The desert in southern Egypt is filled with hundreds of petroglyphs and inscriptions dating from the Neolithic to the Arab period. The oldest date from the fifth millennium B.C., and few have been studied. Egyptologists at the University of Bonn and Aswan University now want to systematically record the rock paintings and document them in a database. Among them, a rock painting more than 5,000 years old depicting a boat being pulled by 25 men on a rope stands out in particular.
"This cultural treasure in the northeast of Aswan has been largely undocumented, let alone published," says Egyptologist Prof. Dr. Ludwig Morenz of the University of Bonn. The petroglyphs are found in numerous and often remote locations in dried-up river valleys, called "wadis" in Arabic.
At the same time, the petroglyphs, which are sometimes inconspicuous at first glance, are under severe threat, especially from current quarrying activities in the desert. "Especially in recent years, there has already been serious destruction of this cultural asset," says Morenz, who is also a member of the Cluster of Excellence Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS) and the Transdisciplinary Research Area "Present Pasts" at the University of Bonn. "Such losses can hardly be prevented completely, given the vastness of the area, but all the more important is at least good documentation."