Prehistoric Masterpieces: The Swimmers and The Beast

In this article on The Independent Malcolm Jack looks at the rock art of the Gilf Kebir at the Cave of Swimmers (Wadi Sura) and the Mestekawi-Foggini cave. There is an accompanying video.

I have to say that I object to the archaeology being interpreted as  “a long forgotten Egyptian civilization”.  For one thing it isn’t forgotten – work has been carried out there for the last few decades (and was recognized in the inter-war period by Bagnold, Almasy and others). Second, there was no concept of Egypt at that time – the area occupied by mobile groups was a vast expanse of sahelian-type landscape that included no sense of the Egypt-Libyan border.  Finally, it was not a civilization in any proper definition of the term.

The written description gives some idea of what the Mestekawi-Foggini cave is like, although the descriptions of both caves make assumptions about what the cave art depicts:  “tiny people swimming elegantly across the walls” and “what looks a bit like people taking dancing lessons”).  It is also a huge leap to suggest that the “beasts” represent some concept of the transition from life to death.  The accompanying video has a completely different interpretation which, whilst also speculative in the extreme, sounds rather more plausible.

The accompanying video is well worth a look.  It is also available on YouTube.  The commentary is good and the photos and video footage are superb.  It has subtitles so you can follow the video without the sound turned on, if required. The reference to “Cooper” I assume is actually to Kuper, as in Rudolph Kuper, and is just an error in the transcription on the subtitles.


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