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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 1 (2) 2003

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X. Gutherz, J.-P. Cros & J. Lesur

The discovery of new rock paintings in the Horn of Africa: the rockshelters of Las Geel, Republic of Somaliland

Journal of African Archaeology, Vol. 1 (2), 2003, pages 227-236, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-100011

Abstract
An archaeological survey was carried out by a French team in November and December 2002 in the Somaliland Republic. The objective was the search for rock shelters and caves containing stratified archaeological infills capable of documenting the period when production economy appeared in this part of the Horn of Africa (circa 5th and 2nd millenia B.C.). The Las Geel site, a granite rock sheltering about ten shelters decorated with polychrome paintings, was dis- covered in the course of the survey. These paintings, in an excellent state of preservation, mainly represent humpless cows with large lyre-shaped or arched horns and the neck decorated with a kind of „plastron". The cows are accompanied by stocky human figures with spindel-shape legs and raised arms. There are also some figures of canidae placed beside men, a single giraffe and some antelopes. The evident superposition of several graphic styles will no doubt make it possible to establish a chronology of Neolithic or Protohistoric rock art in this part of the Horn of Africa. Through the abundance of its paintings, their quality, the originality of the type of representation of bovines and human figures, the Las Geel site will henceforth take its place among the major Holocene sites of rock art in this region of Africa. A future mission planned for November 2003 will make it possible to undertake a detailed study of these paintings and their archaeological context. This note constitutes a preliminary presentation of this exceptional discovery.

Résumé
Une mission de prospection archéologique a été réalisée par une équipe française en novembre et décembre 2002 en République de Somaliland. Elle avait pour objectif la recherche d'abris-sous-roche et de grottes contenant des remplissages archéologiquees stratifiés susceptibles de documenter la période où est apparue l'économie de production dans cette partie de la Corne de l'Afrique (circa 5e-2er millénaires av. J.-C.). Au cours de cette mission, fut découvert le site de Las Geel, un rocher granitique qui abrite une dizaine d'abris ornés de peintures polychromes. Ces peintures, dans un excellent état de conservation, représentent principalement des vaches à dos plat et grandes cornes en lyre ou en arceaux, au cou orné d'une sorte de „plastron". Ces vaches sont accompagnés de personnages trapus possédant des jambes fusiformes et levant les bras. Il existe aussi quelques figurations de canidés placés aux côtés des hommes, une seule girafe et quelques antilopes. La superposition évidente de plusieurs styles de graphisme permettra sans doute d'établir une chronologie de l'art rupestre néolithique ou protohistorique dans cette partie de la Corne de L'Afrique. Par l'abondance de ses peintures, leur qualité exceptionnelle, l'originalité du type de représentation des bovinés et des personnages, le site de Las Geel figurera désormais parmi les sites majeurs de l'art rupestre holocène de cette région de l'Afrique. Une prochaine mission permettre d'entreprendre une étude détaillé de ces peintures et de leur environnement archéologique. Cette note constitue une présentation préliminaire de cette découverte exceptionnelle.




Keywords: Horn of Africa, Neolithic, protohistoric, rock art, Somaliland


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