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Rock Art

The Jebel Qurma region is extremely rich in epigraphic and iconographic data, in the form of many thousands of petroglyphs, texts in Safaitic script on basalt, and combinations thereof. They date between the 1st century BC and the 4th century AD. The rock art is predominantly figurative in nature and with clear visual clues for recognition of depicted subjects: wild and domestic animals, warriors, horsemen, camel caravans, dances, hunting scenes, etc.

The iconography contains visual information on important features from daily life not represented in other types of archaeological evidence. The petroglyphs and inscriptions provide an essential and unrivalled source of information to assess local pastoralist lifeways.

In addition to the Safaitic rock art, we find many petroglyphs and inscriptions that were made by Bedouin groups from the 1920s onwards. There is also a rather small number of medieval inscriptions on basalt, belonging to the Mamluk era of the 13th and 14th centuries.

Nathalie Brusgaard is busy with her PhD at Leiden University, working on the rock art from the Jebel Qurma region. Read her recent conference paper at the XIX International Rock Art Conference (IFRAO 2015). It is entitled: Pastoralist Rock Art in the Black Desert of Jordan . Go to:

By the way, Safaitic rock art such as found in the Jebel Qurma region is NOT something of the past! After 2000 years, it still inspires modern artists. See this article in the Wall Street International: 

Safaitic painting by Rawan Al Adwan  ©Wall Street International 4 August, 2014

A large basalt boulder at the site of QUR-794 (RA2), full with 2000-years-old Safaitic rock art.


Safaitic rock art from QUR-764



Male figures from Jebel Qurma

Camels on the move: 2000-years-old, Safaitic rock art from the site of QUR-639 in the Jebel Qurma region.

The surface of this basalt rock is heavily worn but the picture is clear: a battle scene, including horsemen and camel riders armed with long spears, fighting with men carrying bows and arrows. This piece of Safaitis rock art is approximately 1800 years old and was found during our survey work in 2014 at the site of QUR-694 (RA3) in the Jebel Qurma region.


Have a good look at this petroglyph, which we found at site QUR-64 in the Jebel Qurma region during our survey work in 2012. It shows a highly interesting scene: we see a horseman on the right and, on the left, a group of men armed with swords and shields, surrounding and attacking a wild animal. A text in Safaitic script on the stone reveals that the wild animal is a hyena. This rock carving dates between the 1st and 4th centuries AD.


A beautiful 2000-years-old image: hunters on horses and camels. From the site of QUR-2 (RA184).



Most of the rock carvings in the Jebel Qurma region are up to 2000 years old. But not all of them.... From site QUR-294 (RA6).


Camels everywhere.... A Safaitic rock engraving from Jebel Qurma from the 2nd to 4th century AD


Modern rock-art in the Jebel Qurma region...


Above & below: trucks everywhere in the desert! Bedouin rock art from the 1970s-1990s



"Love is a tragedy", that’s what this Arabic inscription made by a Bedouin herdsman tells us...



Safaitic rock art from the site of QUR-628 (RA-33), dated between the 2nd and 4th century AD


This Safaitic petroglyph shows a man trying to control a male camel. One of the animal’s front legs are bound to prevent it from walking away. Found at the site of QUR-2, amidst almost 700 other petroglyphs of varying date.

More great rock art from the Jebel Qurma region: this guy riding on his horse seems to have quite some fun!! Have a good look at the animal's head and tail... We found this piece of Safaitic rock art with an inscription at the site of QUR-449. The associated  inscription in Safaitic reads: "By ʿbṭ son of ʿḏrn is the horse(man)". He who produced this piece of rock art identified himself! Take into account: it was made some 2000 years.

Our work as archaeologists in Jordan’s northeastern desert brings joy every day, because of the beauty of the landscape (if you’re fond of deserts….and who isn’t?) and the many remains of peoples and ages long forgotten. The heavy basalt boulders on the photo show Safaitic rock art and inscriptions, hammered onto these rocks some 2000 years ago.


This camel is in big trouble. The poor animal is being attacked by two lions (to the left and below), while other animals seem to be merely watching... Does this 2000-years-old piece of rock art from Jebel Qurma reflect the artist's impression of real life?


Team members busy with documenting Safaitic rock art in the field


More beautiful Safaitic rock art from Jebel Qurma. All kinds of animals are shown, apparently all once living peacefully together in the desert


Look at all those ostriches on this rock! The birds seem to be surrounded by dogs. Beautiful Safaitic rock art from the hill of Jebel Qurma itself, from the 2nd or 3rd century AD. A true pleasure to look at, isn't it?