Tanzanian rock art depicts trios of bizarre anthropomorphic figures | Archeology

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Motifs featuring trios of anthropomorphic figures with stylized buffalo heads have been unearthed at a newly discovered rock art site in the Swaga animal reserve Swaga, Tanzania.

A trio of anthropomorphic figures from the Amak’hee 4 site in Tanzania. Image credit: Maciej Grzelczyk, Jagiellonian University.

Ancient rock art was discovered at the Amak’hee 4 rock shelter site in the Dodoma region of central Tanzania in June 2018.

Most of the paintings were done with a reddish dye; there are also five white images.

“Most are in good condition, mainly due to a rock overhang that protects them from water runoff and exposure to excessive sunlight,” said Dr Maciej Grzelczyk, researcher at the Institute for the Study of Religions at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.

Amak’hee 4 paintings include depictions of humans, domesticated cattle, and giraffes.

“Among the paintings of Amak’hee 4, it is particularly worth noting a scene that revolves around three images,” said the scientist.

“In this trio, the characters appear to feature stylized buffalo heads. These shapes are reminiscent of the central hollow in the profile of the buffalo’s head from which the two horns rise and then bend outwards away from the head, as well as the ears turned downwards.

General view of paintings from the Amak'hee 4 site in Tanzania.  Image credit: Maciej Grzelczyk, Jagiellonian University.

General view of paintings from the Amak’hee 4 site in Tanzania. Image credit: Maciej Grzelczyk, Jagiellonian University.

“Even if in the current religion of sandawe people – who are the descendants of those who created the paintings – we do not find any element of anthropomorphization of buffaloes, nor of belief in the possibility of transforming people into these animals, there are ritual aspects which offer parallels ”, he added.

“The Sandawe again practice the ritual of simbó, the main element of which is to enter states of trance.

It is estimated that the paintings were made several hundred years ago.

“As there is currently no absolute dating of rock art from central Tanzania, it is difficult to pinpoint the approximate age of the paintings in Amak’hee 4,” the researcher said.

“Due to the degradation of the dye and the lack, for example, of designs representing domesticated cattle, it can be assumed, however, that they belong to the hunter-gatherer period, so they are at least several hundred years old.

Digital tracing of paintings by Amak'hee 4. Image credit: Maciej Grzelczyk, Jagiellonian University.

Digital tracing of paintings by Amak’hee 4. Image credit: Maciej Grzelczyk, Jagiellonian University.

Motifs featuring trios of human figures are also seen at other rock art sites in central Tanzania.

“The paintings in Amak’hee 4 rock shelter are one example of the many rock art sites in the Swaga Swaga region that are locally known but unpublished,” said Dr Grzelczyk.

“Further field surveys in this region will be carried out to add to the growing body of data published on rock art sites in this region. “

His paper was published in the journal antiquity.

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Maciej Grzelczyk. Amak’hee 4: A newly documented rock art site in the Swaga Swaga Game Reserve. antiquity, published online January 14, 2021; doi: 10.15184 / aqy.200.246

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