just as it was to the average Egyptian peasant. But mere existence was not enough for the Saharans. Indeed, as their timeless art displays, they lived life to the fullest.

It was not my intention to affirm that there were no "individuals" in Pharaonic Egypt. Of course there were: scientists, poets, artists, scholars of all kinds...What I am claiming is that "individualism", in the sense of creative activity for oneself, not for the community or the nation, did not enter strongly in Pharaonic society. The Pharaoh was considered to be divine: as such he was supreme, every effort was directed toward his glory. The Egyptians created a cult of "death and how to pass on to immortality". But it seems evident to me that the ancient Saharans created a cult of life, an ode to nature, a key to find harmony with and become vital parts of their environment. Theirs was a life in the open sunshine. The ancient Egyptials dwelled more in the shadows of the tombs.

Best regards,

Tadrart


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