Rock Art

The Jebel Qurma Archaeological Landscape Project
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 3rd 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: animals, warriors, horsemen, camel caravans, dances, hunting scenes, etc.
The iconography contains visual information on important features from daily life not represented in archaeological evidence. The petroglyphs and inscriptions provide an essential and unrivalled source of information to assess local pastoralist lifeways.
In addition to Safaitic rock art, we find many petroglyphs and inscriptions that were made by Bedouin groups from the 19th century onwards. There is also a considerable number of medieval inscriptions on basalt stone, belonging to the Mamluk era of the 13th and 14th centuries.
Dr. Nathalie Brusgaard studied the rock art of the Jebel Qurma region within the framework of the Landscapes of Survival Project (, a spin-off of the Jebel Qurma Project. Her doctoral thesis, ‘Carving Interactions – Rock Art in the Nomadic Landscape of the Black Desert, North-Eastern Jordan’ was published in print and open access in 2019, at Archaeopress.

From the cover of Carving Interactions:

‘Safaitic rock art of the North Arabian basalt desert is a unique and understudied material, one of the few surviving traces of the elusive herding societies that inhabited this region in antiquity. Yet little is known about this rock art and its role in the desert societies. Why did these peoples make carvings in the desert and what was the significance of this cultural practice? What can the rock art tell us about the relationship between the nomads and their desert landscape? This book investigates these questions through a comprehensive study of over 4500 petroglyphs from the Jebel Qurma region of the Black Desert in north-eastern Jordan. It explores the content of the rock art, how it was produced and consumed by its makers and audience, and its relationship with the landscape. This is the first-ever systematic study of the Safaitic petroglyphs from the Black Desert and it is unique for the study of Arabian rock art. It demonstrates the value of a material approach to rock art and the unique insights that rock art can provide into the relationship between nomadic herders and the wild and domestic landscape.’
(Photo above: hunting scene of an archer with two lions.)

Examples of rock art in the Jebel Qurma region:
Warriors centered around a large female figure with her hands raised in the air
Carvings of ibexes and camels, a hunter with bow on the right
A warrior carrying a shield and a curved sword, facing a camel
Wildlife scene with ibexes, oryxes, equids, canids and an ostrich. Right edge: Safaitic script
The most often depicted animal: The dromedary camel, surrounded by Safaitic script