A Saharan Petroglyph

Clifford C. Richey September 2012

Illustration 1: Photo Credit: Linus Wolf

Petroglyph location: Tin Taghirt on the Tassili n’Ajjer in southern Algeria.

This Saharan petroglyph appears to be the imagery of a sleeping antelope. This petroglyph has an estimated age of ca. 8,000 years ago. This age was derived from petroglyph in the North African area that depicted animals that became extinct around that time. Of course the petroglyphs could be even older. This paper will attempt to show that its compositional organization is very similar to that found in Native American compositions.. It also seems to relate a similar cosmological message as the Native American. One does not need to posit direct contact between the African culture responsible for the above composition and the similarly organized compositions of the Native American. The reason for this is that both were based in gesture sign language. As various groups of people moved from one area to another possibly following game, looking for better living conditions, or having been forced out of their areas by larger more aggressive groups. A variety of cultures may have used sign language as a means of communicating with others who used different verbal languages. As known from American history the various tribes used sign language for trading purposes. Sign language seems to have, anciently, been transposed into a written form and used to maintain important cosmological beliefs over the generations. Migrating groups of people carried this system of communication with them as they explored new areas ultimately ending up in the Americas. Once in the Americas their relative isolation from the old world preserved the compositional system. Outside the Americas the sign language system evolved into a linear system utilizing signs that represented sounds. Some of the ancient gesture signs may have served as the basis for later alphabets and, over time,the meaning of the original signs were forgotten. As we have demonstrated in numerous papers the Native Americans used a layered system of Form, Imagery, and gesture signs to organize their compositions. The composition began with an over all Form and these forms contained Imagery built up from basic Gesture Signs, The Saharan petroglyph also follows these rules.

The following URLs provide background information on the signs and how they were transposed to a communicational system: http://www.scribd.com/doc/85335148/Native-American-Written-Sign-Language http://www.mman.us/signlanguage.htm www.manataka.org/page310.html

Illustration 2: Profile Face as the Initial Form Here we see a profile of a human Face with what appears to be two feathers protruding from the hair. A Face was used as a sign to indicate, his or her appearance.1 Next we look for the next largest Form or Image which in this case is that of a sleeping or resting Antelope. The one at rest. The Antelope Imagery is the sign based on the essence of that animal's behavior. The one that walks and jumps up in the air. Again we seek out the next largest Image or Form and find a the Imagery of a Water Buffalo.

1"Ament" who was depicted with two feathers which were the normal ornaments of the Ancient Libyans as they were depicted by the Ancient Egyptians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_mythology

Illustration 3: African Water Buffalo That this is indeed an African buffalo is shown by the boss (a bony plate) between its horns which is missing in the Asian buffalo. The wild African buffalo has been described as quite dangerous and powerful. Because this composition was, in reality, about a man if is likely that the Buffalo Imagery represented a powerful person. The powerful one. In Native American cultures Horns and antlers often represented a leader. Therefore it is possible that the Buffalo represented a powerful leader. It should be noted here that the composer of this imagery incorporated some of the natural features found in the rock upon which the petroglyph was engraved. We see this in the eye and mouth of the Buffalo. Later we shall see the natural hole in the rock below the Buffalo's neck was also part of the message. It is likely that these natural features found in the rock were part of the inspiration for this particular composition. Of course, incorporating such natural features also saved some work and time in creating the composition. The (red) Triangle of the boss of the Horns is the sign for the earth-female and was based on the shape of the human female genital area. The Left (in gesture sign the left hand indicated the direction, east) Horn appears to be in the Form of a Serpent that represents a stream. Thus the meaning that the stream arises in the east on the side of the earth-female. To the Right (west) of the boss is the Buffalo's Ear and while the Ear is in the position of the Buffalo's Ear it is in the shape of a Foot which represents a walk or a journey. The position of the Ear alludes to the orifice or hole of the ear. The Rightward Leaning Angle of the Foot is also a sign (Stance) that indicated, waiting and is also, on the side of the earth. This is followed by the Horn on the right which is in the Form of a Severed Finger pointing a direction, downward or below and its Stance is Leftward Leaning which indicated, stopped.

The Horned Buffalo, the powerful leader, The Serpent, the stream, Arising in the east, On the side of the earth-female, The Ear, The hole, The Foot, the walk, In the west, waiting, Down below, Stopped.

Illustration 4: Form: Antelope Head While we can be sure that the (blue) Form is that of an Antelope Head (the one that walks and then jumps up in the air) with its Rightward Stance meaning waiting there is also the possibility that the Form also represented a Large Bird in flight. The combination of this Dual Form along with its Stance would mean, awaiting the great (relative size of the Form where the Bird is nearly the size of the Buffalo Head) flight. The Antelope may have been the name for a Clan and that combined with the Horns might well have, metaphorically, indicated a leader of the herd, the clan. In Native American compositions such metaphors were sometimes made with Forms perceived among the stars in the sky (constellations). There might well have been an Antelope constellation that arose from the underworld at a time that could be predicted. The Antelope, The one who walks slowly and then jumps up into the air The one at rest, The Horned One, the leader.

The Large Bird, The great flight, Awaiting it.

