Mysterious Petroglyphs

Castles and Peacocks
Splendours of the Ancient East

According to Wikipedia, a petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art.  The word comes from the Greek prefix petro-, from πέτρα petra meaning “stone”, and γλύφω glýphō meaning “carve”.

In Qatar petroglyphs are found in a number of sites throughout the country. No-one knows much about these carvings – how old they are, who created them, what they symbolise. Petroglyphs can be difficult to date accurately, as they contain no organic material, and nothing other than the carvings themselves. Archaeologists variously have dated them anywhere between a few hundred to thousands of years old.

Today we visited Al Jassasiya, the largest of these sites in the country,  about an hour’s drive north of Doha. In an abandoned quarry, only recently opened to the public, there are some 900 petroglyphs, featuring boats with oars or sails, fish, cup-like depressions in rows and rosettes and even an ostrich. There is a sign at the entrance, but other than that you are left to wander over the rocks, discovering the images and patterns for yourself. The most common are the small “cupules“, about the size of an egg, in two rows of varying lengths. It has been postulated these are game boards, but no-one knows for sure. There are also many scattered cupules, and other geometric shapes. Very mysterious indeed.

The site is managed by Qatar Museums, and is free to enter. It is accessed on sealed roads and is clearly marked on Google Maps.

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