Study knocks off years from Qatar petroglyphs

April 10, 2012

The petroglyph site in Jabal Jassasiyah, Qatar, is not as old as previously thought, a study has found.

Although the formations were suspected to date back millennia, the study published in QScience Connect and representing the only scientific evidence to date, found samples to be no more than 250 years old.

A team of researchers evaluated the different formations and applied dating techniques to their most significant surfaces.

The researchers sought to constrain the ages by applying radiocarbon analysis techniques to the oxalate crust that formed on the surface of the carvings since their creation.

The analysis of the crust allowed the scientists to determine the minimum and, sometimes, maximum age of the formations.

Over a dozen samples were taken, across the various types and were found to range in age from modern day to only a maximum of 235 years old.

Although findings were based on samples from various types of formations that exist in Qatar—abstract designs, representations of boats and cupules—the study highlights the most common types of petroglyphs in the country called cupules, which are round impressions usually found in double rows of seven to nine or in roseate shaped patterns.

Petroglyphs in Qatar were first discovered in 1957. They can be found approximately 60 kilometers north of the capital, Doha, near the northeast coast, between the small villages of Safiyaa Fuwairit, Al Marrawnah and Al Huwailah.

More than 900 petroglyphs of different figures are formed on low-lying limestone outcrops, or “jabals”, among the sand dunes at the Jabal Jassasiyah site. The outcrops are subtle, never rising more than a few meters above sea level and the sand dunes in which they are found. The entire site is within an area of about one by five kilometres.

The researchers noted that the limestone outcrops on which the Qatari petroglyphs are made are soft and likely to erode rapidly, especially due to the frequent sandstorms that occur in the region. Therefore, petroglyphs dating back several millennia are unlikely to be found in limestone jabals in Qatar or neighbouring countries.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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