Friday, 18 November 2011

Long-forgotten Canadian find shakes up understanding of ancient humans

A Canadian archeologist is being credited — nearly 50 years after the fact — with discovering a prehistoric petroglyph site in southern Egypt that is now being described as a 'Lascaux-on-the-Nile' because of its similarity in age and style to France's cave-wall gallery of Stone Age cattle, deer and horses. 

The inscribed Egyptian images of extinct wild oxen, hippopotami, fish, gazelle and other animals — now firmly dated to a time in the late Pleistocene era at least 15,000 years ago — are being hailed as the oldest rock art in North Africa and as a pivotal discovery in the evolution of artistic behaviour by ancient humans.
The animal figures, which number close to 200 and are found etched into a sandstone cliff high above the banks of the Nile River at Qurta, about 600 kilometres southeast of Cairo.

That's where the young Canadian scientist Philip Smith — a University of Toronto archeologist from Fortune, N.L. — was working in 1962 and 1963 as part of a federally sponsored series of "rescue" digs aimed at preserving traces of ancient Egyptian settlements before their potential destruction from the building of the Aswan Dam.

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