Study provides first scientific evidence of actual age of Qatari Petroglyphs

05 April 2012

A recent study published in QScience Connect—an open access, peer reviewed journal from QScience.com—found that the petroglyph site in Jabal Jassasiyah, Qatar, is not as old as previously thought. Although the formations were suspected to date back millennia, the study, representing the only scientific evidence to date, found samples to be no more than 250 years old. 
Funded by the Qatar National Research Fund, and headed by Marvin Rowe of Texas A&M University at Qatar, a team of researchers comprising  Raid Hassiba, Gerald Benjamin Cieslinski, Brandon Chance, Faisal Abdulla Al-Naimi and Michael Pilant evaluated the different formations and applied dating techniques to their most significant surfaces. 

The researchers sought to constrain the ages by applying radiocarbon analysis techniques to the oxalate crust that formed on the surface of the carvings since their creation. Analysis of the crust allowed the scientists to determine the minimum and, sometimes, maximum age of the formations. Over a dozen samples were taken, across the various types. The samples were found to range in age from modern day to only a maximum of 235 years old. 

Although findings were based on samples from various types of formations that exist in Qatar—abstract designs, representations of boats and cupules—the study highlights the most common types of petroglyphs in the country called cupules, which are round impressions usually found in double rows of seven to nine or in roseate shaped patterns. Previous studies suggest that the rosette forms could possibly have been game boards known as ‘Al Aila’ in Qatar. 

Petroglyphs in Qatar were first discovered in 1957. They can be found approximately 60 kilometers north of the capital city of Doha, near the northeast coast, between the small villages of Safiyaa Fuwairit, Al Marrawnah and Al Huwailah. A total of more than 900 petroglyphs of different figures are formed on low-lying limestone outcrops, or ‘jabals,’ among the sand dunes at the Jabal Jassasiyah site. The outcrops are subtle, never rising more than a few meters above sea level and the sand dunes in which they are found. The entire site falls within an area of about 1 x 5 kilometers.

The researchers noted that the limestone outcrops on which the Qatari petroglyphs are made are soft and likely to erode rapidly, especially due to the frequent sandstorms that occur in the region. Therefore, petroglyphs dating back several millennia are unlikely to be found in limestone jabals in Qatar or neighboring countries.

Arend Kuster, Managing Director at QScience.com, said, “We are delighted to be working with this great group of researchers to make the study openly available.  The quality of the research done using state-of-the-art carbon dating techniques brings the petroglyphs to life. ”  

For free access to full text, visit: https://www.qscience.com/content/journals/10.5339/connect.2012.4 

About Qatar Foundation  
Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is a private, non-profit organization that is supporting Qatar on its journey from carbon economy to knowledge economy by unlocking human potential for the benefit of not only Qatar, but the world. www.qf.org.qa

About Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals (BQFJ)  
Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals (BQFJ), founded in 2009 as a unique collaboration between Qatar Foundation and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, focuses on fostering scholarly and research communication. BQFJ publishes a range of peer reviewed, high-quality, open access journals, databases and repositories which adhere to the highest scholarly publishing standards.  

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