Illustration 5: The Duck, The One That Dives Beneath The Water The Foot (a walk or journey) Form became a kind of (white) Face, (his appearance).The Triangular Form created by the Dots (blue-green) is the sign for a female-spirit. The total Face sign is sandwiched between the earth (red) and the Severed Finger (yellow-brown) which provides us with its position at the middle or the center. Next we see a smaller (yellow-brown) Severed Finger pointing at the Bill of a Duck. The Bill or Beak of the Duck is its Mouth and a Mouth represented a water source. This means, here at the water source. The Duck Imagery represented something like, the one that dives beneath the water. The Stance of Sitting means, awaiting and the Bird represents flight. The Ducks Wings Form a (yellow) Large “V” shape that is the sign for, a great opening. The Bird, The One that Flies, Sitting, awaiting flight, The Duck,

The one that dives beneath the water, His Face, his appearance, A female-water-spirit. The one at the center. Here, at the water source. At the great opening. The Bird's Eye is a Circle (the one, his location). There may be a “+” (crossing through the surface) sign within the circle but this is hard to discern. The two Curved Lines within the body of the Duck are the signs for, arisings. These signs, although tilted (the Stance for, waiting) a bit, are on the Left and Right. They signify the east and west. In previous papers about Native American composition we have run across the meaning of the Eye as the Eye of the Sun, a metaphor, for Venus. The indication of two arisings in the east and west would seem to indicate that a similar metaphor was used in this Saharan composition. The Eye, The one –Venus That arises, In the east and the west.

Illustration 6: His Face, His Appearance Above we see a Face (his appearance) that is divided into several individual and compound signs. The largest sign is the (yellow-brown) one that looks a bit like a molar with roots (this may be a sign for, pain). It is also tilted to the right as the Stance for waiting. This sign is composed of a Rectangular place sign while the roots of the relatively Large Tooth (great pain, perhaps a reference to death and the plunge or dive of the deceased's spirit into the underworld) are Two Fingers making the sign for the two together or the two united as one. This sign of moving the two index Fingers together toward their tips could also be used as a sign for, merging or a marriage. It is the Curvature of the roots of the tooth that

makes the sign for, diving under, in essence, dying. The Tooth, the great pain, Of the diving under, Dying, The two united as one, Waiting. Next we see what appears to be a Leg and Foot (the long walk or long journey). The Stance of the Foot is pointed upward to the Surface Line and the (pink) Nose (alluding to the dual orifices or holes). The Nose was made from the Upper Half of a Circle indicating the upper-side or the upper-world. It is noteworthy that the base line for the Nose does not extend completely across the base of the sign. This combined with the vertical line on the right side creates a “+” sign or the sign for crossing through (the surface). The surface line (black) also forms the line for the top of the (light blue) male -spirit sign which was based on the Form of the glans penis. The male-spirit sign was positioned over where the Eye of the person would be. This tells us that the male-spirit and the Eye of the Sun (Venus) are as one. The Forehead and Scalp are a Large Severed Finger pointing a direction (here). Later we will see what the Finger is pointing toward. The Leg/Foot, The long walk, To the surface. Of the Eye of the Sun, Venus To the surface, Crossing through the surface, To the upper-world. Here,

Illustration 7: The Great Flight

In this Illustration we see that the Scalp of the Face is a Large Severed Finger pointing a direction, here. This Finger becomes the Tail of a Large (blue) Bird in flight. The Bird has an Eye that appears to be a part of the natural surface of the rock upon which the composition was engraved. We note that the (tan) Legs/Feet (walks or journeys) on both sides of the Bird also have the shape of Birds (flights). The Form of the (tan) Leg/Foot in Front of the Flying Bird is also the Form of a Bird's Head. Their two Beaks touch thus indicating, the two meeting (Stance) at the water source (a reference to the water of the underworld). Finally, we see the Severed Finger (tan) in the upper right corner of the composition is pointing toward the Surface Line created by the top of the Profile head of the Initial or Total Form of the composition. Just above it is the Form of an Eye (Venus) also at the ground's surface. Here, The great flight. Of the Eye, Venus, The flight, the journey, To the water source. Here at the surface, The Great Eye, Venus

Illustration 8: The Awaiting Flight Hole Here we see what appears to be two Serpents (streams) originating from a natural hole in the rock. The first Serpent (blue-green) is on the left (the east). The Serpent's Neck or Throat (probably a metaphor based on the tube like structure of the throat) was created from the Form (yellow-brown) of a Severed

Finger pointing the direction, downward or to the hole. The Hole has the Form, perhaps natural, of a Sitting Bird (awaiting flight). At the position of the Serpent's Eye is the light blue) male-spirit sign. The sign was placed, on the side. The Serpent has a Horn (a leader or chieftain) that was composed from a Vertical Rectangle (a vertical-place, a place that has height or depth) that has its top Slanted to the Right as the sign for waiting. The Serpent, the stream, The Horned one, the leader, Below, in the hole Of awaiting flight, The Eye, Venus, The male-spirit, Facing east, On the side (of the earth).

The second Serpent (green) to the right (west) of the one just discussed stems from a Vertical Line arising from the Bird shaped hole. It is connected or touched by the Two Fingered sign that indicates, united as one. The Head of the Serpent is open and leads to the Undulating sign for movement or motion. The Serpent's Mouth arises to the Mouth (the water source which was often a spring or area of water seepage) of the Face (his or her appearance. The Serpent was, most likely, a female due to the Serpent or stream being within the earth-female). The movement of the stream was positioned below the Surface Line made by the top of the Profile head of the Total Form of the composition. Then we find ourselves led back to the Severed Finger that points to the Surface Line and the Form of the Eye (Venus) at the Surface. The Serpent, The stream Arising in the west, At the water source, The movement, Below the surface. Here, At the surface. The Eye, Venus.

While we cannot guarantee that the translation of this glyph is totally accurate it probably reflects the gist of its message. What is more important is that we can show that the system of composition was the same as that used by the Native Americans. It also tells us that ancient cosmology of the Sahara was also similar to the Native American making a metaphorical connection made between the culture's deceased leaders and Venus in the afterlife.

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